On 1 October, Great Western Railway hosted ‘an audience with Dr Paul Stephenson OBE’ on board his very own train to mark the start of Black History Month.
Civil rights pioneer Dr Stephenson, 84, was joined by friends and members of GWR’s REACH network (Recognising Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage) for a journey from Bristol Temple Meads to Swindon.
GWR named Intercity Express Train 800036 in tribute to Dr Stephenson during Black History Month last year, celebrating a lifetime spent campaigning for civil rights for the British African-Caribbean community.
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 awarded an OBE in 2009 “for his services to equal opportunities and to community relations in Bristol” and in 2017 received a Pride of Britain Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Joining him for his 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.
“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,” said Esther. “He 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.”
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.
“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.”