Bristol Archive Records Blog

The Bristol Reggae Explosion Live

April 15th, 2013



17 Track CD / 11 Track DVD & Digital Download. Released 3rdJune 2013.

For the past three years, Bristol Archive Records have shone the spotlight on the City’s musical legacy, particularly reggae. Last year we decided we’d turn the spotlight on the artists themselves and so in August, a who’s who of Bristol reggae artists gathered together for The Bristol Reggae Explosion Live. It was a unique chance to enjoy more than ten of the city’s finest veterans sharing the same stage, in some cases for the first time in two decades.

The show was a huge success with the whole crowd and all the artists going home with large grins on their faces, having enjoyed one of the best shows and some of the nicest vibes in years. By chance, young film makers from 8th Sense Media and the “Dubplate To Dubstep” Ujima Radio film project were in attendance to document the evening and although we hadn’t planned a commercial release, the show was such a great success we decided that perhaps we should share the footage.

With many of the artists coming from St. Paul’s and with most of them having been involved in past carnivals, it seemed obvious to turn this celebration of Bristol and St. Paul’s musical legacy performed by the elders and filmed by the youths into something that could benefit the community and the next generation of performers.

Knowing of the yearly struggle to raise funds for St. Paul’s Carnival, Bristol Archive Records will be releasing “The Bristol Reggae Explosion Live 2012” as a CD/DVD package on 3rd June 2013 with profits donated to The St. Paul’s Carnival.

Although technical issues mean that not every artist is represented, the DVD contains eleven performances from Lord John Hutchinson, Bunny Marrett, Dennis McCalla aka Dallas, Popsy Curious, Glen Crookes, Dan Ratchet, Jashwha Moses and the mighty Talisman, who also provide backing for the other acts.

The accompanying CD contains 17 studio recordings from the acts involved and as well as those featured on the DVD, we get to enjoy the talents of Winston Minott, Veronica Morrison aka Veereal, Vibes and Cool Runnings with several tracks previously unreleased.

A special mention must go to Michael Jenkins and Steve Street whose hard work on the video and soundtrack respectively, made this release possible and of course the young film makers who captured the evening.

Whether you were fortunate enough to be present on that August night, are a fan of the acts or the label, want to support St. Paul’s Carnival or are just curious, you are sure to enjoy this package.

St. Pauls Carnival takes place in Bristol on 6th July 2013.

ARTIST: Various Artists

TITLE: The Bristol Reggae Explosion Live

RELEASE DATE: 3rd June 2013

LABEL: Bristol Archive Records


FORMAT:  CD/DVD and Digital Download


BARCODE: 5052571045923

Jashwha Moses ‘No War On Earth’ Album Review

April 15th, 2013

‘No War On Earth’

- Label: ‘Sugar Shack’
- Genre: ‘Reggae’ – Release Date: ’22nd April 2013′- Catalogue No: ‘FOD094CD’

Our Rating: 8/10

Mixing and matching his classic early singles such as ‘Rise Up’ and the defining, Dennis ‘Blackbeard’ Bovell-produced ‘Africa (Is Our Land)’, with hard to come by live recordings and tantalising post-Y2K material such as ‘Distant Guns’ and the disorienting ‘Steel’, the collation of JOSHUA (now JASHWHA) MOSES’ remarkably cohesive 2012 ‘debut’ LP ‘Joshua To Jashwa’ was a feat of extreme perseverance, even by the diligent standards of Mike Derby’s brilliant Bristol Archive imprint.

Thus, it comes as a truly pleasant surprise to discover that instead of a lengthening Stone Roses-esque silence, Moses’ eschewing of the wilderness continues apace, with his brand new studio LP ‘No War On Earth’ (released by Bristol Archive offshoot Sugar Shack) arriving barely 12 months after its illustrious predecessor.

Produced by long-time collaborator/ multi-instrumentalist Mikey Taylor-Hall and comprising nine vocal tracks and six dubs, ‘No War On Earth’ is the sound of roots’n’culture at its best. Continuity with the recent past is provided by seamless reshapings of ‘Steel’ and ‘Jah Time Has Come’, but it’s the all-new material here that really sets the pulse racing.

The opening ‘No Weep’ gives you a good idea of what to expect. Quickly settling into a vintage, Channel One-style groove and lifted by a commanding Moses vocal, it’s highly memorable, as is the righteous ‘No War’: a textbook slice of pure roots, with regal stabs of horns riding a heavy’ n’ potent skank and Moses’ humanity-first lyric (“ecological crises, nuclear devices encompass this Earth”) sounding all the more resonant as North Korea continues to ratchet up its Armageddon-fuelled rhetoric.

Typically, humanity and spirituality are high on Jashwha’s lyrical agenda. “And after all is said and done, what have you done for your fellow man?” he pertinently asks the powers that be on ‘No Weep’, while the title of ‘Power Crazy People’ speaks volumes on its own terms. The lyric from the strident, anti-slavery ‘Good Over Evil’ (“until there’s no longer first or second class citizens in any country”) are copped from the impassioned speech Heile Selassie delivered to the United Nations in October 1963, but it vividly captures an idealism we should still all be striving for regardless.

Version-wise, both ‘Weeping Dub’ and the impressive ‘No War Dubwise’ are from the King Tubby school of subterranean speaker-stretching, though ‘Good Over Evil Dubwise’ and ‘Do You Believe In Love Dubwise’ are both straighter, almost funky slices of urban militancy and they’re none the worse for that.

If Black Roots’ excellent ‘On The Ground’ sought (and succeeded) in its quest to bring proper, credible home-grown roots reggae into the 21st Century, then Jashwha Moses’ ‘No War On Earth’ is a highly satisfying second instalment. The Jahggae Man cometh indeed.

Sugar Shack Records online

Bristol Archive Records online

Shoc Wave – ‘A Bristol Story’

