About 150,000 vehicles pass this huge mural in Bristol every day. It takes up the whole of the side of a house in Stapleton road and is overlooked by the Eastville roundabout of the M32. But who was DJ Derek and why did four of the leading local street artists come together to paint this mural?
At first glance,the bookish bespectacled DJ Derek seemed an unlikely character to be a local celebrity. He spent decades working as an accountant for Cadbury’s chocolates. His real name was Derek Serpell-Moris and he grew up in inner city Bristol.
As a young man he mixed with the Windrush generation of migrants from the Caribbean. He shared their love of Ska and Reggae music and built up an encyclopaedic knowledge of West Indian music and a huge record collection. He became a D.J. at the Star and Garter pub in Montpelier. As a white man playing black music he attracted a lot of local interest and his fame quickly spread. At a time when there was a lot of racial tension in Bristol leading to the St. Paul’s riots he was able to bridge the two communities and be respected by both.
In middle age he quit his safe if boring job to spin his records at festivals across the country including Glastonbury. He often finished his sets with the Bob Marley classic “one love” “lets get together and feel alright.”
Unfortunately his story has a very sad ending. In 2015 Derek disappeared and despite numerous appeals from his friends and family no trace of him could be found. A few months later his bones were found in a local woodland.
The mural was painted by the street artists, Hazard One, Inkie, Zed in the Clouds and Cosc. DJ Derek loved travelling around the country using his bus pass and enjoying a pint of real ale in the local Wetherspoons and this is reflected in the fence panel. The lady dancing with the halo is the house owner’s sister who had died a few months before. The colours in the mural are those of the Jamaican flag.
Some of his record collection were made into mini discs and his introductions often in Jamaican patois were added. If you put money into the juke box at the Star and Garter you can still hear him spinning discs.
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Public art is encompasses any form of art you see in a public place, large or small, statues, murals, graffiti, gardens, parks, etc. The art should be visible from streets, sidewalks or outdoor public places.