HomePeopleActivitiesGreat Western Railway welcomes civil-rights activist Dr Paul Stephenson onto his own...

Great Western Railway welcomes civil-rights activist Dr Paul Stephenson onto his own train

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A noted civil-rights pioneer joined GWR to celebrate the start of Black History Month as the train operator hosted ‘an audience with Dr Paul Stephenson OBE’.

Dr Stephenson famously led a boycott of the Bristol Omnibus Company in 1963, protesting its refusal to employ Black or Asian drivers or conductors. After a 60-day boycott supported by thousands of Bristolians, the company revoked its colour bar.

Dr Paul Stephenson with friends, colleagues and GWR staff.

A year later he achieved national fame when he refused to leave a public house until he was served, resulting in a magistrates’ court trial which was dismissed.

Dr Stephenson’s campaigns were instrumental in paving the way for the first Race Relations Act in 1965. He later worked for the Commission for Racial Equality in London and in 1975 was appointed to the Sports Council, campaigning prominently against sporting contacts with apartheid South Africa.

He was granted Freedom of the City of Bristol in 2007 and was awarded an OBE in 2009 ‘for his services to equal opportunities and to community relations in Bristol’. In 2017, he received a Pride of Britain Award for Lifetime Achievement and GWR named Intercity Express Train 800036 after him last year.

Esther Deans MBE with a photograph of the naming of train Dr Paul Stephenson in October 2020.

Joining Dr Stephenson on his own train for the special audience was Esther Deans MBE, director of One Bristol Curriculum, which works with schools to address diversity in the community by promoting unity through knowledge and awareness of others. She commented: “Paul was so proud to have a GWR train named in his honour last year and events like this help to increase awareness of his pioneering work.

“Paul fought for equality and civil rights for more than 60 years and the closer relations we enjoy today between all the communities of Bristol are thanks to his unstinting dedication.”

Odis Palmer, GWR.

GWR inclusion and diversity manager Odis Palmer said the train operator was proud to have recognised Dr Stephenson as one of its Great Westerners, celebrating past and present heroes from across the network: “Last year’s train naming was especially important for our REACH network as it helped to demonstrate that GWR is an inclusive place to work and is representative of the communities we serve.

“We are proud of our association with Dr Paul Stephenson and today’s event has been truly inspiring, learning more about his dedication to improving race relations and encouraging community involvement.

“Today was a wonderful opportunity for colleagues to ask questions and to celebrate Black contributions to British society. It was the perfect way to mark the start of Black History Month.”

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