March 19th, 2013

The Shoc Wave Records Compilation sleeve notes are written and now with the designers. Here is an extract:
‘Bristol Boys make more noise’. I got that quote from Mark Stewart (The Pop Group) and its stuck with me, the label and its releases ever since. Bristol boys and girls making music has never stopped from when I first started with Mike and The Molemen in 1978 right through to today with great new releases coming out of The Invada label run by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow
Bristol is a fantastic city, a beautiful place, a great place to visit and live in, BUT with a music infrastructure which has always been underground. People have generally paved their own way, swimming against the tide, fighting their war and doing it on their own with differing levels of success. A so called Music Business Infrastructure has never really existed with managers, accountants, artists and labels working together for the greater good so in a way, the underground style has always suited this city in the South West of England.
For me my underground and iconic Bristol music hero is Gene Walsh. Gene signed my band The Rimshots in 1979 and released our first single ‘I Was Wrong’ in 1980: he also managed us (Five white middle class kids from a posh part of Bristol being managed by a black guy! That just didn’t happen in 1979/1980).
Yes, Gene gave me my first opportunity to make a record but more importantly than that he used to invite us to his home where he would play Dominos with his friends, cook us chicken, peas and rice and talk of his dream, his vision for his company and how he believed he and his team could take Bristol and put it on the map. Remember, this is way before The Wild Bunch, Smith & Mighty, Massive Attack, Portishead, Tricky, Roni Size and all that goes with them (Their labels, recording studios, collaborators etc). This was 1979/1980 Thatcher’s Britain; an unemployed waste land as Talisman would say on their 1980 single ‘Dole Age’ (Is anything sounding familiar?)
Gene and his team had plans to buy a property in St.Marks Road, Easton a primarily black community area. His dream was to have a recording studio, record label, press and PR, rehearsal space, offices for the label and publishing company all housed in one building, all working towards one common goal – success for the artists from Bristol, his adopted home.
I can remember asking Gene how he would make it happen and get the artists to work with him. Gene was infectiously enthusiastic, with a beaming smile, a driven but nice man. He wanted to create a stable similar to a Motown set up where he could attract the best of what Bristol had to offer. It could be any genre of music but two things mattered, it had to be great and be Bristol based.
The dream never materialised, the funding was never obtained from private investors being offered shares in the company. Maybe the community didn’t embrace it or understand it – but it didn’t happen. That building alongside many other buildings on St.Marks Road were picked up by property developers and today St.Marks Road is a thriving business area of Bristol primarily run by Asian businessmen.
The Shoc Wave label continued long after I lost contact with Gene but it would be fair to say it never had any of the success to which it aspired until now! Genes dream lives on with Bristol Archive Records and its sister labels Sugar Shack Records and Reggae Archive Records. We have managed due to the support from my team, to create an environment where artists are working together. Artists are releasing records with new and old material, and some of the Reggae bands Black Roots, Talisman and Jashwha Moses with Full Force and Power are reforming and hitting the road and playing UK and European Festivals with great success. We have created a roster, we have created a hub and we are enjoying success in what is now an incredibly difficult market and time in which to sell any records. This isn’t to say that we are the first, Smith & Mighty had their own label and pool of artists and so have many others, but we are different.
This album has been compiled to celebrate Gene Walsh and his team Fitzy, Melford, Mikey, Teresa plus all others and all the musicians that they worked with. We must all have a dream!

Gene your dream inspired us!

Mike Darby ‘Bristol Boys Make More Noise’
The release date of the CD will be put back slightly from the anticipated 15th April 2013 – but the release will be well worth the wait.

Record Collector Top 11 Reggae Releases of 2012

January 3rd, 2013

Great news for the label

Joshua Moses – Joshua to Jashwha 30 years In The Wilderness

Bunny Marrett – I’m Free

Both albums in the Top 11 Reggae albums of the year in Record Collector

Congratulations to all the team involved

Western Stars The Bands That Built Bristol Vol 1 – Rereleased

December 28th, 2012



RERELEASED 18th February 2013



Bristol Archive Records

Awash with 40th birthday parties, it’s been a great couple of years for viewing fat, sag and follicle loss amongst Bristols ‘we’re going to make it’ set of the 70′s and early 80′s. At the latest we were pre-warned by our hosts (including Gareth Sager -Pop Group, Rip Rig and Panic Kevin (Ebo) Evans- Colour Tapes) to anticipate the onset of the ageing process. So I squeezed into a pair of leathers, applied layers of slap and prayed for dim lighting….. and do you know it plain didn’t matter. The Tabernacle, Notting Hill was simply oozing with Bristol-weaned artistic talent. From a Make up artist on Eastenders to Dexter Dalwood – Cortinas now an internationally acclaimed artist, what these people shared was a Bristol Music past that must of made an impact long before the Bristol Sound was invented. Unfortunately together with physical deterioration, memory loss is a big set back for the over 40′s or is it simply that the 60′s catchphrase about not really having been there if you remember it, applies to all decades. In either case, try and get people to remember back then and you get lots of ‘I always stuck to the Dug Out carpet’ and not much more.

My very first experience of bands and such like was gawking at my friends brothers band Exiguus Mus containing Ben Young  (pre Cold Storage entrepreneurism) and the dabblings of Tony Moore (of Eurovision Fame!).  I really can’t remember the music but it was probably of the ‘progressive’ genre. In search of a more diverse musical education and boys that wore Ben Shermans, I joined Youth Clubs and lent against palm trees at Tiffany’s hoping for a musical awakening. No sooner positioned than some boys I knew got a gig ‘up the Youth Club. ‘It was my first local live experience and although Jeremy Valentine was the butt of my newly discovered sharp tongue (I adamantly deny having ever snogged him), I had to concede that together with Mike Fewins, Nick Shepherd, Danny Swan and Dexter Dalwood, The Cortinas were on the road to somewhere.

Now Mark Stewart, who I had considered extremely uncool as I was the only girl at his Birthday party at which his Mother produced a Birthday cake, announced his intention to ‘gig.’  The Pop Group’s first outing was at Tiffany’s and I was there, ready to ‘take the piss’. Instead I came away hooked, hooked on the music, hooked on the rock and roll dream and hooked on the endless possibilities for boys. The Pop Group rise to fame and the esteem with which they are revered today is well documented and the Birthday incident now replaced in my memory by one of Mrs Stewart standing next to Ian Dury at a Pop Group ‘event’ at Hope Centre. Jeremy Valentine, a bitten off ear, a punkette and presumably Shane McGowan (as he has been credited with the incident), for me it was the first time someone I knew appeared in the national music press.

Meanwhile other groups were emerging on the Bristol circuit and with them my realisation that going to watch a band didn’t need to be the intense experience that Maestro’s Sager and Stewart would have us believe. The Spics were my first love, not only were they graced with a plethora of good looks (I can’t look at Michaelangelo’s David to this day without remembering John Shennan), but their music was fun, I could dance to it (they did a mean version of Springsteen’s-Fire, before The Pointer Sisters) and Wendy, Sarah and Jo’s backing vocals introduced me to a previously unknown concept, that girls could do it too.  The back bar of The Lion, Cliftonwood, once I’d found it, was the place to hang. The glitterati met and talked in loud voices of big name supports and ‘pie in the sky ‘ record deals, but here too ‘yet-to-be exploited’ innovations were realised.  Bands were formed, shuffled and renamed. No one had any money, signing on was fine if you said you were a poet, all our clothes were from second hand shops and DIY record production was the toast of the day. Heartbeat, Fried Egg, Wavelength recorded The Spics, Shoes for Industry, Various Artists, Gardez Darkx, The Europeans, The Untouchables, Wild Beasts, Essential Bop and more.  Avon Calling became the first Bristol compilation album and in the absence of anyone spotting my potential as a lead vocalist, I became the first female DJ down the Dug Out Ah, the Dug Out, unique and never cloned, a club for non-clubbers, where chatting was easy and disco scorned. Where Indie could be mixed with Reggae and Glaxobabies back to back with Joe Loss (1979- I did it first!).  From then chronological order  becomes blurred. Mike ‘Spic’ knew some people moving into a house in Redland, they needed a sixth. I was that girl, although I seriously doubted my sanity on first meeting Neil and Richard (at least I combed my hair on a regular basis), but Matthew was quite cute. They’d moved in together to form a band and after much deliberation and Pils quaffing in The Kensington, became The Electric Guitars.

