by Simon Davis
A vibrant new artwork inviting our appreciation of Bristol’s very own Angela Francis, has taken pride of place at Adblock Bristol’s Burg Arts billboard in St Werburghs. Angela’s friend and fellow artist Grace Kress (Shelby x studios) has playfully depicted Angela in her DJ Lady Gee persona.
The piece celebrates the remarkable life, influence and work of one of Bristol’s most energetic and influential characters. Angela was one of the first black female DJs and was also known for her skills on local radio station, Ujima Radio.
Angela was hugely influential as an active and very personable civil rights activist within Bristol’s black communities.
Bristol has experienced a chequered history with racism, and Angela brought the stories of lesser known British cultural struggles to a wider audience through both her visual and audio output.
Angela was notably active during the ‘St Pauls uprising’ in 1980 when acts of civil resistance were exercised in the name of civil justice. St Pauls in Bristol had been witness to ongoing racial injustice, persecuting and treating its black residents with suspicion and subjecting them to systemic inequalities and police harassment. The uprising served to confront the status quo and to energise the black communities of Britain to unify in acts of resistance.
Throughout the 1980s and into the following decade Bristol saw an increase in cultural capital developed directly from within the black community. St Pauls carnival, one of Bristol’s most famous events, grew to rival other major cultural celebrations.
1990 saw a mix of energies brought to St Pauls, from the infamous poll-tax riots that directly challenged the later Thatcher years through to the celebrations of great apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela on his release from Robben Island. Angela was energised by all of these events and more and used her passion to galvanise and teach others.
Through this piece Grace has allowed all aspects of Angela’s persona to inhabit her surroundings. From the leopardskin printed dress to the stacks of speakers, Angela’s personality is present throughout. Grace shows us many sides of Angela’s life, depicting Angela as the strong charismatic person Bristol knew her to be.
The installation of this piece coincides with Black History Month here in the UK. Black history in Britain does not get the exposure it deserves and Angela was at the forefront of some important moments of British history. Bristol knows Angela deserves our appreciation as a grassroots revolutionary.