The Seven Saints of St Pauls are a series of murals dedicated to prominent black community members in the St Pauls area of Bristol. From local artist Michelle Cutis and local muralists Paintsmiths, the murals can be found at various locations across the area.
Supported by the National Lottery. It was a project which co-incided with the 50 year anniversary of the St Pauls Carnival. The event takes place every summer and is a celebration of African and Caribbean heritage. Following the Second World War, the area of St Pauls saw a large Afro-Caribbean immigration into the area.
Seven Saints Murals
First started in 1968 the carnival has become an important part of the areas identity. The founders of the festival are the people featured as part of the Seven Saints Murals. All of whom have deep connections with this area of Bristol.
The project to depict the seven founders uses muralism to provide a connection across the wider area of St Pauls, St Agnes and Montpelier. The portraits were first presented as an exhibition which was part of a series of events to celebrate the 2018 festival. The artist Michele Curtis then announced plans to re-create them all on a much larger scale in time for the 2019 carnival.
Settling in St Pauls
St Pauls in Bristol was one of the main places where people from the West Indies settled following the second world war. Over the years, tensions surfaced as the newcomers to the area were not always met with open arms. Racism was rife and this was shown up by blatant segregation between communities. “Most of us where living in St Pauls at the time” said Roy Hackett to the BBC. “It was the only place we could get a room to rent”.
Barbara Dettering, remembered the barriers that were commonplace during that time. She recalled signs on rooms to rent. “There was no Irish, no dogs and no blacks” she recalled. “But you just get on and do what you have to do. You make life to the best of your ability”.
Bristol Bus Boycott
The 1963 Bristol Bus Boycott was a seminal moment in race relations in St Pauls and then ultimately across the UK. It started from the refusal of the Bristol Omnibus Company to employ black or asian bus crews in the city of Bristol. A grassroots collective led by local activist Paul Stephenson and the West Indian Development Council sought to boycott the company’s buses. Eventually after four months the company gave in and lifted the ban.
The campaign caught the attention of national politicians and community leaders. Today it is thought that it was influential in the passing of the 1965 Race Relations Act. This made racial discrimination unlawful in public places. A further act in 1968 made it unlawful to discriminate in housing and employment.
The Seven Saints of St Pauls
Audley Evans – 83 Ashley Road, Montpellier
One of the founders of the West Indian Development Council. Audley Evans was one of the main influencers behind the 1963 Bristol Bus Boycott. He had moved to England from Jamaica and settled in the area of St Pauls. He helped to established the first St Pauls festival in 1968 and then the year after immigrated to Florida.
Barbara Dettering – 45 Tudor Road, St Agnes
Working as a teacher Barbara Dettering, also known as ‘Aunty Babs‘ spent most of her life working with children as both a teacher and social worker. Born in Guyana she moved to Bristol in 1961, living across the city before settling in Eastville. Describing herself as a “silent digger” she would work away behind the scenes with a view towards helping to change lives for the better. Working particularly with kids she would help them to overcome prejudice and would work with them to help them achieve their own dreams.
The mural, the third to be painted, features Barbara against a backdrop of flowers and birds. An active member in the community she was one of the founders of the St Pauls Carnival. She also played a role in the Bristol bus boycott. There is a quote from Barbara on the mural which says “I saw a group of people. Black people doing something for themselves and I wanted to be a part of that”.
Carmen Beckford – 38 St Nicholas Road, St Pauls
Born in Jamaica in 1928, Carmen Beckford arrived in the UK at just 17 to train as a nurse. Moving to Bristol in 1965 she became a midwife in Downend. As one of the organisers of the first St Pauls carnival she was in charge of organising the entertainment. In the 1970’s Carmen would become the council’s first race relations officer.
Clifford Drummond – 41 Morgan Street, St Pauls
The owner of the Speedy Bird cafe which is memorialised in the mural to Clifford Drummond. The cafe once stood where the St Pauls Community Centre is now. It became the main meeting place for the Commonwealth co-ordinating committee which would go on to organise the first carnival.
Dolores Campbell – 17 Grosvenor Road, St Pauls
A lifelong campaigner for civil rights, Dolores Campbell was the first female member of the Commonwealth Co-ordinated Committee. She was also a foster carer to over 30 children and the backdrop of a child’s picture in her mural remembers this. The hibiscus flowers in the mural remember Dolores home in Jamaica. Former Bristol poet laureate Miles Chambers described Delores as “the surrogate mother of black British culture” and “the nanny of the black community who bore the birth of future activists”.
Owen Adolphus Henry – 158 City Road, St Pauls
Emigrating to the UK in 1955, Owen Henry was originally from Jamaica. Firmly establishing himself in the community he would go on to be nicknamed the ‘Mayor of St Pauls’. Along with Clifford Drummond he set up a travel company which would charter flights to allow immigrants to get back to see their loved ones for holidays. He was also one of the founders of the Commonwealth co-ordinated committee, helped to found the St Pauls Carnival and was also one of the key players behind the Bristol Bus Boycott.
Roy Hackett – 15 Byron Road, St Agnes
Sadly much of the mural of Roy Hackett has disappeared. All that remains is a small section as the rest has been stripped away to allow for building work to be done on the house it once occupied. In 1962 keen to tackle the councils attitude towards the black population, Hackett along with Owen Henry, Audley Evans and Clifford Drummond set up the Commonwealth Coordinated Committee. which would go on to organise the first festival. “We used to meet in the Speedy Bird cafe on Sundays drinking fish tea and red stripe beer” he remembers. Whilst “listening to calypso music with a paraffin heater to keep warm”.
What’s left of the mural of Roy Hackett actively remembers the Bristol Bus Boycott of which Roy Hackett played a key role. It shows people marching with banners in support of the boycott.
The Seven Saints of St Pauls Murals were visited on 9 October 2022. The murals were painted between 2018 and 2019 and feature the founders of the St Pauls Carnival. For more articles on the street art of Bristol take a look here.