Back Story?

Find out more about what lies behind this story about ‘race’ in this city.

Bristol & the African
puts The Mayor’s Race into a three-film collection.

from our Facebook

'Bristol is a racist city' was the thing often said, rather easily, without considering who exactly 'Bristol' is or why it was any more racist than the society it is a part of. However, we took this feeling and ran with it. We used the city's connection to transatlantic slavery and the infamous Bristol bus boycott of 1963 as hooks for The Mayor's Race - Documentary, our film about Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol's bid to become the city's mayor since 2012. The Bristol bus boycott was of course the original inspiration for the film, about this Jamaican-Welsh-heritage man's bid for the city's top job. His ambition was in stark contrast to the 1963 block on employing Jamaicans (and other 'coloureds') as drivers and conductors on the city's buses, one generation earlier.So in 2012 we (Loraine Blumenthal and Rob Mitchell) embarked on a journey to capture this 'mixed-race' man's aspiration to political leadership. That was 9 years ago and today Marvin Rees has been sworn in to serve a second term in the role of Executive Mayor for Bristol, United Kingdom. This, the day after giving his victory speech at his old school, City Academy Bristol - whose sports hall happened to be the place where votes were being counted. As filmmakers we dutifully followed Rees' first attempts and found ourselves hustling for tripod room on the media gantry, with other seemingly-more-entitled media players, to record - first his losing speech in 2012 and then later, in 2016, his victory speech in front of family, friends and supporters. Having whetted his appetite for political power, Rees decided he wanted to go for the job again - and so a third campaign in 2021. After Brexit and more recent mind-shaking events of 2020, including the murder of George Floyd; and (more locally - but of huge international significance) the toppling of the Colston statue - the scheduled 2020 election was deferred because of the pandemic, giving Rees an unprecedented five years in office. Despite the thankless nature of being a public figure and the abuse that comes with it, including the extra levels of racism, The Labour Party candidate ran again, this time fighting a close campaign to be re-elected to office on May 6th 2021. This day also happened to be the birthday of Paul Stephenson, born in Essex in 1937 and now 84, who was spokesperson for the bus boycott, a 1963 UK 'civil rights' campaign. Stephenson also features in our film as mentor and inspiration to Rees. (www.tangentbooks.co.uk/shop/memoirs-of-a-black-englishman)It's funny for us to think about this now, with Marvin Rees' increased profile as a public figure, when we reflect on the time that we were trying to sell this film to whoever will listen. 'Who wants to see a film about a guy that nobody has heard of, who has lost an election?', we were asked bluntly, and quite rightly, during the time before his victory in 2016. However we stuck to our belief in the idea and the character of Marvin as the central figure, battling his own personal misgivings to pursue a dream. Films of course depend on marketing to be seen and they have a limited shelf-life. Since our film was released in 2018 though, we can proudly say it still stands up. As filmmakers, also who no-one has heard of, the film has been screened around the world and picked up a few modest awards for its message, meaning and the capturing of a time, place and character. (themayorsracefilm.com/festivals-and-awards/) Without big marketing budgets, it is still a struggle to get people to see it - though we are very proud to have had recent screenings on Together TV, the only UK broadcaster who has shown an interest in those 9 years. Not because it is a bad film (well we would say that wouldn't we ?!) but most likely because industry executives 1) didn't trust that we could make a film and 2) didn't know that they would have any audience for it or 3) thought that it would be too political. Even Facebook, won't allow us to Boost Posts since it goes against their advertising guidelines they say. Though they don't exactly say why, yet still constantly encourage with a 'Promote' button. We think they think we are campaigning for the Labour Party or something. Gladly we can say, our film is much more character-driven and surprises those who see it for its human and international appeal, beyond the parochialism of Bristol city poli-tricks. We have to give enduring thanks to all those who did help us in the making of it though and especially Marvin and those who featured in it and then supporters who funded us to edit and post-produce the film, after Rees had won the election in 2016. We also have to thank ourselves (each other) for not giving up on the idea in the face of so much rejection from the film and television industry.(themayorsracefilm.com/thanks-to-supporters/)We are also glad to hear on the grapevine that David Olusoga is currently making a work on Marvin Rees and we are confident that it will be a great film, as he is a great filmmaker, which no doubt will bring new light to the Marvin Rees story.Meanwhile, it just remains for us to offer a heart-felt congratulations to Marvin - that guy who lost an election but now has won two.Of course racism does exist in Bristol, because racism is an institution that exists in society and all over the world, of which Bristol is a part. But this electoral victory, like the toppling of Colston statue by mostly white people (clearly more than the 4 alleged) does send something of a strong signal to the world about Bristol's own aspirations, identities and possibilities for new narratives.(themayorsracefilm.com/)See the Trailer here:vimeo.com/58363234 #bristol ##bristolians #welsh #welshpeople #jamaicans #windrushgeneration#caribbeanpeople #afrikan #blacklivesmatter ##themayorsracefilm#BristolBusBoycott #gladcolstonsgone#riots#transatlantic#blackfilm #womenfilmmakers#politics#History#blackhistory#civilrights#uk#leadership#campaigning#RacismStillExists ... See MoreSee Less