The house was a pigsty, the basement a rehearsal room and the kitchen a health and safety hazard. (Why Gary Clail broke in and nicked our baked beans is a mystery to this day.)  Proverbially ‘starving in their garret’ these boys produced a new genre of music and stage presence that took Bristol by storm. At some point the innovative Video Bar, down the Dug Out was Rockfords Restaurant and who better to staff it than Bristols wannabes. Amongst others Mandy Joseph (Art Objects Muse) Mandy Stewart (Scream and Dance), Mike Smith, (Joe Public, Circus Circus) and Ian Mullard (Circus Circus) cooked and waited between gigs. Yours truly not content with the decks downstairs, and the griddle upstairs promoted bands on Wednesday nights, Pete Brandt’s -Slow Twitch Fibres amongst them. We cooked and partied, Green Rooms, The Stonehouse and later Carwardines. Out of towners came proving we were with the groove Echo And The Bunnymen, Paul Young’s Q Tips, U2 at Redland Teacher Training College. Sometime along the way I DJ’d at Trinity Hall, supporting the likes of The Cramps and The Thompson Twins.

Wavelength metamorphisised into The Bristol Recorder, brainchild of Martin Elbourne, Jonathan Arthur and Thos Brooman (sometime drummer, once WOMAD overlord). Where other Independents had failed trying to promote more than one up-and-coming band at a time, a clever gimmick (then) of incorporating an ad filled magazine between the covers, aimed to fund this compilation album of local bands. The high quality music became staple diet at my Monday night Dug Out slot, returning the compliment, Recorder 2 mentioned the Dug Out to be ‘excellent with Jill at the controls.’(Spelling forgiven). By the time Recorder 3 appeared, the eighties had begun to take hold and with it a crisis of confidence in the local scene. Major record companies ate ‘indies’ for breakfast, the recorder used The Thompson Twins to boost sales and potential Bristol Sounds were swallowed by way of Tax loss. Pigbag made Top of the Pops, but that didn’t have the knock on effect that Massive Attack has had today. I moved to London and partied with Shane McGowan, The Higsons and tried to set up an Independent record company with Speedy Keen (Thunderclap Newman), our showcase act Cold Fish dumping us for the first Major that made them an offer, never to be heard of again..(Pete Howard re-emerged with Nick Shepherd in The Clash, who incidentally have  a lot to thank me for, I was obviously the catalyst!) Returning to Bristol with big city ideas.  I promoted new bands (Brilliant Corners) at the new function bar Upstairs (above the Dug Out), tried the ‘Club one nighter, ‘The Dug Down Too Far’ ahead of my time, band management (Tootin’ Crocodiles) and gradually gave up DJ’ing. No way was I getting into that scratching business and ruining my vinyl. (Anyway some geezers calling themselves The Wild Bunch seemed to have that all sewn up).When the lights went on that night at The Tabernacle, the 80’s survivors were revealed and in the corner was a forty year old woman beating herself over the head for giving up DJ’ing at a giddy peak of eight quid a night. (Press release by Gill Loats currently writing the words for a Book on ‘Punk to Funk Bristol Boys Make More Noise’)

Track listing:

Glaxobabies                        This Is Your Life

Gardez Darkx                      Bliss

The Spics                             You & Me

The Numbers                      Alternative Suicide

Electric Guitars                   Continental Shelf

Apartment                            The Car

Shoes For Industry            Invasion Of The French Boyfriends

Essential Bop                      Raiders Blues

Fishfood                               The Modern Dance Craze

Art Objects                           Hard Objects

The X-Certs                         Queen and Country

The Various Artists            Time Of Your Life

Talisman                               Dole Age (Extended Version)

Black Roots home town success gig

November 12th, 2012

One of the best reggae bands from the 1980s, BLACK ROOTS, performed on home turf on Saturday night (10 November) with an official album launch gig in St Pauls.

The Malcolm X Centre show was the band’s chance to translate their new record On The Ground to the stage and prove their relevance in a much-changed musical landscape since their inception in 1979.

The result on the night was… success.

The reinvigorated roots reggae group recently dropped their first studio recording for more than 20 years and fittingly played pretty much every track off the new album interspersed with occasional older material.

Classic tracks on the night such as “The Father” and “Tribal War” fitted in well with new material including recent double A 12” “Pompous Way” adding a continuing social commentary, and “Oh Mama Africa” – an upbeat song celebrating Africa. Here it is live:

With 11 musicians on stage, including six members of the original line-up (Carlton Smith, Errol Brown, Kondwani Ngozi, Jabulani Ngozi, Cordell Francis and Charlie), the sound was not muddied or overcomplicated but rather added depth and layers of instrumentation to recreate the sound of the new record.

The newer members of the band, including a skilled horn section and a suitably tight rhythm section, also showcased their skills and place among the original musicians in the group.

Here’s the Bristol band performing new track “Landscape” from On The Ground:

Here’s “Militancy”, which could have easily come from the group’s first incarnation:

Overall BLACK ROOTS were back in their classic roots groove and seemed to keep existing fans happy while appealing to a new younger generation.

The new record On The Ground (out on Sugar Shack Records) is available on LP, CD and digital download from the usual outlets including Amazon, iTunes and the Bristol Archive Records online shop.

Nubian Records has also put together the following “reggaementry”, filmed during the recording of On The Ground, and including exclusive interviews with BLACK ROOTS original members.

Vibes album ‘Reminisce’

November 6th, 2012

Vibes Album ‘Reminisce’ set for release in the spring of 2013.
Recorded in 1990 but never mixed and therefore another unreleased British Reggae classic. The album features three brilliant vocalists from St.PAULS, BRISTOL, UK – Popsy Curious

, Veronica Morrison aka Veereal and Winston Minnott from Cool Runnings.

Track listing:
1. My Love
2. My Love (Dub)
3. Jah Hold Up The Rain
4. Jah Hold Up The Rain (Dub)
5. Reminisce
6. We Must Go Home (Jah Jah Children)
7. Judgement On Creation
8. Judgement On Creation (Dub)
9. Hurting So Bad
10. Sell Out
11. Sell Out (Dub)
12. Tribulation
Bonus Tracks:

13. We Must Go Home (Steve Street Mix)
14. Jah Hold Up The Rain (Steve Street Mix)
15. My Love (Steve Street Mix)

The album has been mixed by Dave Sandford who has previously completed some remixes for Black Roots with the exception of the three bonus tracks which are mixes completed by Steve Street aka Doug The Dub

More news soon a CD and Digital release coming your way via – MORE CLASSIC BRISTOL VIBES

Interview with Mike Darby for

October 18th, 2012

Music didn’t play a big part in Mike Darby’s early life until 1977 when his brother Paul brought home a copy of “My Aim Is True” by Elvis Costello and then a week later “Never Mind The Bollocks” by The Sex Pistols. The spirit of the Punk era caused that Mike found some confidence and believed that anybody could be in a band. Thus he was committed to try his luck and his first effort was Mike and The Molemen. The latter was the stepping stone for Mike to have the confidence to approach better musicians with the aim of forming The Rimshots. With one of the later line-ups of this band, he supported The Beat at The Locarno in 1980 and got a singles deal with a new Bristol based label called Shoc Wave Records. After the split up of The Rimshots, Mike had two more attempts at fronting a band before he moved into management picking up his little brother Neil’s band Fear of Darkness. The latter led into Love Jungle which led into managing Rita Lynch. Nowadays Mike Darby is an independent financial advisor and label head of Bristol Archive Records.

