It is fitting that a mural of Dolores Campbell is being painted on Campbell Street in St Paul’s, even though the street was not named after one of St Paul’s most respected former residents.
Over the course of 18 years, Dolores was a foster carer to more than 30 children. She was also the first woman member of the Commonwealth Coordinated Committee (CCC) set up to highlight open racial discrimination in Bristol in the 1960s and one of the founders of St Paul’s Carnival.
For artist Michele Curtis, Campbell is also one of the ‘Seven Saints of St Paul’s’, all of whom she has drawn pencil and charcoal portraits of, with these drawings forming the basis of the murals being brought together under the banner of Iconic Black Bristolians.
Dolores’ mural, painted by Curtis with the help of Bristol art collective The Paintsmiths, is the second in the series, with CCC founder and Bristol bus boycott supporter Owen Henry a few hundred yards away on City Road.
In a poem commissioned to mark the 50th anniversary of St Paul’s Carnival, former Bristol poet laureate Miles Chambers called Delores “the surrogate mother of black British culture” and “the nanny of the black community who bore the birth of future activists”.
Painting the mural began on Thursday and is due to finish on Tuesday on the side of a home owned by housing provider Liverty, who provided £2,500 of its community budget towards the art project.
During a brief pause form painting on Sunday afternoon, Michele said that it was a “dream come true” to see her work – that was originally a project while she was a student at City of Bristol College – on such a large scale.
While The Paintsmiths work on the cherry picker, Michele remains at street level helping to paint the hibiscus flowers from Delores’ native Jamaica.
“Black history in Bristol and the UK in general can be a contentious issue,” Michele told Bristol24/7. “Many people don’t want to talk about black history because of our connection with the slave trade.
“Through Iconic Black Bristolians, what I wanted to show was that there is a shared heritage and a shared legacy beyond the slave trade, one that we can all be proud of, and also telling the history of St Paul’s Carnival and why it was started.
“The Seven Saints worked with many different communities promoting integration and celebrating diversity in Bristol and I think we owe them a lot.”
Michele has found walls for all the Seven Saints of St Paul’s and is currently looking for funding to continue her project. The Seven Saints are Owen Henry, Roy Hackett, Audley Evans, Clifford Drummond, Carmen Beckford, Barbara Dettering and Delores Campbell.