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New stained-glass panels unveiled in Bristol church on anniversary of Bus Boycott

30 August 2023

One of the panels depicts Jesus among the protesters in 1963

St Mary Redcliffe

The newly installed panels

The newly installed panels

FOUR new panels of stained glass have been unveiled at St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, on the 60th anniversary of the Bristol Bus Boycott. One of the panels depicts Jesus among the protesters in 1963.

The other three panels show Jesus calming the raging seas of the Middle Passage on a Bristol ship during the transatlantic slave trade; a diverse group of “neighbours” with the Clifton Suspension Bridge in the background; and Jesus as a child refugee fleeing to Egypt.

The designs, created by Ealish Swift, a Bristol-based junior doctor, won a competition held by the church last year (News, 30 September 2022) to replace four of its Victorian panels that memorialised the 17th-century merchant and slave trader Edward Colston (News, 27 May/3 June).

These had been temporarily replaced with plain glass in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, during which a statue of Colston in the city was torn down and thrown into the harbour (News, 12 June 2020).

The Vicar of St Mary Redcliffe, Canon Dan Tyndall, said on Tuesday that the original panels would be conserved and available to view by appointment.

St Mary RedcliffeOne of the new panels is cut

The new stained glass was installed last week and unveiled on Wednesday afternoon — 60 years after the resolution of the four-month boycott, which arose after the Bristol Omnibus Company refused to employ Black or Asian bus crews in the city. The organisers of the demonstration — Roy Hackett, Owen Henry, Audley Evans, and Prince Brown — had announced that thousands of people would not be taking buses until racial discrimination was addressed. Rallies were held in support of the action.

Canon Tyndall said: “The question ‘And who is my neighbour?’ is [as] timeless as our understanding of ourselves, of our relationship with one another and the whole of creation develops and evolves.

“The concept of a Good Samaritan challenged the lawyer; three of the windows echoes that challenge down the generations; and the final panel evokes Martin Luther King, Jr,’s ‘I have a dream’ speech which he gave on the very day that the Bristol Bus Boycott came to an end.”

A ceremony was held at the church at lunchtime to “honour and thank” the Bus Boycott pioneers, including a short procession recreating the protest.

Other commemorative events were due to take place in the city on Wednesday, including announcing the winner of another competition, this one held by First West Buses to design a new bus livery to mark the anniversary. The winning entry was unveiled on a double-decker bus at Lawrence Hill Bus Depot, in Bristol.

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