Q: Greetings, Mike! Over the last few years, Bristol Archive Records has been unearthing some of the most crucial British Reggae to see the light of day. How did your concept and dedication start?

A: We released a compilation called The Bristol Punk Explosion 1977 -1983 approx two years ago. It didn’t sell very well but it mapped out the template for the extensive sleeve notes, hidden unreleased gems and the pictures. As soon as I saw the finished product I knew I had to pull a Reggae compilation together and I knew that the challenge would be to get Black Roots and Talisman together on the same record. I had a white pop reggae / ska band in 1980 and The Rimshots had supported both of these awesome roots bands, the problem was that they had only ever shared the same stage once and there was history between the two groups. I knew or thought I could get access to other reggae material by making contact with Gene Walsh who had run Shoc Wave Records in the 80′s and had released Joshua Moses and Sharon Benjamin so the challenge was on.

Q: Your label’s Reggae catalogue started out with “Bristol Reggae Explosion”; full of exciting songs from virtually unknown artists. Did you anticipate the huge amount of material that must have come across your desk? There was enough material for two more successful compilation albums.

A: We’ve released three successful compilations up until now actually and are currently working on Reggae Explosion 4 which will be the end of the 80′s and then Reggae Explosion 5 which will be the start of the 90′s. We had no idea how much material was in people’s houses, under beds, on cassettes, old quarter inch, limited edition vinyl. I was introduced to Martin Langford who compiles the records and writes the sleeve notes, Martins memory of all things Reggae is amazing and my skill has been in finding the artists and engaging them in the project. The quality of the unreleased material is astounding!
Dan Ratchet
Joshua Moses

Q: The world now is familiar with the sheer brilliance of artists like Dan Ratchet and Joshua Moses , to name a few. Did these talents approach you?

A: No I approached Dan and then his producer Simba Rashe Tongogara. Both live in Bristol. Joshua, again living in Bristol was introduced via Gene Walsh who then introduced me to Joshua’s producer Mikey Taylor Hall. I had met Joshua once in the 80′s at a Domino game at Gene’s house, he didn’t remember but it made the approach easier as we had friends in common.

Q: Bristol has Reggae talent on par with London and Kingston and all points between; any more artists or groups coming out of the woodwork?

A: Wow thank you for saying that, the artists will be really happy. We are mixing a Vibes album at the moment, recorded in 1989 it features Popsy Curious, Winston Minnott from Cool Runnings and Veereal and was never mixed back in the day so was never released. Some killa tunes on here. We are awaiting the final delivery of a Restriction album, now this will be something special. Mikey Taylor Hall has given us unreleased material that he has produced which will appear on Reggae Explosion 4.

Q: Perhaps your greatest concept was to work with Black Roots and reissue some of their earlier works. How was it to work with these legends?

A: A privilege and a pleasure. Jabulani is a quiet man so it’s taken a while to build the relationship. Martin Langford came up with the concept of the Singles Anthology as he is a lifelong fan. We are releasing a Dub album of ‘On The Ground’ in the spring and will probably release on Vinyl only, a Limited Edition of Black Roots first ever album with additional sleeve notes.

Q: There have been some incredible album launch concerts within the last year. Is there a chance of some international appearances?

A: Now that is interesting. Black Roots, Talisman and Joshua Moses all have the same agent and all are back out playing live and have made big British festival appearances this summer. All three have new albums either just released or ready for the spring release. All three would love the opportunity to tour in Europe, just ask a promoter to approach us. I’d also like to take The Bristol Reggae Explosion Live show out on the road. We played a monumental gig this summer with nine of the featured singers on the compilation albums all singing their track from the records. Talisman acted as the backing band and played a set in their own right – it was brilliant.

Q: It’s fantastic news that the Fashion catalogue is going to be reissued by your sister label. Are you going to be involved in this project?

A: I set the deal up with Chris Lane but it’s Martin Langford’s baby to put the track listings together. We are hoping for two new compilations in the spring. Fashion In Fine Style Significant Hits Vol 1 is out now.

Q: Your resident “minister of information” Martin Langford is a plethora of knowledge. How did he come on board Bristol Archive Records?

A: I was introduced by a DJ and Vinyl collector John Stapleton. We met in the record shop Martin works in on a Saturday. I told Martin about my plans for the Bristol Reggae Explosion Vol 1 and he just threw a few names at me that I either wasn’t aware of or hadn’t considered. It was obvious from that moment that we should team up and we haven’t looked back since. We both have very different skills and personalities but as a team we’ve proved unstoppable.

Q: Your releases show that you have a tight knit staff working with you. Did you anticipate the international success of your projects?

A: Not a clue. Steve Street who masters all the material is my brother in law. He was a studio engineer in the late 70′s and 80′s here in Bristol and recorded some of the material first time around. He later worked for Tears For Fears as their in house engineer at the Wool hall. Steve was in bands in the 80′s and believe it or not has made two Top Of The Pops appearances! We couldn’t run the label in the way that we do without Steve’s expertise and experience but also his unbelieveable commitment to quality.

Q: Mike, give thanks for bringing the Reggae gems of Bristol to the world. It has rekindled true recognition of original and authentic Roots Reggae Musik. Keep Jah Fire burning and sharing what this world needs!!

A: Thank you. The pleasure I’ve had in the project is delivering the finished cds and vinyl to the original artists and seeing them smile and be proud. First time around nothing much happened for them, now in 2012 and beyond they are all achieving their little slice of recognition and success.

Interview by Robert “Higherman” Heilman (October 2012) | Pics courtesy of Bristol Archive Records
(Please do not reproduce without permission)

‘An Interview with Roy Hackett – St Pauls Carnival from 1968’

September 10th, 2012

Bristol Archive Records Interview Transcription:

ñ Roy Hackett is the Jamaican born co-founder of the Commonwealth Co-ordinated Committee (CCC) which was started 1962. From 1968-79 the CCC set up and ran the St. Paul’s Festival. The event has since been renamed St. Paul’s Afrikan Caribbean Carnival. The CCC is now known as the Bristol West Indian Parents and Friends Association, of which Roy is the chair person.

ñ Albert Stewart was a member of the CCC and is now also a member of the Bristol West Indian Parents and Friends Association. Mr Stewart and his wife both contributed to the running of the St. Paul’s Festival.

Unless otherwise stated Roy Hackett is the speaker.

Tell me about your early life and before you came to Bristol.

I came to England in 1952. I was in Liverpool, that’s where I started. In Toxteth, 180 Upper Parliament Street. I stayed in Stanley House. I came here on a Sunday and I was taken to the Labour Exchange named Renshaw Hall. On Monday the 14th of October I signed-on and the next day I found myself a job for £4.10s a week. My rent was seven shillings a week, paid daily.

I did that for about two years. Then I had to leave, because honestly I could not live in the conditions that existed at the time; I found people of African descent who had lived there for 50 years and neither father, son, mother, daughter or grandchildren were working. That’s not the way that I wanted to live. You want to adopt that kind of a life if you want to live on the dole. Fortunately, I have never been. I had a dole once, £3.10s in Liverpool, that was the first and the last one.

I left Liverpool and went to Wolverhampton. I spent between four and six months in Wolverhampton and then I moved to London. When I came to London I got a job with the engineering firm Taylor Woodrow. They brought me to Somerset to build England’s first atomic power station, Hinkley Point, in 1957 — I worked in the turbine hall. While I was there at least a quarter of the workforce were black and Jamaican, and we got talking.

