Hetty, Esther and Me was an original drama researched, written and performed by Trafford Youth Service and 15 African Caribbean girls from Stretford High School. The play was performed at Quarry Bank Mill, a working Georgian cotton mill on the outskirts of Manchester, owned by the National Trust. The play centred on connections between cotton produced by slaves and child labour in English mills, and the wider social issues of slavery and poverty during the Industrial Revolution. The story was told through the relationship between a slave girl (Hetty), a young mill worker (Esther) and a group of young women living in present-day Trafford.
Word of Mouth Media Production, based in Southwark, staged a production of Celia at New Players Theatre in London. The play was directed by Malcolm Frederick and written by Richard Nyeila, inspired by Melton A. McLaurin's biography 'Celia A Slave'. Based in the mid-19th century, the story revolves around Celia, an enslaved woman on trial for murdering her abusive owner.
Black Man Don't Float? is a play developed by Sameboat Project, a not-for-profit organisation working in collaboration with the Pierian Centre Bristol, Gecko Theatre Ipswich, and the Arrow Project at University College Plymouth. Set in the ocean off West Africa, a white yachtsman collides with an African economic migrant who is trying to reach the Canaries in a home-made vessel. They have to co-operate to survive, but their differences lead to confusion. Performed by West African performer Ayodele Scott and UK-based writer and performer Martin Hubbard, Black Man Don't Float? was shown in the UK and then travelled to Sierra Leone. The show was accompanied by a workshop entitled Fair Share, exploring issues around the fair sharing of resources, and the challenges facing developed and developing nations in their negotiations about aid, trade and the exploitation of natural resources.
Two plays, Slave Ship by Amiri Baraka and Land by Edson Burton, were presented in Bristol by Say It Loud, a multicultural arts development organisation. Slave Ship was first performed in the United States in 1967. Land was written especially for the bicentenary project. In conjunction with the project, Say It Loud organised drama workshops on the subject of slavery in Bristol schools.
On Sunday 25 March 2007, a ceremony was held on Cathedral Green in Exeter to mark the bicentenary. Organised by Exeter City Council, the ceremony was attended by members of the public and individuals representing local organisations. Historian Lucy MacKeith examined the links between Devon, the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition. Extracts were read from the Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, and names read aloud of some of the Africans who came to Devon because of the county's connection to the slave trade.
The play 'Albert and the Story of Equiano' was performed at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in October 2007. It told the story of Olaudah Equiano, a leading African figure in the British abolition movement in the 18th century.
Testament to a Trade was a play produced to mark the bicentenary, with close reference to Oxfordshire. Written by three local writers, the play was produced by Oxford Theatre Guild in collaboration with Oxfordshire Record Office and the Oxford Playhouse. Testament to a Trade weaves accounts of past and present slavery, and is situated in historical and contemporary contexts, notably 18th century Africa and Oxford, and contemporary Eastern Europe and Oxford. A number of archive materials relating to slavery and abolition are held by Oxfordshire Record Office, information on which inspired elements of the story. A teachers pack was produced to inform similar projects. The play opened at Burton Taylor Theatre in Oxford, and toured venues across Oxfordshire.
A play performed by Second Step Caribbean Women’s Group Agewell at The Library Theatre in Sheffield in October 2007. The play was funded by South Yorkshire Community Foundation.
Historian Simon Schama's true story of a plantation slave (Thomas Peters) and a British naval officer (John Clarkson) and their search for freedom at the time of the American War of Independence. Schama's account was adapted for the stage by Caryl Phillips, directed by Rupert Goold and produced by the Headlong Theatre Company. It explores ideas of racial identity, home and freedom, as former slaves who fought for the British army are led across the Atlantic to the newly-created province of Sierra Leone. The play toured West Yorkshire Playhouse, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Liverpool Everyman and Lyric Hammersmith.
London Shakespeare Workout presented a new 21-song musical, celebrating the life of the African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dunbar's parents were freed slaves and he used some of their tales of plantation life in his work. Set backstage in a British theatre in 1897, the play explored themes such as love and loneliness, racial interactions, and the abolition of the slave trade. With an original score by Tim Williams, the play opened in Westcliffe, and toured 26 venues around the UK. Each performance was followed by a ‘talk-back’, allowing audience members to share their views on the issues raised by the production. Special interactive workshops were also created for schools and community groups to bring the concepts of slavery and abolition to life through history and literature.
Dreams of an African Child is a one act play about the 21st century sale of children in the River Volta region of Ghana. It was written by Robin Graham, produced by The Ugly Tree and Greenhouse Northwest Theatre Company, and directed by Toria Banks. The drama centres on the reactions of a rural African family when their teenage son, missing presumed dead, returns home to his family after being sold eight years before. The play was first performed in Accra in 2004, and then in 2008 toured schools and community venues in the North of England and Wales. Workshops were held to discuss the issues of child trafficking raised by the play.
