Gilbert Watson: Tributes paid to Bristol ‘legend’

113736539 c4360c6a 1d75 4739 9abd 78ba909e68d1 - Gilbert Watson: Tributes paid to Bristol ‘legend’Image copyright Valerie Watson
Image caption Gilbert Watson was described as a “legend” and “Mr Community Man”

Outdoor celebrations are being held to pay tribute to a man dubbed a music and community “legend” in Bristol.

Gilbert Watson, also known as Ajax, died on 19 July.

He was a key figure in St Pauls’ history, running the Shady Grove Cafe and helping to run the famous Bamboo Club, which once hosted Ben E King and Bob Marley.

A small public celebration was organised in St Agnes Park in St Pauls in his memory on 24 July.

Image copyright Janie Watson
Image caption Drummers, friends and family came to one of the outdoors celebrations in memory of Ajax in St Agnes Park

Another traditional Jamaican funeral celebration is due to happen on Brighton Street, St Pauls on 31 July.

The Nine Nights event will see a wake last for several days and during this time, friends and family will come together in celebration.

The event would normally happen inside the deceased family’s home, but for safety reasons the gathering will take place outside and attendees are encouraged to wear face masks.

Mr Watson came to Bristol in 1968 and lived in St Pauls where he became the “spirit of sound system culture” and music.

The Shady Grove Cafe served as a place for the African and Caribbean community to socialise, drink and dance together from 1970 to 2016.

It was at the heart of life in St Pauls and an important space for the African and Caribbean communities to go where they “felt safe” and could “be themselves”.

Mr Watson was also known for helping with funerals in the community.

Image copyright Janie Watson
Image caption The celebrations are part of the Nine Nights Jamaican funeral tradition where the wake lasts several nights

Lloyd Russell, 64, grew up in Bristol and says his brother Bas Russell was in a band with Ajax “back in the day” and saw him as an older brother.

Mr Russell said: “If you talk about him you have to talk about the Bamboo Club as well, the icon club in the black communities.

“He was the king of kings, a legend and ‘Mr Community Man’.”

Image caption Mr Watson came to Bristol in 1968 and lived in St Pauls where he became the “spirit of sound system culture” and music

The blues and reggae Bamboo Club, was the first West Indian nightspot in the city.

It opened in 1966 and stayed open for 11 years until it burnt down in 1977.

Lynn Mareno, who also grew up in Bristol, said she started going to Ajax’s blues nights in the 1970s.

She said: “It was a safe place to go when the outside world was against you.

“If it wasn’t for Ajax, giving a place for all nationalities to frequent and meet, we wouldn’t have the integrated city we have now.”

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