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So this is the date, 30th April, when in 1963 the Bristol bus boycott started. Following a press conference on the 29th April 1963, Bristolians were encouraged to stay off the city's buses in protest at the Bristol Omnibus company's racist 'colour bar', which refused black drivers and conductors jobs at the company. The 'colour bar' stood in stark contrast to other cities, such as London Transport, which went way out to the Caribbean in order to recruit West Indians for help to revive Britain's transport infrastructure. The refusal to employ black conductors and drivers even contradicted the Maintenance division of the very same Bristol Omnibus Company, which had no such policy against employing black mechanics. This presents some of the nuances and paradoxes of such stories.And so it began - on 30th April 1963. Guy Bailey, Audley Evans, Roy Hackett, Owen Henry, Barbara Dettering and Paul Stephenson are just some of the names associated with the black-led protest. They were supported by many white Bristolians, notably Tony Benn, the city's one MP in 1963, students at the University of Bristol Student Union (which had elected a black Union President in 1958, George Odlum) and a good number of everyday white citizens. The story is wonderfully documented in Dr Madge Dresser's 'Black and White on the Buses' (1986), capturing the voices and views of some of the players, from either side of the dispute - a number of whom are now long gone.The Mayor's Race - Documentary(2018) was inspired by the 1963 action, which started as an idea to tell this story in a documentary - but it may have been too limited a story for this form. However the filmmakers noted - 'there is this mixed-race guy running for mayor' - which could be an interesting update on the city's employment story. It has been five years now since Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol was elected by Bristolians to run their city - a generation after West Indians could not get a job on the city's buses. And what a strange time to have the job - extended by the unprecedented global pandemic.Of course Rees lost the first time he ran as the The Labour Party, candidate in 2012, which still raises questions about why he did not win in what should, on paper, have been a Labour victory. However we decided not to go there (maybe others will), but we are glad he came back in 2016 to win and give us a more dramatic film (www.themayorsracefilm.com)!'The Mayor's Race' however still keeps to its conceptual heritage and we see Paul Stephenson serve as mentor and ongoing inspiration for the hopeful Rees a new generation of black leaders in Bristol, United Kingdom. The bus boycott takes its place in the story alongside the 'riots' (or is that rebellion? or uprising?) in 1980s Thatcher's Britain. Today then we can honour the elders (ascended and present, black and white) who took action and who supported it. We face many new problems of course and Rees and co now seek re-election. Are they gluttons for punishment? It clearly would have been easier for Rees to be a bus driver (there are no conductors any more, with technological advances), judging by the ongoing hate directed at public and political figures - which, of course, is often tinged with racist overtones when it comes to criticism of said 'mixed-race guy' and his deputy - Jamaican-heritage woman, Councillor Asher Craig, St George West Ward. This is especially the case when they dare to get uppity and have notions to propose motions of Reparations, alongside Green Councillor Cleo Alberta Lake, when these tinges become a flood of vitriolic e-missives. Yet still they persist!Meanwhile, 8 white hands (amongst the hundreds of Black Lives Matter protestors! - #gladcolstonsgone #DropTheCharges ) are somehow alleged to have toppled the Colston statue, demonstrating that ongoing collusion of black and white Bristolians to counter injustice and shift away from the city's racist history. This also presents the nuance 'problem' of these never being simple black and white narratives.There is another film in the making about Rees being produced by the inimitable David Olusoga which we look forward to seeing; while a new release of Paul Stephenson's 'Memoirs of a Black Englishman', is imminent, co-written by Lilleith Morrison and published by Tangent Books. So there is still much story to tell here as we enter new paradigms in the human story. So glad to know that Bristol is still at the forefront of global leadership on changing human consciousness. ... See MoreSee Less
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THE MAYOR'S RACE Tonight on Together TV at 9pm. Join and watch. ... See MoreSee Less
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So nice to see Marvin and Dawn hanging out on the TV pages of the Mail. That's 3 out of 3 stars surely!? Well, even better that you can see The Mayor's Race film on Together TV now too. ... See MoreSee Less
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from our Twitter

30th April, when in 1963 the Bristol bus boycott started. After a press conference on the 29th April Bristolians were encouraged to stay off the buses. Glad to see Bristol still at the forefront of changing human consciousness. https://fb.watch/5cdsAyI6Wb/ via @FacebookWatch

🗞Great column on @MarvinJRees and @mayorsracefilm by @DailyMirror today! Thank you @realbritainros 😊

Watch #TheMayorsRace on Sunday at 10pm on @TogetherukTV 📺
Freeview 82 | Sky 170 | Virgin 269 | Freesat 164


We are happy to say The Mayor's Race film will be on @TogetherukTV on Sunday, 14th of March at 10pm. Join us and watch @MarvinJRees rough journey to become the mayor of Bristol - and first European city mayor of African descent.

The Mayor’s Race is a film that can help you better understand #Bristol’s historical relationship with #race. Starring Europe’s 1st directly elected Black Mayor @MarvinJRees. We have come a long way but there is still a long way to go. @mayorsracefilm

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