Eliza Errington née LoudonActivist for race relations.1928 to 2016February 25, 2022
Ellen Jefferies née SainsburyActivist for race relations.1928 to 2016July 19, 2022
Carmen’s Early Life
Carmen Beckford was born in Jamaica in 1928, the eldest of seven children. Brave Carmen was only 17 when she travelled to the UK. She trained to become a nurse, then became a midwife.
Even though her work as a midwife kept her busy, social activism was very important to Carmen. In 1965, she joined the Commonwealth Co-ordinated Committee. Tirelessly, Carmen also worked alongside the other Saints of St Pauls on community issues. Paul Stephenson, who helped organize the Bristol Bus Boycotts, was a friend.
First Race Relations Officer
In addition to her other work, Carmen then became the first Race Relations Officer in Bristol.
She was keen to integrate different ethnic groups within the city. Part of this was done through her work to build young people’s self-esteem. Carmen established a West Indian dance team and held annual fundraising events that included dance ensembles from various cultural backgrounds.
The club went on to perform at Colston Hall and travelled as far as Germany. Beckford proudly said of the team, “When you have self-respect and pride no one can mess with you. I was involved in all of their lives.”
The first black recipient of an MBE
Carmen courageously fought against racial discrimination and inequality. Her hard work was noticed and in 1982 Carmen was awarded an MBE by the Queen. Carmen become the first black recipient in the South West.
Carmen is known as the Carnival Queen. In 1967 was one of the main people to set up the now world famous St Paul’s carnival. The first St Pauls Festival happened in 1968.
All the early organisers were local residents and activists. The carnival now is a celebration of Afro Caribbean culture.
The official carnival website says ‘every float, stage, performer and person tells a story. A story of music, dance and community.’
The legacy of the Carnival Queen
Recently Bristol university SU named their bar The Beckford after Carmen.
She features on the Bristol Museums’ list of 19 Black Bristol Women who have made a difference.
Her friend and local councillor Asha Craig said,“The legacy of Carmen Beckford’s contribution towards helping to create a more equal and integrated city must never be forgotten and I will ensure that it lives on.”
The Mayor of Bristol Martin Rees described Carmen on Twitter as “An Iconic Black Bristolian“
Carmen died in 2016 and has a prominent grave on the Ceremonial Way in Arnos Vale Cemetery almost opposite another great reformer and activist Rajah Ram Mohan Roy.