The results of a report commissioned in the wake of the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue recommend that it should remain on display in a Bristol museum.
The findings also suggest the plinth should be adorned with a new plaque to reflect the events of the June 7, 2020, when the statue was removed by Black Lives Matter protesters.
Nearly 14,000 respondents shared their views in the public consultation which was launched in the summer by the We Are Bristol History Commission. Just over half were from the Bristol area.
The survey, which was also in collaboration with Bristol City Council and the M Shed, asked people to give their views to help decide the future of the Colston’s statue and plinth.
74% said they wanted the statue displayed in a museum. The most common view was that it should be horizontal with the graffiti intact, in a similar way to how it has been displayed in the M Shed.
Opinions were divided on what should be done with the plinth.
The most popular option was to use the space for temporary artworks or sculptures, with six out of 10 respondents supporting this idea.
More generally, 56 per cent of participants said they felt positive about the statue being pulled down, with one third reporting negative feelings towards it. The most common reason for negative feelings was the fact that the statue’s toppling was illegal.
Other notable results found that age is the strongest determinant of how people who answered the survey responded to the statue coming down. Younger people reported more positive feelings about the statue being removed
Professor Tim Cole, chair of History Commission, celebrated the fact that Bristol had spoken with ‘one voice’ on the complex matter.
He said: “Starting out on this process of consultation, I was unsure how united or divided the city would be.
“Reading through the thoughtful comments that people wrote, it is clear that not only are the events of June 2020 and what we do now something that many care about, but there is also considerable shared thinking and feeling in the city.”
Professor Shawn Sobers, member of commission, stated: “The survey shows that the past matters to people and is relevant in their lives. Honest engagement with the city’s past is something that people want to see happen, whatever their views on the statue.”
Joanna Burch-Brown pointed to the need to forge connections between generations to share Bristol’s stories and tackle its history.
“How can we address this history in a way that is uplifting and brings people together? A key is to connect across generations”, said the co-chair of the History Commission.
“Many older people have been feeling there should be more respect for law and tradition, and that the pace of change is too quick. Many younger people feel there is a need for change, and for more equality.
“There are positive intentions behind both views. We would love to see people of different ages coming together to spend time connecting through stories and histories.”
The report will be considered by mayor Marvin Rees and addressed by cabinet in April.
I'm very pleased that 56% of respondents felt positive about the statue being pulled down, given that nearly half the respondents were from outside the local area. Whenever I've read negative comments on social media they have overwhelmingly been from outside the area, so I suspect that locally the support is considerably more than 56%.