How we’re celebrating 50 years of Bristol’s St Pauls Carnival, and the seven city elders who helped create it
Editor, BBC Points West
It’s not often a TV editor gets to commission a poet. But when I first heard Bristol artist Michele Curtis talk about her idea to mark 50 years of the St Pauls Carnival, it felt like BBC Points West should do something to complement it.
The Seven Saints of St Pauls are the seven women and men who came together to start what has become one of the UK’s largest street carnivals. The event hasn’t been without its problems in the past five decades, but this year is a special one and there is a determination to make it a success.
To deliver seven poems about the Seven Saints there was only one person I could turn to: Bristol’s Poet Laureate, Miles Chambers. Combining him with the talents of BBC Inside Out film-maker Ben White has led to a series I’m proud to have been involved with.
We’ve been running the set-up pieces and poems in the days leading up to this year’s carnival, taking place on Saturday 7 July, but of course they’re also playing out on Radio Bristol and digital platforms.
You can see them all in one place on the BBC Points West homepage. We’re also working on an exciting project that would see the content accessible at locations around the St Pauls district, embedding in the community these fantastic works of art and performance.
St Pauls is a district of Bristol that has one of the most vibrant and close-knit communities in the city. It would be fair to say that media coverage has often painted a challenging and harsh image of it. It’s an area that has faced a lot of problems: drugs, poverty, social deprivation and racism.
But it is also true that those issues are not what define the people of St Pauls. The seven elders are great examples of Michele’s Iconic Black Bristolians exhibition. They’re stories of lives lived full, fighting prejudice and intolerance, making a difference to individuals and to society.
Michele and Miles have been great to work with, but the collaboration has gone wider. Michele is a dab hand at drawing people to her ideas. Bristol University has hosted an exhibition of her art and we’re working with them to put on an evening about the creation of the series of poems to mark the end of that exhibition.
A representative from the Jamaican High Commission was at the launch of Michele’s artwork. She said that most Jamaican history is spoken and easily lost.
There is nothing ethereal or temporary about Miles’ poems. Seven elders of Bristol. People who changed the city. They had ordinary and extraordinary lives. This artistic collaboration will have a digital, broadcast and physical legacy.