My earliest memories of St Pauls Festival (as it was known back then) are of running alongside the floats trying to get a big kid to haul me up on board. After a while we’d jump off and get hauled onto another float. It was a right of passage for us “yoots”. Once the procession was over we’d wander through the crowds, linking up with friends and family, trying to raise a few pennies to get a drink or piece of watermelon. When I was exhausted, I’d return home listening to the bass echoing across the city as I walked across the M32 bridge and Danny River to Stapleton Rd. Strikes me all my memories of Festival are of sunny days.
And this Saturday after three years away St Pauls Carnival is back and in a great piece of un-orchestrated poetry, its 2018 return coincides with its 50th anniversary and the 70th anniversary of the Empire Windrush. Fears had been expressed that Carnival might have been lost to the city but with the perseverance of community activists, council officers and partner organisations such as the Arts Council, Carnival is here again.
There’ll be 17 different stages and sound systems. 16 schools, 500 children, 1,500 participants and numerous floats are taking part in the procession. There will be activities, games and after-parties held around the city once the street activities close and there’s also the small matter of the England quarter final against Sweden from 3pm! A great weekend of culture and sport.
Carnival brings people from across the globe to witness the strength of community and the vibrancy of our city. Upward of 100,000 people will be on the streets of Bristol participating in one of UK’s biggest showcases of Afrikan Caribbean culture and heritage. With all of the music, food, dance, community stalls, parades, costumes and the sounds of Carnival carrying us through the streets of St Pauls, it’ll be easy to forget just how big an operation this is for those involved in bringing it to life.
I would like to thank those in the community who have sacrificed their free time to dedicate themselves to bringing Carnival home, council officers for their dedication to supporting Carnival, partners in Arts Council for their continued commitment to our diverse cultural offer and the emergency services for the huge operation they have put in place to ensure we all remain safe and free to enjoy the weekend.