After the job I came here to Bristol. I didn’t go back to London. I left Taylor Woodrow halfway through my job to go and work for another firm called Sir Robert McAlpine in Llanwern, South Wales. I worked there as a labourer, but during my time I became a teaboy and worked with Tom Jones. We were all young men at that time. He was always singing. When I said, “where are you from?” in a thick welsh accent he said, “from the Rhondda Valley,” and I said, “get back there with that noise!”

How old were you then?

I was about 28. When I came to England I was 24 years old. He was younger than me, maybe by ten years, he is in his 70s now.

How old are you now?

84 years old. I worked there for a while and had the opportunity to come here to Bristol and I arrived in St. Paul’s. I didn’t know anybody so I had to go and knock on doors looking for somewhere to stay — this was in the middle of winter around Christmas time. I walked from Lower Ashley Road up to Ashley Road itself. There were signs, that said “No Blacks, No Gypsies, No Irish and No Dogs.” When there wasn’t a sign on the door I knocked on it. Even if there was a sign without anything on it and the landlady opened the door, often she would just slam it in my face. It was tough. I had to sleep in a shop doorway that night. I wanted to go to the police station, but really, I didn’t know where the police station was. There wasn’t one in St. Paul’s, the nearest one was in town.

Had you come on the train?

Yes, I didn’t know anyone yet in Bristol. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even see a black person to ask. The following day I did see a mixed race-chap. I told him I was Jamaican and looking for any Jamaican families that lived around. There was one lady who lived in 15 Brighton Street who put people up. So this was my rest place for one night.

You had some money for rent?

Yes, I had some money from work, because I wasn’t sending money anywhere and I wasn’t banking it. I was living hand to mouth and that was OK for me because I was saving. Then I got a room in 144 Lower Ashley Road. I had to share with five other families; there were only five rooms. For good luck I found my own cousin. He left Jamaica in 1944 to join the RAF. He was demobbed in 1945 and stayed around Bristol.

What was his name?

Irving Williams. I shared the room with him. There was no bathroom, there was just a big tin outside. We would either use that, or once a week on a Saturday we would walk about two miles down to Broadmead centre for a bath, where we paid one shilling for a towel and soap. Life was tough my friend. This Britain was not like the one you are living in now. It was really tough. I lived a dogs life for the first five years in this country. If I could have afforded the fare I would have gone back the next day actually. I didn’t think I belonged here at all. A lot of people who came here at the same time as me said the same thing: if they could have afforded the fare they would have gone back the next day.

How much was the fare?

The fare from Jamaica to here was about £35 on a ship.

How much were you earning a week?

I was earning £5 a week permanently — that was my week’s pay in a drugs store, which was open 9-3pm. The next year, from October to February, I worked a seasonal job in the coffee industry board from 6-10pm on Foreshore Road, Kingston — you know we had the best coffee in the world, Blue Mountain. I worked on that for five months, getting £5 from my permanent job and £5 from the coffee. So for five months of the year I earned £10 a week, but from £5 a week to £4.10s, that’s a big drop and I had to pay a shilling a day in rent.

It’s very sad. It’s a sad story. I could read and write that story over again because it embedded in my mind. I told my children about it but they just said, “that was the olden days.” But I said, “it is the olden days who create the new era or the new day.” It is the older people who put their heart and soul into the country during wartime or peacetime. They should be looked after in my opinion and at this stage, as older people, we are snubbed by the government. Not by the people, but I don’t think the government ever thought about it. They think we are a burden on the NHS and everything else, and that we should have died when we were 70 years old. At my age I am still paying income tax on my work pension from Imperial Tobacco company, who I worked for for 20 years.

Tell me about when the association was formed?

After I got settled in Bristol I met a friend. He and I were born in the same month, in the same year, in the same county. His name was Owen Henry — now the late Owen Henry. He gave me a lot to think about and said we should form something to tackle the councils attitude towards the black population, because with the council when you went for a job they could tell you anything and kick you out of the office. I thought we should have an association because at that time one person had no say. As with today, one voice is not really enough, you have to have somebody behind you. So we decided we were going to form an association. We met, four of us at first, to form the association and gave it the name Commonwealth Coordinated Committee in November 1962. We used to meet in the Speedy Bird cafe on Sundays drinking fish tea and red stripe beer and listening to calypso music with a paraffin heater to keep warm. After 1962 once we had the CCC name we started a recruitment drive for membership.

Is this the organisation that 1975 became the Bristol West Indian Parents and Friends Association?

Yes, it was known as the CCC. We were going to include Bristol in the name but we decided, no, we were commonwealth people so we called it the Commonwealth Coordinated Committee.

In 1963 Guy Bailey brought up the issue with the buses. Paul Stephenson was our president at the time. He was later made a Freeman of the city, given an OBE [2009] and is currently chairman of the Bristol Legacy Commission. He wanted a group to form so we adopted him and made him our president and spokesperson to the council. He wrote a book the other day too [Memoirs of a Black Englishman, Tangent Books]. He was born in Essex and brought here. During the war he was taken away from his parents as an evacuee. He had a hard life, but then he might have found it easier because he was young and still a child. I think he was in the RAF as well [1953-60]. He was demobbed near the time we formed the association. He came to Bristol where he worked as a support teacher near St Baptist Mills school and joined the association in 1963.

How did you meet him?

I didn’t meet him, Owen Henry met him. Owen Henry was a business person and he came across many different people from different nations. He ran a travel agents.

Did he have a shop?

He had an office on Grosvenor Road. He did a lot of business because he was the person who could send you back to where you had come from and apply for your passport. He was at the heart of everything, at the time the names Roy Hackett or Albert Stewart weren’t well known but Owen Henry was. It’s like the prime minister, everybody blames him for everything because he is the one who the buck stops with. Owen Henry was the chairman of the association and the buck stopped with him.

So Owen Henry was the chairman?


And Paul Stephenson was the spokesperson?

President and spokesperson.

Who were the rest of the members?

Roy Hackett: The founders were…

Albert Stewart: Carmen Beckford?

Roy Hackett: No, Carmen came to Bristol in 1965. It was the late Clifford Drummond, he was the secretary and treasurer, and Audley Evan. Audley was just a regular member. He left Bristol 45 years ago and I haven’t seen him since. There were four of us in the very beginning in ’62 and then once we had formed Paul Stephenson came in 1963. My role was public relations officer, these days they just call it PR. This was all only the formation though.

Where did the association meet?

At different houses at different times, mostly on Sundays because we were all working people. Everyone had a job, there was nobody hanging about. This is my contention with the so-called carnival: everybody wants a job in the carnival and doesn’t want a job outside. They want to be paid but to get paid it would have to be an association or a business. The festival was never a business, it was a community event. Everybody in there was living in the community. I am not saying that it’s only people that live in the community that should be doing it, because some people from outside have skills that can help you. We had people from outside come in and help us, but 90% of the people that ran the festival were from the community. They were shopkeepers, carpenters, shoemakers — everybody did their little bit.

Today things aren’t as rosy with the carnival as it was with the festival. For the festival we went with caps in hand, begging pennies and half a crown. If one gave five shillings, that was a whole lot of money! We begged and got favours from people who had lorries and they gave us their time and vehicles to get the festival people on the floats. All of this was given us. All we had to do was pay the driver for the day.

