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Lord mayor removes slave trader portrait from office

PICTURED: Bristol's lord mayor, Cleo Lake (Image: Cleo Lake/Facebook)

BRISTOL’S NEW Lord Mayor has taken down a 300-year-old painting of a slave trader from a wall in her office.

Cllr Cleo Lake made the decision to have the historic portrait removed as the end of her first month in office approached.

She said: “I’m coming to the end of my first month in office, and this is my parlour, which is a lovely space.

“I spend a lot of time here, I’m here nearly every day. I won’t be comfortable sharing it with the portrait of Colston.

“As part of my role in campaigning with the Countering Colston team, I also think it’s fitting that I don’t share this office with the portrait.”

The portrait of Edward Colston has been in the possession of the city council for decades and is known to have hung in the lord mayor’s office dating back to at least 1953.

Lake said that she “simply couldn’t stand” having his portrait looking over her as she worked at her desk after new evidence came to light revealing Colston’s involvement in the deaths of 20,000 people, including around 4,000 women and children.

Colston’s was directly involved in the killings which took place on his slave ships during the 17th century.

Lake used Twitter to appeal for suggestions for a replacement. She wrote: “Thinking forward about whose portraits or which artists might feature on the parlour walls. Who or what says Bristol today to you?”

The portrait has been placed in storage for now but Lake has said that she wants it to be on display again in future in a museum exploring Bristol’s role in slavery.

Colston was a huge financial benefactor of the slave trade. He facilitated access to slave trade routes to Bristol merchants.

The Colston Hall, Bristol’s main concert venue, which is currently closed for refurbishment will reopen with a different name in 2020.

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