St Paul's Carnival, Bristol
The St Paul's Carnival is a barometer of the social and ideological changes within Bristol's race relations. The first festival was held in July 1968 when the St Paul's and Environs Consultative Committee appointed a sub-committee consisting of members of the West Indian Development Association. The vicar of St Agnes's Church, Roy Blake, also helped to steer the festival, as did Carmen Beckford, whose help was indispensable.
The festival was conceived as a multicultural event that would bring together the European, African-Caribbean and Asian communities in St Paul's. Carmen Beckford described the sentiments that lay behind the first St Paul's Festival: ' We wanted the people in St Paul's to develop a certain amount of national pride.' In addition, the festival was a colourful riposte to the negative depictions of St Paul's in the media. The records of the Bristol Voluntary Liaison Committee suggest that it was organised on a shoestring budget owing to a lack of funds. Researcher Thomas Fielding described the first festival as characterised by an 'extravagant multiculturalism which juxtaposed steel bands, Scottish dancers and a weight lifting competition.' Yet, over the years the festival has shifted from cultural influences.
The West Indian Dance team formed by Carmen Beckford and Angela Rodaway in 1968 articulated the Caribbean element of the festival. At this point in its history the carnival was more akin to a traditional British festival than to a Caribbean carnival. However the identity of the carnival began to take on a more Caribbean flavour when Trinidadian Francis Salandy became the carnival organiser in 1975. Salandy brought with him a personal knowledge of carnival traditions and contacts with carnival artists in London. This marked a turning point in the carnival's identity. The 1980 riots and the subsequent focus upon African-Caribbean concerns consolidated that shift. The vibrancy of the Black arts scene in music and dance driven by a resurgent Black consciousness had also begun to take centre stage.
By 1986 the cultural events that comprised the festival and the acts on the carnival main stage were almost entirely African- Caribbean. Some of Bristol's best-known musical exports, such as Ronny Size and Massive Attack, learnt their craft performing to the crowds on carnival day. By 1991 the St Paul's Festival was renamed the St Paul's African-Caribbean Carnival. The transition from multicultural festival to carnival in 1991 consolidated the shift away from multiculturalism to a greater emphasis upon the concerns of the Black community. Nonetheless, Bristol's carnival retained an inclusive ethos and still attracts a wide range of Bristolian celebrants.