The Bristol artist behind the Seven Saints of St Pauls mural project said she has not been able to bring herself to go see the collapsed mural of Roy Hackett, but pledged that it would be repainted.
Michele Curtis said she was still in shock after seeing pictures of the scenes at the end of Byron Street, close to the M32 junction yesterday, when the wall and the mural began to collapse and firefighters had to pull down the rest of it for safety reasons.
Police and firefighters attended the scene in St Pauls for several hours into Wednesday evening, as the area was cordoned off and fire crews worked to make the building safe.
READ MORE:Painting history – the remarkable story behind the Seven Saints of St Pauls
The mural of one of the leaders of the 1963 Bristol Bus Boycott was perhaps the best known of the Seven Saints project, which depicted the earliest community leaders in St Pauls who all got together to set up the area’s famous carnival.
The murals were painted in 2018 and 2019 in a project – seen in the video above – that brought national acclaim and visitors to St Pauls who are guided by a special app that tells the stories of the people involved and the history of St Pauls.
Michele said the first she knew of an issue was when she got a text from someone living in the street saying some parts of the wall were coming away at 5pm, and she was one of several people to call the emergency services. Investigations are underway into what happened, as Avon Fire and Rescue service said that, sadly, they had to pull down the remaining rendering and cladding to make the building safe for people passing by, and that included the mural. Michele said she was pleased no one was hurt. “I’m thankful no one was injured, apparently there was a group of people standing in front of the mural just a few minutes before,” she said.
“In the greater scheme of things, of course, with the last 18 months we’ve had, it’s a mural and it can be repainted, Roy Hackett himself is fine, so we need to put this into perspective,” she said. “But to be honest, I’m still in shock. I haven’t gone down there to have a look and I don’t think I’m ready to, with all the debris still there. I sent my children down to take pictures of it, but I’ve been able to bring myself to go just yet,” she added.
“The Roy Hackett mural was probably the most photographed and most well known of the Seven Saints, and was in a great location. It was a bit different because it was a different shaped wall, a bit bigger, which enabled us to include other people from the West Indian Parents and Friends Association which were involved in the bus boycott. We were able to tell more of the history in that mural.
Firefighters attend the collapsed wall on the side of a house in Byron Street, St Pauls, which had a mural of Bristol Bus Boycott leader Roy Hackett on it as part of the Seven Saints of St Pauls project
(Image: Avon Fire and Rescue)
“But all of them are like my children, all seven of them,” she said. “As an artist you get very emotionally attached to your work and this project in particular was so very special to me,” she added. Michele said it was too early to talk about the logistics of getting the mural reinstated. “The first priority is obviously the people who live in the house, and them having their wall rebuilt,” said Michele. “After that, we can talk about reinstating the mural.”
Michele said her first preference would be to repaint the mural on the same wall, but if that wasn’t possible, she’d look for other walls in St Pauls.
The response directly to Michele and on social media to the news of the wall collapsing had been ‘overwhelming’, the artist said, with many people asking if there was a fundraising page they could donate to. Michele said once there was a plan in place, there may well be a fundraiser set up.
The house is owned by Bristol City Council but managed by Christian housing charity Emmaus, who gave over two walls of two homes for the Seven Saints project – Clifford Drummond is on Emmaus’ other wall.
“We’ll definitely consider a fundraiser and if it’s at all possible, it would be great to reinstate the mural there,” she said. “We had plans with the community for a community cornerstone to be put there, and to make that space a place for people to gather. The mural is very unique there and it’s a great spot as it faces the M32 so lots of people see it. It will be back,” she added.
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