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WHAT IS THE BRISTOL BUS BOYCOTT?
The Bristol Bus Boycott is an underremembered historical event which took place in May 1963 as a protest against the refusal of the Bristol Omnibus Company to employ Black and South Asian drivers and conductors on its buses. It was led by Paul Stephenson and a group of young people from the West Indies who named themselves the West Indian Development Council. Inspired by the achievements of Dr Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks in the US, the 60-day boycott proved a vital catalyst for change in the UKushering in the 1965 Race Relations Act. During the boycott, individuals and organisations didn’t always align with the side you might expect. The West Indian Development Council were joined by white students from Bristol University and prominent ﬁgures like Harold Wilson and Learie Constantine - the High Commissioner for Trinidad and Tobago. Opposing the boycott, alongside the Omnibus Company, was the Transport and General Workers Union - even though the Union had been vocal in its opposition to Apartheid in South Africa. (The Bristol Omnibus Company ceased operation in 1987).
Even the visiting West Indian Cricket Team refused to get involved as they believed that sport and politics should not mix. Ultimately the boycott was successful and, on 28 August - the same day that Dr King delivered his “I have a dream speech”, the colour bar was lifted. On 17 September that year
Raghbir Singh, an Indian-born Sikh became the ﬁrst Global Majority conductor on a bus in Bristol. A few days later, two Jamaican and two Pakistani men joined him.
BRISTOL1963 BOYCOTTBUS ACTRACE1965RELATIONS EARLYBUS2019BOYCOTTDEVELOPMENT BLOCKBUS2021BOYCOTTPARTY
HOW HAS IT DEVELOPED?
ABOUT TO THE STREETS...
Following this initial period of development, Birmingham Hippodrome came on board as co-producers and together with China Plate began conversations with the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games about showcasing ‘Bus Boycott’ as part of the Games’ Cultural Programme. In the summer of 2021, China Plate and Birmingham Hippodrome hosted the Bus Boycott Block Party as part of a co-curated events programme to celebrate North Birmingham’s reputation of intergenerational activism. Held at Soho House in Handsworth, the party provided a live preview of the musical, showcased the talent of Birmingham commissioned artists and most importantly - it brought out the Sinceblock.then, each of the commissioned artists has been working towards developing their projects; We Still Here, Soho Settlers and On Our Way; for Birmingham 2022 Festival. Find out more at tothestreets.co.uk. In September 2021, ‘Bus Boycott’ was one of 38 new musicals in development chosen to be presented at BEAM - the UK’s biggest showcase of new musical theatre. This brings us to August 2022 and our outdoor performances here in Handsworth Park, Windmill Hill and West Park. Thank you for joining us and supporting this very special new musical. At this concert version of To The Streets!, you’ll get to know the characters and the main storylines from the musical, and hear all the key songs sung by a professional cast with backing from a live band. Plus, stunning projections and soul shaking dance numbers.
Based on an original idea by Christopher Haydon, To The Streets! went through a period of early development under the working title ‘Bus Boycott’ funded by a China Plate and Warwick Arts Centre Triggered@Warwick Commission. During this time, the creative team took several research trips to Bristol, including a visit to the Bristol Archives, conversations with historians, activists and veterans of the boycott, as well as meeting with elders at the Malcolm X Community Centre. Here they met Roy Hackett - a leading ﬁgure behind the Bristol Bus Boycott and Joyce MorrisWisdom - who joined the protest as a teenager; both of whom have been a huge inspiration for Roy Williams (Book) and Tim Sutton (Music & Lyrics), throughout the writing process.
WHAT ARE THE FUTURE PLANS? Our ambition is to present the full production in theatres across the country in the future. Watch this space for more details!
CONCERT2022 MUSICAL PERFORMANCES IN BIRMINGHAM, COVENTRY AND WOLVERHAMPTON AMBITIONS? TO STAGE A FULL TOUR
Thank you Paul Stephenson, Roy Hackett, Guy Bailey, Joyce Morris-Wisdom, Barbara Dettering, Owen Henry, Audley Evans, Prince Brown, Raghbir Singh and everyone who took to the streets.
Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Birmingham City Council and Blueprint: Without Walls R&D Investment Fund. We are also grateful to the Weston Culture Fund, Sir Barry Jackson Trust, Kirsty Chinnock-Davies and Martin Levermore & Michele Taylor for their generous support. would like to dedicate these performances to the activists. have left us, some are still with us, all continue to inspire us daily.
Generously supported by Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Image (left to right): Timothy Morris-Wisdom, Joyce Morris-Wisdom (inspiration for character of Lorraine), Roy Hackett (boycott veteran), Katie Sutton, Tim Sutton, Roy Williams, 20 September 2021, Malcolm X Centre, Bristol