In the festival we had steel bands that came out from Bath, and all we had to pay for was the driver to drive the float for the day. All of these things were obtained by begging, but not for a personal purpose, it was for the community, and we did get through. We ran it for 11 years without this council or any council ever putting any money in. So when today they are talking about how this carnival hasn’t any money I want to know why, but then it is not any business of mine to interfere in the carnival because they seem to have a closed door policy.

It’s only when the money ran out that we heard how much they got and how much they spent. I don’t see the cause of that. A consultant to tell you how to run a community event? I think that is way overhead. But like I said, I am not involved with the carnival. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing because it brings people into the area and they spend their money here in the shops. They buy a beer for £2 and enjoy the music and the company. It brings people together. We have a little blip now and then between outsiders and some of our boys, which you must expect; they are going to have words with people from a different nation or a different culture.

Has the West Indian community grown since those early days?

It has, when we started it was under 5000 West Indians.

Only West Indian?

Well, it was the West Indians who ran it all. Now it’s everyone. But there is nothing wrong with that. If they live in the community they must have the community behind them. You can’t stay up in Clifton and tell people in St. Paul’s what to do. If you think you are high you have to come down to their level, drink a cup of tea, break a banana or eat some spicy food, if you want them on your side.

Tell me about the Bristol bus boycott?

As a matter of fact the Bus Boycott was the first time we became involved in outside issues. However this was involved with the community because most people during those days wouldn’t get anywhere to live in a white community. You had to come where the majority of blacks lived to get a room. You see, you have to take what you can get before you get what you want. If you see a job, it doesn’t matter what your ambitions are or your profession is. They didn’t even want to employ a carpenter because he didn’t have the right papers. They called him a second class carpenter, and yet he might do a better job than the first class carpenter. This was the kind of thing that we had to put up with.

Guy Bailey was an 18 year old who came here to England. He now has an OBE. He used to run a travel service in Stapleton Road. He was with the BDA (Black Development Agency). I’m not sure what he is doing now.

He went for an interview. He saw the advert in The Evening Post, rang them up and said that he was looking for a job on the buses. They said, “yes, we have the job, come on down.” He went, the person came out and said “What’s your name?” he said, “Guy Bailey.” They said “We are waiting for him.” He said, “No, I am Guy Bailey. I phoned up about a job and was told to come for an interview.” She went back inside and spoke to someone inside the office, came out and said that the job was filled. When he got back he had a white friend phone up to find out if there was a job available. And yes there were plenty of jobs available.

First we talked about how we could go about it. This is where Paul Stephenson came in. Paul had met Owen Henry and they had been friends for a little while. They were more friendly together than I was with them. He spoke to Paul, and Paul must have spoken to the council because it was the city council who owned the Bristol Omnibuses. He had spoken to them, I don’t know what they had said but I was told one of the drivers had said that his wife was a conductor on the buses and if one black man was on the bus then she would have to leave. I said, “if his wife has to leave when a black persons gets a job there, then she had better leave now because we are going to go on that bus.”

I didn’t want to. I’ve never had a bus job and I was employed full-time. I was just making sure that a person who was capable of doing the job was offered the opportunity, especially if that person was born British, born in a British country. It’s name is democracy. I don’t see why you should stop a black person from earning a living. If you want to kill a man then you hang him or put him in prison, but if you stop him from getting a job how is he going to get his living? We all have a share of the country or a share of the business. We are all working people: wives work, husbands work, there are older people at home looking after the children.

What intentions did you and the other founders have when in 1968 you set up the first St. Paul’s Festival?

At the very beginning we just wanted to do something to say thank you to our community, which at that time was St. Paul’s. If somebody had come up with another idea like cutting the hedges, cleaning snow from doorways or doing the groceries we may have done that instead, but we came up with this and I thought it was a good idea because everybody could have a part in it. The old people could watch from their doorways and the children would have smiles on their faces and shout, “Mum, look here, Look here.” That brings joy.

You fall into a category, some go preaching, some gambling, some bingo but I fell into associations. People always ask, “do you get big pay.” I say, “For what? I never charge anyone for what I do because I have a job, I have my wife, I have my family, my little old car, a 1961 Vauxhall Cresta — £70, I paid for it when it was 11 months old, and I had it for 12 years without needing to repair it.

What would you usually do when you were at the festival?

Let’s say you were one of the artists and there was something you needed to find out. If you wanted a focal point to say, “who can I talk to about the festival?” We had a woman or a man with a badge. We would say let’s take them to the chairman or the public relations officer, some of them would want to speak to Carmen Beckford as well.

Do you have any memories of festivals in Jamaica that inspired you to start one here?

No, our kind of carnival is quite different from yours. Ours is at Christmas time, St. Paul’s Festival was held in July. We started working on it in January and then in July we had the first big carnival. We don’t have anything back home on as such a big scale as the St. Paul’s Carnival.

In Jamaica the carnivals move from parish to parish. We would have one in St. Paul’s but we would take it to Knowle or Redland on a different week. I left there when I was 24 years old but I lived in the city where they don’t really have them. In the country parts that’s part of their Christmas amusement: they dress up and run around. Everybody is dressed up as a god or devil and everybody has their own thing to do in that carnival setting. But I didn’t see it in the city because I left the country when I was 16. Every Christmas we looked forward to it and it would go right on through to new years day.

What do you think the festival adds to Bristol’s cultural life?

It’s definitely on Bristol’s calendar, it was even during our time. That is definitely something that will be missed by the people but more so maybe by the council. The way they would miss it is people are getting money. I don’t know who that money is going to but people would miss it. I am quite sure the pubs in particular would miss it. Financially they could make more money on that day than they would in a whole month.

If there is one part of it that has stayed true to your original intentions what is it?

It’s the benefit I am looking for, and not the financial benefit. I am thinking about the community spirit, mostly for the older people who can’t run about, they sit at their door and watch as it goes past and the kids because schools are competing against schools and the kids can talk about, “my school won this, my school did this.” That becomes a subject maybe when it is finished and they go back to school and the teacher says, “oh what did you do at festival?” And they might say, “ I was on the number two boat and I was on this or I danced in church.” I think that is very good for the kids. For us it is entertainment and then people go to the pub and drink excessively and maybe smoke, I suppose, but it’s a field day for somebody.

Can you tell me about what happened in the first year of the carnival?

The first year we had 3-4000 people. We were just testing it. We must have had about two floats. We had all the schools around taking part, as far away as Lockleaze, which is about four miles away. We talked to the parents, they talked to the kids and they talked to the teachers about what was happening in their village. Then teachers tried to find out how they could take part for the kids. They formed teams and dance groups, and then they all came and joined in. It became a community event even though they lived five miles away.

You say the first year of the carnival was 1968 but on the Carnival’s website it says that the first one was held in 1967.

No, it’s 1968. I can assure you of that. That was the year, [holds up the first carnival flyer] A bloke from Cornwall did this for us in 1968, not ’67. They might have had one in ’67 but it wasn’t here.

