Bristol Old Vic joins with artists and community groups to mark 40th anniversary of St Paul's Uprising

12 Mar 2020

Black Roots, Sado Jirdie, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Tan Teddy, Olivette Otele, Don Letts, DJ Angel Mel, Lawrence Hoo, Nancy Medina and Edson Burton join with artists, community groups and young people from across the city to mark 40th anniversary of the St Pauls Uprising.

Bristol Old Vic's Year of Change in 2018 was a declaration of intent to welcome all Bristolians to our refurbished building, embracing the theatre's civic role and partnering with those seeking to address the racial inequalities highlighted in the Runnymede report ("Bristol is the most segregated core city in the UK", 2017). The year was not a flash in the pan. 2018 marked a commitment to ongoing change in the city over the next 20 years. The work of 2018 Year of Change has only just begun.

In consultation with Year of Change artists and partners, Bristol Old Vic today announced Unfinished Business* – a week-long series of events held at the theatre and open to the entire city. Connecting with those across Bristol who see the 40th anniversary of Bristol’s St Pauls Uprising as a focus for renewed action, two of the city’s leading black artists, Edson Burton and Nancy Medina are curating a programme which explores that anniversary in relation to the City’s Past, Present and Future.

The St Pauls Uprising was a reaction to structural inequality in Bristol which is inseparable from the City’s History,” says curator Edson Burton. “Unfinished Business is a gathering of talent, sewn together by a thread which reflects on the history of Bristol before and after the riots of 1980 in the context of the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade and the consequences of abolition.” 

Unfinished Business will run from Mon 30 March – Sat 4 April. Each day will focus on a specific point in history - Daytime talks, readings and debates are all completely free and will explore the issues raised by the St Pauls Anniversary and look at its historic context, while ticketed evening gigs and performances will launch Bristol Old Vic’s spectacular foyer as a music venue for the first time.
Unfinished Business Schedule:
Monday 30 Mar     
Enslavement, Abolition and Injustice

Olivette Otele: In conversation
Play reading: Giles Terera’s The Meaning of Zong
'Serena’  - (un)Settlement
Black Roots

Tuesday 31 Mar              
The Windrush: Hope and Hate in the UK

Simba Tongogora: In Conversation 
‘Serena’ - (up)Roots
Tan Teddy

Wednesday 1 Apr           
70s Britain: Surviving a Hostile Environment 

Freedom through Singing, workshop with Robert Short (Sonder Choir)
‘Serena’ - (out)Side
Urban Word Collective presents Lyrically Justified feat. Linton Kwesi Johnson

Thursday 2 Apr                
1980 -The Raid, The Uprising 

Panel discussion with Jamaica Saouda, Clement McCarthy and Cathy Lecointe
Lawrence Hoo: In conversation 
Where were you?  Short films and commissions in collaboration with the BBC
‘Serena’ – Molotov
DJ Style (Ujima Radio) and soundscape artist Ric de Mowbray

Friday 3 Apr                      
The Aftermath: sticking plaster or real solution?

Panel discussion with Sado Jirdie, William Ackah and Simba Tongogara
City Conversation V (co-presented with Rising Arts Agency)
Serena - (un)Noticed
Late night DJ – Don Letts

Saturday 4 Apr                 
The Future begins Now

Bristol Old Vic Young Company with Boomsatsuma (artistic direction by Nancy Medina)
Serena - (dis)Honour
DJ Angel Mel

Wednesday 2nd April 1980 and an afternoon raid on the Black and White Café in the St Pauls area of Bristol, culminates in a visceral confrontation between police and the local community. By the evening, the police were forced to retreat...

The week also includes Bristol Old Vic’s 5th City Conversation, facilitated in collaboration with Rising Arts. The City Conversations in 2018 came out of the Runnymede report’s conclusion of Bristol’s shameful inequalities and aimed to find practical solutions to moving towards a fairer city. On the 40th anniversary of the Uprising, which was itself borne out of these frustrations, now more than ever the next conversation will investigate how far we have come, at a time when the fractures in society threaten to tear apart once more.

Edson Burton said: “St Pauls was the first in a wave of urban uprisings that defined the 1980s and exposed a deep rift in British society. What sparked the riots? Commentators point to record levels of unemployment affecting in particular Black youth, police harassment and a toxic climate fuelled by the rise of the Far Right. But the factors that led to the riot can be traced far back to the racism and disadvantage caused by the transatlantic slave trade.”

Bristol Old Vic’s Artistic Director Tom Morris said: “Bristol Old Vic welcomes every community in this city.  We are committed to ongoing change to make that welcome meaningful and to support a Bristol-wide ambition to transform our city. This week is part of that commitment.”

Unfinished Business collaborators and cultural partners include:
Rising Arts Agency, Ujima Radio, Lawrence Hoo, Black South West Network, BBC, St Pauls Carnival, Festival of Ideas, 8th Sense media, Bristol Post, Boomsatsuma, Malcolm X Centre, Michelle Curtis and many others.
*This is a not-for-profit event - daytime events are free-of charge, with evening performances £5-£12.

For full line-up or to book, visit
or call the Box Office 0117 987 7877

To book your place at the City Conversation visit Eventbrite:

Bristol Old Vic is the longest continuously running theatre in the UK, and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2016. The historic playhouse aims to inspire audiences with its own original productions, both at home and on tour, whilst nurturing the next generation of artists, whether that be through their 350-strong Young Company, their many outreach and education projects or their trailblazing artist development programme, Bristol Ferment.

They use their funding to support experiment and innovation, to allow access to their programme for people who would not otherwise encounter it, or be able to afford it, and to keep their extraordinary heritage alive and animated.

On 24 Sep 2018, Bristol Old Vic completed its 2-year multi-million pound redevelopment project, which transformed its front of house space into a warm and welcoming public building for all of Bristol to enjoy, created a new studio theatre and opened up its unique theatrical heritage to the public for the first time.

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