'My life has changed' - Bristol's Jen Reid a year on from Edward Colston statue toppling

Credit: Jen Reid

It has been one year since the eyes of the world turned to Bristol as the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled. 

It happened during a Black Lives Matter demonstration where ten thousand people filled the city centre.

As part of our Black Voices In Conversation series, ITV News West Country has spoken to those across the region who continue to lead the movement to see what impact the past 12 months have had.

ITV West Country journalist Alpha Ceesay spoke to two people who separately and together have worked to empower Bristol's black communities.

  • Black Voices in Conversation: Jen Reid's and Lawrence Hoo's interview with ITV

On June 7 2020, soon after the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down, activist Jen Reid rose onto the empty plinth.

An image of that moment travelled worldwide and later became immortalised when a sculpture encapsulating it was placed on the plinth.

The sculpture, called 'A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020' drew global attention and pushed Jen into the spotlight. Credit: PA Images

"It was a spontaneous action," she said.

"My life has changed because of it. I do now realise that I put my head above the parapet by agreeing to have a statue made of me.

"However I don't regret any of it. I think I made a stand for the people who appreciated that. Especially for the young black girls for the first time who saw a statue of a powerful black woman who represented them."

The statue was on the plinth for just 24 hours before being removed by Bristol City Council.

But the moment and its powerful message have remained a part of Bristol's landscape, with the creation of The Bristol Eighteen, a collective of creative projects supporting anti-racism.

A mural or the moment Jen stood on the plinth has also been created in Stokes Croft.

The mural - called United Souls, United Goals was commissioned by a group called The Bristol Eighteen founded by Miss Reid's husband. Credit: Khali Ackford/@khaliphotography

"The reason it's up there now on the wall is to remind Bristol of that day Colston came down and to thank the thousands of people that came out that day," Jen told ITV News West Country.

"It keeps the conversation going, it's a powerful thing and it's part of Bristol's history whether people want to welcome that or not."

Jen Reid has been visiting schools since the BLM protest in June to share her experiences. Credit: Jen Reid

And teaching that history to the next generation is a big part of the work Jen continues to do.

"It's about giving children a sense of pride in who they are," she said.

"It's a message of unity and to empower young children for them to make a change and looking at statues and things and questioning who do they represent, who do they stand for, who's being oppressed, is everyone included in this?"

Moving forward Jen believes Bristol has changed as a result of the past year and will continue to do so thanks to the efforts of the individuals doing the work.

  • Jen Reid on how Bristol feels one year on from Colston

When asked if the city has changed, she said: "The city feels different in the sense that I think, along with myself and The Bristol Eighteen, we are taking matters into our own hands... no permission required.

"We are making steps to do things ourselves to make a change.

"I think sometimes if you seek permission it gets caught up in red tape so I think for us as a collective and people coming on board with us as a collective, there will be a huge change. We've just got to keep on doing what we're doing for the greater good and to get young children involved."

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