This man [points to Albert Stewart] will put it better than me. He said, before the festival this place was dull, there was nothing around, it was dead. There was no excitement except for the bar or pub. So we decided that we are going to show them about our skills and get people happy. We talked about what we could do, we thought about it. We play cricket, we play dominoes, but those are things we do between us. What can we do to show them our appreciation for the city we live in? We sat down for weeks. We thought and we thought and got ideas.

We put the best ideas to work and we came up with this [points to the first festival brochure]. Then we went to a white bloke from Cornwall and we said we needed what we called at the time a hand bill but nowadays it’s known as a flyer to be made. He said to get all the things we wanted to put on it and then he would put it together. In those days there was no typing machine, it was all stencils. You would put the paper in a big machine and put the carbon paper over it and roll it. Your hands would get all inked up.

We wanted to show the people of Bristol that this was our offering to them. And they did enjoy it, everybody came out of their doors. There were fried fritters, fish and West Indian cooking being sold. They didn’t know about these things before we put this on. The people who came, they came from as far away as Knowle at the time. It was reported on the Radio so people came to see what a festival was. The first year we had maybe 2000 but the next year the number doubled and then it kept doubling until it was really big.

You said you had maybe two floats. What were the early processions like?

Yes, at the time we started with two floats. We started at a place called the Rovers Ground. It was a place where they had dog racing and Rovers football,

Albert Stewart: It was where Ikea is now.

Roy Hackett: We came along Stapleton Road for about 150 yards and then we turned into Seymour Road because there was no motorway to cross back in those days. Then we turned on to Lower Ashley Road and next Ashley Road. The police, they helped, gave us protection and kept the people away from us. Then we came to Sussex Place and we had a scaffolding about 15 ft high on which the lord mayor gave a speech. We carried on towards City Road, then on to Brigstocke Road, which we turned down because that was where all the vehicles could stay. From there we dispatched the floats and everybody went back to the centre and we came into Sussex Place, where all of the businesses, pubs and shops were. We stayed there, doing things all day until 12 o’clock.

What did you mean by dispatch the floats?

We finished with the floats, they got parked or had to go home.

What did they look like?

Albert Stewart: They were flatbed lorries, which we dressed up with balloons and all of that.

Roy Hackett: Just like they do in London. They were going slow and the people were dancing in front and behind the floats. All the young school children, they all went on the float because we didn’t want them to get lost in the crowd. Their school teachers, mothers or fathers were there. It went on and we survived for 11 years. Imagine.

Albert, can we talk about the early years?

Albert Stewart: This country was a dead country. Although there was black and white, it seemed as if there was only two or three colours. We started to bring in mixed colours. We had been to a shop where we could get offcuts of cloth. We begged bits and pieces of cloth and went round to each others’ basements and sewed them with our hands. The ladies sewed them with their hands. We West Indian people are good with our hands. When everybody was dressed up in these bright colours you would be surprised to know people enjoyed themselves and appreciated what they had seen because they had never seen anything like it before.

So we started the ball rolling, from a couple of thousand the first year to twice as many people the next, until now. Each year carnival doubles because people always like to spread rumours — if you want to put it that way — about the good and the bad. The bad things we don’t want to spread, but as you know the press like bad news.

Talking about the press, when some of us Caribbean people do something good they don’t publish it. They only want to wait until something bad happens. Then they pounce on it and fry all of us in the same pack, which is not good enough as far as I am concerned.

This festival which has been going on nearly half a century, the press wouldn’t pick it up from the beginning when it was going to be rammed down in Portland square. They stood back. Now that it is cancelled they are jumping on the bandwagon: It’s on the radio, its on the TV it’s on everything now. It’s as if they were waiting for this to happen, it’s as if they don’t like to see people do good things or things people enjoy. They say good news doesn’t sell papers. So we are pushing along with it but this year it is cancelled.

On the internet it was saying the initial organisers were the St. Paul’s and Environs Consultative Committee.

It is not. Not where the festival is concerned.

Have you ever heard of them before?

No, never heard of them before.

It said it was the West Indian Development Association, aided by the vicar of St Agnes church, Carmen Beckford.

Albert Stewart: No, they have it all upside down and wrong.

Do you know Carmen Beckford?

Roy Hackett: Yes.

Albert Stewart: She was the Race relations officer. One of the first race relations systems set up in this country was right here in Bristol.

Roy Hackett: That was done under the government at that time, I think it was Harold Wilson. There was so much racism about that he set up the race council. It was in London first, then in 1965 it came to Bristol and Carmen Beckford became the first race relations officer. They were supported financially by Bristol City Council, they paid her wages. We used to call it BREC, Bristol Race Equality Council, she was the director. The office here on Colston Street covered the whole of the south west. I was a member for 40 years, it only closed in 2005.

What was Carmen Beckford’s involvement with the Festival?

Her job was to do entertainments and things. She was also a member of the CCC.

At what point did she become a member?

She was on the executive. She came here in 1965, so everything that she did was during or after that year. The CCC set up the festival with the help and involvement of Carmen Beckford. She was part of it but she wasn’t the sole founder. Part of her wages were paid by the council, there were about ten people who worked there. She had a second in command to her, then the other people were representatives who went out into the communities — this is from here to Devon and Plymouth, because it was the only one in the south west. Carmen was here when the festival was created back in 1968 and she was part of it, she was the one who was in charge of entertainment.

Now on another matter, there was someone we believe who had his own agenda. I think he would have liked to take over the festival, but under the leadership of Owen Henry he just couldn’t. He set up things for people to say, which was partly why we gave up the festival.

A lot of things happened coming up to the time we gave up working on the festival. On nearly the last year we had to go into Cabot School.

What year was this?

We ran the festival for 11 years, from 1968 until 1979. He was working on the festival before we gave it up. I can’t remember exactly.

Did he join the CCC?

No, he did not. Some of Carmen Beckford’s wages were paid by the council. When the BREC sent out to put offices in any county, any city, that council has got to shoulder the wages of the director. Not whole but part wages. The council itself even had somebody there, he was an African bloke. The way it finished was very suspicious but it did finish in 2005, the racial equality council was closed, started in 1965 and closed in 2005. There was a lot of talk about why it had closed, they thought that the time had come when racial equality had been achieved and it was time to abandon it.

Albert Stewart: By then Carmen Beckford had resigned a long time ago, about ten years before it closed. I don’t know whether she stayed around in Bristol long but I think she has since left England and gone home.

Can we talk about the change over from festival to carnival?

I think in my opinion that there may have been someone put there to portray the council’s part, but the council wasn’t paying us anything so there was nothing for that person or us to gain. They never gave us any money to help. All they gave us was the venue to do things like the school yard or Portland Square. But they didn’t have the right to say you can’t do this because if we couldn’t do it at their place we would find another place to do it.

Albert do you have a recollection of the change over of power?

Albert Stewart: We didn’t get any money from anywhere. Of course the police have got to check their budget out. Instead of putting 500 police on the street, back then they would put ten police out. Everybody worked with the police and the police worked with us.

Roy Hackett: We didn’t disrespect any of the police. The people from outside of the area were better protected because when you are in a new place you don’t know who is who. The police were there to help people if they wanted an address or so forth. They took part in it, they danced on the street and socialised with us.

The year when we actually finished with it was in the Cabot school playground. Cabot school, back then, was a new school, and because Malcolm X was also a school somebody said we are going to finish with this other school.

