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Bristol Post
Bristol Post
Louisa Streeting

St Pauls Carnival 2023 announces full return to mark Windrush and Bristol's Bus Boycott

St Pauls Carnival 2023 has announced it will be making a full return for the first time in three years. Bristol's annual celebration of African and Caribbean culture will mark the first full Carnival day since 2019 as well as a series of fringe events.

Both 2020 and 2021 saw the move to online-only events due to the Covid pandemic. In 2022, the organisation announced that a full public event of the size and complexity of St Pauls Carnival wasn't viable, instead hosting a music, arts and community event, 'Back A Yard'.

The 2023 celebration will return under the theme 'Learning From Legends' starting with an events programme from June 22 to mark the 75th anniversary of HMT Empire Windrush arriving in Britain. This will lead up to a full Carnival procession on July 1 which will see more than 100,000 people celebrate in the heart of St Pauls.

Read more: Tributes to Bristol Bus Boycott campaigner Roy Hackett - 'A life lived with bravery'

LaToyah McAllister-Jones, executive director of St Pauls Carnival, 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.

This year's St Pauls Carnival theme is Learning With Legends (Bhagesh Sachania)

“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.”

The theme Learning from Legends reflects the organisation's emphasis on working with the Elder community over the past 18 months and celebrating its roots, which included a documentary that premiered at the end of 2022. The theme also pays homage to Bristol Bus Boycott activist and Carnival forefather, Roy Hackett MBE - who passed away in August last year - and to many other local figures.

This year marks 60 years since Bristol's Bus Boycott which saw a months-long boycott of the Bristol Omnibus Company led by Paul Stephenson challenging its systemic racial discrimination in recruitment, helping to pave the way for the Race Relations Act 1965.

It sees the return of Carnival day with soundsystems, processions, food, music and dancing (Bhagesh Sachania)

The fringe events will run for two weeks from June 22 in the lead-up to Carnival. Carnival day will see the return of what the people of Bristol know and love - a fusion of Afro-Caribbean Carnival culture and heritage, complete with a procession, soundsystems, costumes, food, music and dancing.

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 a 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.”

The organisation estimates that St Pauls Carnival 2023 will cost around £450,000 to run the celebrations, excluding core costs. A total of £219,000 has already been secured from Arts Council England. A full programme of events and details on the summer celebrations will be announced in the near future.

Organisers have started gathering expressions of interest from people wanting to get involved with Carnival as a volunteer, artist or trader. Those interested can put themselves forward on the St Pauls Carnival website.

St Pauls Carnival 2023 returns on June 22, with Carnival day set for July 1

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