The Reggae Roots of St Paul’s, Bristol

In my final term at Bristol University, I gathered a range of new academic ideas to be published in Helicon Magazine’s weekly Features column. Every day this week I’ve been sharing my favourites from the collection. This two-minute read is written by Hannah Robathan (Music BA). She reveals the foundations of reggae culture in St Paul’s, Bristol.

st pauls bristol

THERE IS NOT A BRICK IN THE CITY BUT WHAT IS CEMENTED WITH THE BLOOD OF A SLAVE.
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It is no secret that Bristol’s wealth was born out of the slave trade. Its evidence is declared on street corners; peppered through the city are road names such as Whiteladies Road, Blackboy Hill and Jamaica Street. The wave of Afro-Caribbean migration to Bristol during the slave trade bred its multicultural demographic, and the city’s status as a pinnacle of musical richness and pioneer of UK reggae owes itself to this.

In my research I’m examining Bristol’s sonic heritage of slavery, focusing on the St Paul’s community and their attitudes towards music not only as a connecting force but also as a mouthpiece through which their opinions can be voiced. Jamaica is present in Bristol: reggae provides a link between the people and their ancestors, and acts as a form of verbal history; to empower the voices of the oppressed slaves, one needs only to play their music.

st pauls, bristol


This piece was originally published for Helicon Magazine’s weekly Features column

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