What will Edward Colston's empty plinth in Bristol be used for?

The report also suggests a second plaque is put on the plinth explaining who Colston really was Credit: ITV

The empty plinth which once supported the statue of Bristol slave trader Edward Colston could become a stage for temporary artwork - but only if Bristol City Council and Bristol mayor Marvin Rees agree.

The plinth will also see periods of "intentional emptiness and presence" when nothing will be on it at all.

The recommendations of the 'We Are Bristol' History Commission were published in February. They will be presented to the city council's cabinet next week.

It also suggests a second plaque is put on to the plinth to explain who Colston really was and what happened to the statue in 2020.

The report recommends keeping the statue in a museum to tell the story of Bristol's involvement in the transatlantic slave trade - and the 100 years of opposition to the late Victorian ‘Cult of Colston’ created by the Society of Merchant Venturers. This saw schools, roads, pubs, weirs and buildings named after him.

Edward Colston's statue was pulled down during a protest in Bristol in June 2020.

The survey into what people wanted to see happen to the statue found a big majority, including many from Bristol, wanted it to be put on display in the museum and not to be put back on the plinth in the city centre.

But the survey also asked what should happen to the plinth and those ideas are being presented to the council's cabinet next week.

The report states the council should work with Historic England to alter the wording of the plinth and its official listing on the National List - both were a listed monument.

But the cabinet is also being asked to consider the idea of the plinth hosting works of art in the future.

“We recommend that the city think creatively about the empty plinth and its immediate vicinity,” the report from the history commission tells cabinet members.

“We recommend that funding is sought from public and private sources to commission temporary artworks and activities. These might take a digital or physical form, on or around the plinth."

The statue was on display at the M Shed museum, but is now in storage in the L Shed next door. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

In 2018 and 2019, the Mayor of Bristol commissioned local historians and schoolchildren to come up with the design of a second plaque but the process ended up in a bitter row - after the historian from the Society of Merchant Venturers got involved.

The wording of the second plaque was watered down to minimise Colston’s involvement in the slave trade. After the plaque was cast, it was shelved by Marvin Rees, who described it as ‘bad history’.

No official second plaque was then put on the plinth, and the statue was toppled by protesters in June 2020.

What happens to it now will be up to the mayor and the cabinet.

When they meet next week, council chiefs will consider the six recommendations in the 'Colston Statue: What Next?' report.