Bristol’s annual celebration of African and Caribbean culture, St Pauls Carnival, returns this summer to the city’s streets under the theme of Learning from Legends.
The 2023 celebration will commence with a series of fringe events from 22 June, marking the Windrush 75th Anniversary, and will culminate in the iconic day-long traditional Caribbean street carnival. This year will mark the first full carnival day since 2019, which will see over 100,000 people celebrate in the heart of Bristol’s St Pauls community on Saturday, 1 July.
The Learning from Legends theme will be particularly poignant to Bristol’s African Caribbean community following the passing on 3 August last year of Bristol Bus Boycott activist and Carnival forefather, Roy Hackett MBE.
Learning from Legends was presented to Carnival’s cultural reference group in January, the event was attended by people from all generations across St Pauls. The theme was felt to be an important way to pay homage to Roy and to many other local legends who have been lost through the pandemic years.
2023 marks 60 years since Bristol’s Bus Boycott when Roy spearheaded a months’ long boycott of the Bristol Omnibus Company challenging its systemic racial discrimination in recruitment. His actions and those of other fellow Bristolians paved the way for the Race Relations Act 1965. The University of Bristol University awarded Roy a doctorate in science at his funeral.
This year also sees the 75th anniversary of HMT Empire Windrush arriving in Britain on 22 June 1948. This important historic event will be marked in the traditional fringe events in the run up to the 1 July and on the day itself.
Commenting on the Carnival 2023, executive director of St Pauls Carnival, LaToyah McAllister-Jones said:
“We’re well underway with our planning for the return of Carnival after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic. This year was always going to be a big one but is all the more important as we celebrate the lives and contributions so many people have made to carnival.
“Since it began Carnival has played a central and active role in challenging the status quo and this year’s celebration will be an important one for us all to acknowledge the challenges those who have gone before us have faced in blazing a trail to ensure African Caribbean culture is preserved and celebrated.
“Although for many they will see this year’s event as a return, as an organisation we have maintained community celebrations, albeit on a smaller scale over, the last three years. Our education programme has continued as well as our traditional elder’s brunch as part of last year’s Back A Yard programme and before that Spirit Up.”
This year will be the first full St Pauls Carnival for chair Levi Roots, who was appointed in 2021. Commenting on the plans for this year he said:
“I am really excited about seeing Carnival back in full technicolour on the streets of Bristol. While we have continued our work in the last few years through smaller scale events, I am looking forward to seeing Carnival come to life under the Learning from Legends theme to mark such an historic year in some many ways.
“As a fundraising organisation our focus remains on securing support from sponsors and the public. We were delighted to have secured the Arts Council funding for the next three years but there is still much work to do in meeting the cost of delivering the full celebration that people know and love. Thank you to all our sponsors and supporters who have already pledged support.”