A performance by the London Shakespeare Workout based on George MacDonald Fraser's novel 'Black Ajax'. The play, set in Regency England, tells the historical tale of two enslaved men through dialogue, song and verse. One slave is from America, another is from Africa. The former, Tom Molineaux, becomes the first Black Prize Fighter in Britain. Black Atlas featured an original score by Tim Williams. The play opened in Cambridge and toured to 40 different venues around the UK.
The Watford African Caribbean Association and Watford Palace Theatre marked the bicentenary with a special performance created by the Watford African Caribbean Association writers' group in collaboration with writer Michael Bhim and director Gbolahan Obisesan. The three month research project led to the production of prose, drama and monologues covering all aspects of the slave trade.
A play from the Red Rose Chain Theatre Company in Ipswich, which focused on the role of 'local hero' and abolitionist Thomas Clarkson, who lived in nearby Playford. The play was written and directed by Joanna Carrick and performed in a disused church on the Ipswich Docks.
In conjunction with York Theatre Royal, Riding Lights Theatre Company produced a new play written by Murray Watts, directed by Paul Burbridge, with original music by Nigerian musician Ben Okafor. African Snow: Secrets of the trade was originally commissioned by the Church Mission Society, an organisation founded in 1799 by representatives of the abolition movement, including William Wilberforce. The play sought to explore the ideas associated with antislavery and how they can be put to use in the modern day campaign for the end of slavery. Opening at York, the play went on to have a West End Transfer followed by a national tour. The main characters are John Newton, the converted slave-trader who later wrote 'Amazing Grace', and the former slave and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano. The play saw them confronting each other’s differing perspectives, creating a dialogue in which the audience could witness alternative views towards slavery. A 'snow' was a class of ship, commonly used for the transportation of slaves. 'The African' was the first slave ship on which John Newton sailed.
A play directed by Hilary Westlake, performed at Unity Theatre in Liverpool, in collaboration with Hope Street Ltd, a community arts centre. Using film, text and movement, the performance investigated how the industry of slavery continues to flourish in modern times, not only globally and nationally, but also locally.
Hull Truck Theatre supported Wilberforce 2007 with two specially commissioned productions, Slavers and Sold, and a playwright festival. For one week in August 2007, Hull Truck Youth Theatre presented Slavers, set in 2007, which told the story of abolition through the eyes of young people in Hull. Written by Rupert Creed and directed by Karen Dainty, the play followed a group of school leavers and their potentially prosperous business-start up, trading in human cargo. When some started questioning the morality behind the business, the audience was transported back to the debates of Wilberforce and his allies two hundred years previously. Another play, ‘Sold’, in conjunction with Liverpool Hope University, sought to raise awareness about the victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation today.
'One for Me' was a touring play by the Fairgame Theatre Company that was performed at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. Set in 2007, the play focuses on a local MP driven by a mysterious stranger to explore the history of slavery and the wealth it generated.
The Inhuman Traffic project was led by Gloucestershire Archives, in partnership with the Set All Free initiative. The virtual exhibition and accompanying web resource were based on documents held at Gloucestershire Archives and, in particular, the papers of the anti-slavery campaigner Granville Sharp (1735-1813). The exhibition explored topics such as the contribution of black people to the abolition movement, aspects of the legacies of slavery, including racism and domestic violence. Over 400 copies of the exhibition DVD were sent to schools, churches, tourist information venues and individuals across Gloucestershire. The associated programme of events included performances of the play 'Inhuman Traffic', developed in collaboration with a local theatre company, Spaniel in the Works. The play features four interacting characters with different perspectives on slavery. A cross-curricular teaching resource was later developed, which included a second performance, 'Master and Slave', in partnership with Stroud District Museums Service, Spaniel in the Works, and Parliament Primary School, Stroud.
A one-act play by Jonathan Payne, 'Slavery' re-tells the personal stories of enslaved Black Americans, using original recordings of interviews conducted by the United States Government's Federal Writers Project in the 1930s. The play brings together a collection of personal testimonials and spirituals (Christian songs created by African slaves in the United States), to explore the consequences of slavery. Presented in 2007 by the cross-cultural London theatre company Tara Arts and directed by Laura Kriefman, the play toured nationally during Black History Month. An Education Resource Pack was produced and drama workshops for schools were held after the performances to explore the issues raised.
Written and directed by Mervyn Weir, 'Nobody Knows' used drama, dance, music and imagery to explore the history of the transatlantic slave trade and its legacy today. Told through the eyes of Olaudah Equiano, the play celebrated the dignity, pride, and spirit of Black people as they fought for emancipation from slavery. In 2007 the play was presented by Krik Krak productions during the Routes to Freedom season at The Drum in Birmingham.