They built Cabot school by the motorway. Cabot school has high fences, about 15ft, to stop people going onto the motorway. These chaps, in my opinion, pushed by someone else said that they didn’t want it to be in the school. They were concerned that when they were smoking their drugs the police would come past and they wouldn’t have an easy escape route. The fence was so high they couldn’t jump over it and there was only one way in, which was really guarded. You might hurt yourself trying to even climb the fence.

We didn’t create the festival for people to smoke joints or to prove that drugs should be smoked. We didn’t want to take part in that kind of thing. We didn’t want to change what we were doing so that they could smoke drugs. We weren’t stopping them but we wanted a place where people were well protected and in Cabot school they were. There were no cars, it was a secure place.

They still didn’t want it to take place there, and they spoke with Owen Henry who said, “well let’s look at it this way, you don’t have anywhere else for us to have it and we don’t have anywhere else either. We will have to think about this very hard.” At the end of that particular meeting — we have had our meetings every first Saturday of the month since 1962 — Owen Henry said to me, “what do you think?” I said “we should not bow down to them, just because they want to have it in an open field.”

Do you know where they wanted to have it? Minor park playground. There is no fencing there and the kids could have run across the road and done anything. We said we couldn’t protect the children running across the street because that road is the main road to the motor way. We couldn’t have it there.

We thought we were going to stop it. We handed it over to whoever wanted it. As a matter of fact we didn’t hand it over to anyone, we just stopped and then they took it up and ran it. They continued with the name St. Paul’s Festival for about two or three years and then they changed it to St Paul’s Carnival. Since then we haven’t taken any active part in the carnival.

It seems extraordinary. Was the only reason they wanted to change the venue because of smoking of drugs? Were there other reasons?

Like I said, it seems political. I cannot prove that, but the people who were pushing for the changes to the venue for the festival were usually those employed or involved with the council — council indoctrinated. They didn’t do it alone. They got the Rastafarians and Caribbeans who wanted to do their drugs. On the day of the festival they might have made more money selling drugs than we made setting up the festival. Except we weren’t trying to make any money. They said they didn’t want it kept there. In other words they were giving us a warning. In my, and the other committee members opinion, if we didn’t move it from the Cabot School venue they were going to do something about it. We couldn’t let it end like that because if we had had anything like fighting or vandalism of property the council would have shut us down. The council didn’t have any role in it other than the police presence and that they had provided the area, Cabot School playground. The education authority gave us the school and Portland Square was thanks to the council. Those were their blessings to us.

Can you talk a bit more about the council. What would the council’s motives have been? Why did they want to change it?

I cannot say why they were involved personally. They didn’t say anything about these things, but the way it was done, by certain people who actually worked for the council, well, the people they were associating with were the people who threatened us.

I don’t know what motive they had. Somebody in there might have said, “we can make money out of this.” There were people coming from Newport, Gloucester, even a coach load from London. I think they may have looked at it and thought it may have become a business. Those people are not going to come out in front. They would set up a quango to do the dirty work.

Albert Stewart: Since the activists took charge of it you’ve got to pay big money for every little square inch in front of your house on the street. Some pay £750 for a spot the size of a table. That’s big money! We didn’t charge anybody anything. We weren’t making any money from it. If somebody wanted to set up something in their front garden and use the electric from their house, put a frying pan on there and fry a few dumplings or fish, then that’s their business. We didn’t charge anybody but this is big business. What I’d like to know is, if they are charging those sorts of amounts where has all that money gone?

Roy Hackett: Since they took the festival over it has stopped twice. It is bad management and they made a great deal of money from it. What is going on? I heard that the council still gave them £55,000 to clear up the bad debts. Of all things the Jamaican high commissioners department gave them £10,000. I was very angry about it. When I asked them about it they said it was from the heritage fund. They got it from the heritage fund and gave it to them. Why didn’t they give it to us, the West Indian Parents and Friends Association? I went to church with them and asked about it. I talked with the deputy high commissioner and told her what I knew but she was not forthright with us.

I went to radio Bristol and the director of the Carnival Rebecca Gibbs was there. I told her that I had heard that the Bristol Legacy Commission, where Paul Stephenson is chair had given them £10,000. The Jamaican High Commission in London heard it and rang to tell me Paul Stephenson did not give them any money. I said “I beg your pardon, how could you, a Jamaican, take that money and give it to this thing run by the council? When we here at the West Indian Parent’s and Friend’s Association are having the 50th anniversary of independence in August 2012. We asked them for money and they couldn’t give it to us, yet they gave the cancelled carnival committee £10,000. I spoke to the deputy in person, and when she told me I said, “I can’t believe it.”

Does the carnival raise much money for charity?

It has charity status but it doesn’t do much for charity. Tell me which charity have they given money to or which project they have created?

On the Carnival’s website it says one of the objectives of the carnival is to advance the education of the public in the appreciation and practise of African and Caribbean arts and culture. How well do you think it does that?

I couldn’t say anything about that because I haven’t seen any written documentation on what they have or haven’t done.

Albert: Now, I specifically use the word, ‘us’ as the Afro-Caribbean people because the African people do their own thing. There is a dividing line there that is very hard to break down. There is a problem there and I don’t know how we are going to solve it.

Roy Hackett: You see we have black and white prejudice but even more so there is also black and black prejudice. It’s a terrible thing.

Do any of you know anything about the times that the carnival has been cancelled?

Roy Hackett: I think it has been cancelled a total of three times since it has been going but two of those occasions have been in the last ten years. Like I said, I am not involved with the carnival. I see it on the news and because I am a nosey person and I want to know what’s going on, and I go to the meetings. I went to one and I showed them this [points to pamphlet from an early festival] and they said, “why is it that you put on the festival for two weeks and we only have it for one?” I said “At the same time as having the event go on for 16 days we were not getting any money from outside sources.” It’s a change of attitude.

What do they call themselves? Afro-American? I don’t even want to call myself Afro-Caribbean. I’m just a Caribbean man. You must not forget your roots and my roots are very deeply ingrained in the Caribbean because of slavery. That’s a really bad part of the Caribbean people.

Albert Stewart: Slavery was designed to divide us and to indoctrinate us. It’s going to be very hard for black people to unite together. We are trying our best, that’s what this carnival is all about, that’s why we started it: to bring people together. Now it’s tearing us apart.

Roy Hackett: It is designed to bring people together and it did in the days we did it.

Albert Stewart: Yes, since we did it. It has been hijacked. Since the authorities took it from us it has gone to pieces. We would have kept it going, but every other year now it closes down.

Roy Hackett: As the event approaches there is always a discussion whether they can afford to put it on. Sometimes it just scrapes through. When I went to the meeting in the Malcolm X centre they took the mike away and went up stairs. The police had to be there.

There were three uniformed police officers there before anyone else. I knew most of them. I talked to them. One of them was a black girl. They were based at trinity police station. I said, “Have you come to listen?” They said, “Something like that…” They were sitting there because they thought the young people of St. Paul’s were going to kick off. And they did, they were going to rip the place apart.

(Alex Cater Summer 2012)

Dubkasm – Brixton Rec

August 29th, 2012

Aba Shanti-I at Notting Hill Carnival 2012 showcasing the forthcoming album ‘Brixton Rec’ by Dubkasm

Here’s the link: