From impressive performances to insightful exhibitions, Bristol is marking Black History Month in many ways.
October is Black History Month and, while Black history should be championed for more than just one month, this time of year really gives us the chance to acknowledge, celebrate and learn about the impact Black people and culture have had on Bristol and England as a whole.
Across the month, there is a whole host of activities taking place at various locations in the city, so there’s something for everyone to get involved, get inspired and get thinking.
1. Chineke! Chamber Ensemble, St George’s
Members of Europe’s first majority Black and ethnically diverse orchestra will return to St George’s Bristol for a characteristically wide-ranging concert on October 8. Chineke! Orchestra performs a mixture of standard orchestral repertoire along with the works of Black and ethnically diverse composers both past and present. At this concert, guests can listen to an outpouring of late romantic passion with Vaughan Williams’ own Piano Quintet, and some entrancing arrangements for string quartet of popular folk songs by the pioneering African-American composer Florence Price, as well as a performance of Schubert’s Trout Quintet. You can book tickets to this concert here.
2. The Black and Green Ambassadors for Bristol – Delivering change in an unforgettable year, M Shed
The Black and Green programme plays a pivotal role in nurturing strong leaders from diverse communities across Bristol in achieving an environmentally just future for all. Their vision is a world in which all people are leading, delivering and benefitting from environmentally and socially-just communities. At this special event on October 9 at M Shed, you can hear more about the work and ambitions of the Black and Green Ambassadors. Learn about their research into urban green spaces, clean air, and cultural diversity, as well as hear about how they created a community radio show during a pandemic, and what’s next from this ground-breaking programme. For more information and tickets head here.
3. Breaking the Silence on the Slave Trade, St Mary’s Church Henbury
Discover the stories of eighteenth-century Black British abolitionists in this unique immersive theatre show. ‘Breaking the Silence on the Slave Trade’ is touring in historic churches across the country with close ties to the slave trade and abolition, in this case St Mary’s Church Henbury where the enslaved African known as Scipio Africanus is buried. The unique immersive theatrical tour for Black History Month fictionalises a meeting by key members of the 18th and early 19th century British abolitionist movement. The show taking place on October 19 celebrates 18th century Black British Abolitionists such as Olaudah Equiano and Mary Prince, and women such as Mary Birkett Card, who along with William Wilberforce used the power of their stories to end the slave trade. Through speeches, personal narratives, and song, the touring show tells their stories in their own words. You can book tickets for this immersive show here.
4. The Colston statue: what next?, M Shed
This exhibition is running at M Shed for seven months, but Black History Month is a good opportunity to visit the statue of slave trader Edward Colston that forms part of Bristol’s history. More than one year on from when it was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol, the statue forms part of a display at M Shed to start a city-wide conversation about its future. The statue is on display alongside a selection of placards from the protest as well as a timeline of key events leading up to 7 June 2020. An accompanying survey asked people what they think should happen to the statue next, and the results are now being analysed. Initial findings will be included in a report written by the We Are Bristol History Commission by early 2022. The plinth where the statue of Edward Colston was situated in Bristol has now been replaced by a statue of BLM activist, Jen Reid. Book a time slot to see the display in M Shed here.
5. “Can you hear me?” Spoken word and music night, UWE
As part of ongoing “Celebrating Culture” campaign, The Students’ Union at UWE is hosting an open mic night on the theme of “Can You Hear Me? A Celebration of Cultural Identities” held at the Drama Theatre located on Bower Ashton Campus on October 28. The event aims to celebrate Black History Month and features local poets such as Malaika Kegode, Sophia Harari, and Ella Otomewo, followed by a short open mic section. This event is open to everyone, regardless of identity, to come and speak, sing, whoop, and cheer! The hosts welcome open mic acts of any creative form: singing, spoken word, poetry, and musical acts are all encouraged – just let them know whether you have any equipment requirements. You can send email to sign up here. The Student’s Union will also have Jikoni, a Bristol-based food truck on site serving up some delicious East African food too. For more information about the full Celebrating Culture programme head here.
6. Black Poppies in south-west England? Black and Asian experiences during World War One, M Shed
World War One is often portrayed as a ‘white man’s war’. The focus on the fighting front, in Europe at least, relegated the contribution of most non-European soldiers, who actually provided essential labour for the less glamorous logistical needs of British and dominion forces. Stories collected during the centenary of the conflict, however, reveal a multi-layered and more inclusive picture, highlighting the participation of African, Chinese, Caribbean and other indigenous peoples to Britain’s war effort. This two-part online talk taking place on October 21 explores their overlooked contribution and features uncovered stories here in the South West and while Tony T of Sweet Patootee Arts shares perspectives from Black Bristol Caribbean voices. For more information and to book your place for this online talk head here.
7. The Seven Saints of St Paul’s Mural and Heritage Trail, St Paul’s
In 2015, The Seven Saints of St Pauls’® exhibition was held. Overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response of those in attendance, the artist, Michele Curtis, quickly realised more needed to be done. Two years later, what started as a one-off exhibition has become a creative movement that is changing the very landscape of Bristol and improving the city’s social and cultural health. The seven large-scale murals and accompanying mobile app are educational tools to learn about the rich history of the St Pauls’ Carnival and the contributions made by the Windrush Generation. This heritage trail features a permanent outdoor gallery featuring murals of the honourable Owen Adolphus Henry, Barbara Dettering, Dolores Evande Campbell, Carmen Beckford MBE, Audley Evans, Clifford Drummond and Roy Hackett OBE. Book tickets for a guided walking tour of the Seven Saints of St Paul’s here.
8. A Movement Not A Moment, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
Local artist, Jasmine Thompson has created a powerful new artwork for the front hall of Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. Known as ‘A Movement Not A Moment’, the mural pays homage to the people and events over time that have shaped the BLM movement into what you see today. The mural was commissioned by the museum and it highlights how people have come together to instigate huge cultural, political and institutional change, not just in the UK, but globally. The location of the mural is City Road, a main road lying in the heart of St Paul’s, Bristol, which has been home to the city’s African and Caribbean communities for many generations, and sees St Paul’s carnival bless the street every year. The mural contains multiple references to historical context, as well as featuring those who’ve used their platform in challenging times, and nods to cultural references that have brought joy in times of darkness. Find out more about Jasmine Thompson’s mural here.