Slavery Remembrance Day, as designated by UNESCO, took place in Liverpool on 23 August 2007. The day was commemorated with a series of events, marked first by a multi-faith act of worship at Liverpool's Parish Church of St Nicholas. A traditional African libation ceremony, calling on ancestors to bless the event, took place on the city's waterfront at Otterspool Promenade. A programme of music and drama showcased Black culture and heritage around the themes of life in Africa, the Middle Passage and the legacies of transatlantic slavery. The International Slavery Museum at the Albert Dock had its official opening on the same day. The symbol of the day was the Sankofa, a mythical African bird that files forward while looking backward.
The Sounds of Slavery was a project by the performance and visual arts group River Niger Arts to research, record and develop a performance-related programme around the musical heritage and legacy of slavery. The project took particular interest in these themes in relation to the City of Liverpool, but also addressed them in global terms. The project created a database of songs and narratives from the period of slavery. Members of the River Niger Orchestra also performed at a Sounds of Slavery performance at Liverpool Hope University. Some of the songs performed included 'The Chase', 'No More Auction Block' and the African American spiritual 'The Jubilee Song'. The project was accompanied by a series of performance and visual arts education workshops with schools.
Plant Invasion was a family event of dance, drama, music and design, celebrating the diverse origins of food in everyday diets. The project looked at the origins of tea, and at the trade routes through Liverpool associated with sugar, coffee, tobacco, rice, cotton and enslaved peoples. The festival was organised by the Liverpool charity Hope Street Ltd, and took place at the Palm House in Liverpool's Sefton Park. Fifteen community groups prepared performances and displays based on their investigations into the journeys of non-indigenous plants and the routes they took in arriving in the UK.
The ‘Last Bicentenary Pilgrimage’ trip to Liverpool was organised by the Institute of Black Culture Media and Sport, in partnership with the CarAf Centre, who provide educational, social and cultural activities for disadvantaged parents and young people. Members of the local Camden community were taken on a two-day family learning trip to Liverpool, to mark the end of the bicentenary with a goodbye ceremonial event and a visit to the International Slavery Museum. The event was supported by the London Borough of Camden Council.
The official publication from the British Government in response to the bicentenary included a message from Prime Minister Tony Blair. It set out the history of transatlantic slavery and resistance to it, and featured a calendar of upcoming events for 2007 relating to slavery and abolition. The publication also detailed contemporary efforts to end modern slavery. Later in 2007, 'The way forward: bicentenary of the abolition of the Slave Trade Act 1807-2007' reflected on some of the commemorative activity that had taken place in Bristol, Hull, Liverpool, London and Greater Manchester. With a foreword by the new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, the theme of the publication was 'Reflecting on the past, looking to the future' and it linked efforts for the abolition of historical and contemporary slavery. The publication also looked to how to tackle inequality and poverty in the UK, Africa and the Caribbean.
The sculpture Blue Earth 1807-2007 by African artist Taslim Martin was permanently installed in the newly updated African Worlds Gallery at the Horniman Museum in 2007, to mark the bicentenary. The large iron globe, inscribed with the 18th century image of the slave ship Brookes, traces the routes along which enslaved Africans were transported to the New World, alongside the movement of the products of enslaved labour. The major British ports of Liverpool, London and Bristol are depicted, as well as ports in West Africa and some of the destination ports in North America, the Caribbean and South America. Visitors are encouraged to spin the globe to view slave routes across the world. In 2007-2008, the Horniman Museum also hosted 'La Bouche du Roi' by Romuald Hazoumé.
Curated by Predrag Pajdic, BOUND was an exhibition of works by international contemporary artists representing personal perspectives on the physical and psychological impact of slavery on humanity, in historical and modern contexts. BOUND incorporated archival material, conceptual work, photography, video, live art performance, interventions and installations. It was a partnership project between the Open Eye Gallery, FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) and Tate Liverpool. The exhibition opened at Open Eye Gallery and then ran at various venues across Liverpool. Associated events included open table discussions, talks and film screenings.
La Bouche du Roi was created by artist Romauld Hazoumé, who lives and work in the Republic of Benin, West Africa. The multi-media artwork is named after a place on the coast of Benin from where enslaved Africans were transported. It comprised 304 plastic petrol can 'masks', each representing a person, arranged in the shape of the woodcut of the Liverpool slave ship Brookes. The aroma of tobacco and spices are represented alongside the terrible smells of a slave ship. The artwork was accompanied by a film showing the motorcyclists who transport petrol illegally between Nigeria and the Republic of Benin. The cans and motorcyclists are metaphors for modern forms of enslavement and resistance. First exhibited at the British Museum in London, La Bouche du Roi toured to the following venues during 2007-9: Ferens Art Gallery in Hull, International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, Bristol's City Museum and Art Gallery, Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, and the Horniman Museum in London.
The industrialist Sir Henry Tate was the early benefactor of the Tate Collection, rooted in the art of the 18th and 19th centuries. Tate's fortune - much of which was spent on philanthropic initiatives in Britain - was founded on the importation and refining of sugar, a commodity inextricably linked to slave labour in the Caribbean. There were a number of initiatives across the Tate galleries to explore these connections. 'Tracks of Slavery' at Tate Britain displayed a selection of images from the Tate's collections which provided a commentary on the relationship of British society with slavery. Displays at Tate Modern included a selection of new acquisitions linked by their treatment of issues arising from slavery and oppression. Tate Liverpool exhibited paintings by Ellen Gallagher. Special events included Freedom Songs at Tate Britain (workshops to create poetry and music by exploring themes of slavery and freedom) and a discussion at Tate St Ives looking at the links between Cornish maritime traditions, the slave trade and the Caribbean.
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.
An exhibition exploring the connections between the Scottish region of Dumfries and Galloway and the transatlantic slave trade toured Dumfries Museum, the Stewartry Museum in Kirkcudbright and Stranraer Museum. At each venue, the exhibition was accompanied by displays of material and a lecture. The catalogue of new research to supplement the exhibition by Frances Wilkins set out to correct misunderstandings about the role of people from the region in the transatlantic slave trade, to prove a history of connections independent of Glasgow or anywhere else. Evidence suggests that men from smaller towns such as Dumfries and Kirkcudbright were involved in the transatlantic slave trade as merchants, slave traders or plantation owners. For example, in the late 18th century, plantation supplies were sent from Kirkcudbright to the island of Grenada; the vessels returned with rum, sugar, and cotton wool.
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.
The Sites of Memory project was the first research by English Heritage (now Historic England) to provide an overview for the public of the buildings, memorials and grave sites across England that reflects the role of the slave trade in British history, and resistance to it. The project explored the history of Black people in Britain during the 18th and 19th centuries by exploring the stories behind the historic built environment of local streets, buildings and landmarks. The research (by Angelina Osborne and Steve I. Martin, on behalf of English Heritage) also identified sites associated with the slave trade and plantation wealth, and with the abolitionists who campaigned for an end to slavery. English Heritage also made recommendations for new listings for historic sites that mark the Black presence.
Liverpool hosted a city-wide programme of activities and projects to commemorate the bicentenary, as part of events to mark the city's 800th birthday. The events aimed to celebrate the African Diaspora and support works by artists of African descent. They included: LEAP, an annual contemporary dance festival featuring African dance companies; a performance of Mighty Diamonds - Reggae Legends at the Philharmonic Hall; the Roscoe Lectures; the Brouhaha International Carnival, celebrating resistance, rebellion and abolition; the Africa Oyé Music Festival at Sefton Park; the Bound exhibition at Open Eye Gallery, showing works representing personal perspectives on the physical and psychological impact of slavery on humanity; and many other lectures and debates. There was also a slavery trail around the city.
A multi-faith service of penitence and remembrance was held at Liverpool Cathedral on 24 March 2007 by Churches Together in the Merseyside Region. Some material in the service drew upon resources produced by Set All Free, the project of Churches Together in England. A musical welcome was offered by African drummers and the Philharmonic Gospel Choir. A procession to the waterfront at Albert Dock followed the service, where the Petals of Penitence Liturgy took place.
Bluecoat Display Centre is a contemporary craft and design gallery in Liverpool. The 200 Years: Slavery Now exhibition aimed to draw attention to modern slavery, both within the UK and in the wider international context. It brought together ten artists whose work reflected these concerns, and who were committed to highlighting the existence of slavery today through the creation of artefacts and the development of personal narratives. Materials used included ceramics, mixed media installations and textiles. Some of the themes covered included the exploitation of migrant workers, sex trafficking, 'sweat shop' mass production, and commemorating the Middle Passage and the workers of Manchester's cotton mills. The exhibition was curated by Professor Stephen Dixon, with the support of the Craft and Design Research Centre, MIRIAD, at Manchester Metropolitan University.
In 2007 Liverpool's annual Writing on the Wall arts festival explored the legacy of slavery through words, music, lyrics, song, dance and discussion. Authors, campaigners and social commentators explored the themes of the bicentenary and Liverpool's 800th birthday. The festival aimed to celebrate diversity and promote inter-cultural tolerance. Speakers included one of the nine Britons detained in Guantanamo, Cuba. Among the performers was dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah joined by Jean 'Binta' Breeze and Levi Tafari, and featuring the MDI African Dancers for an 'extravaganza of rhythm and rhyme' at the Royal Philharmonic Hall. Liverpool Young Writers was launched by Writing on the Wall in 2007. Members have recently performed at Slavery Remembrance Day and the International Slavery Museum.
Liverpool is a port city with a long association with transatlantic slavery. Located on Liverpool's Albert Dock, National Museums Liverpool opened the new International Slavery Museum in 2007, the first stage of a two-part development. The museum aims to promote the understanding of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade and the permanent impact the system has had on Africa, South America, the USA, the Caribbean and Western Europe. It features displays about West African society, the transatlantic slave trade and plantation life, but also addresses issues of freedom, identity, human rights, reparations, racial discrimination and cultural change. The museum also has strong ties with Liverpool’s large Black community. The museum opened on 23 August 2007, designated by UNESCO as Slavery Remembrance Day.
Penrhyn Castle on the outskirts of Bangor in Wales is owned by the National Trust. In 2007, the bicentenary was marked with a special exhibition and accompanying events exploring the connections between the Castle and the fortune of its former owners, the Pennant family, built on Jamaican sugar from one of the largest estates on the island. The exhibition featured the story of Richard Pennant, 1st Lord Penrhyn, a wealthy merchant and MP for Liverpool who fought against abolition in Parliament. Some of the research was carried out by members of the local community, who were trained in archival research by exploring the Penrhyn Jamaica papers held at Bangor University, which included Richard Pennant's letters as absentee landowner.
The project created links between a local school near the Castle, Banks Road school in Liverpool and Mavisville school in Kingston, Jamaica. All three schools provided art, prose and poetry to the exhibition. Workshops were held for all visiting schools. Accompanying events included art days where a local artist worked with visitors to explore the meaning of landscape painting in the context of slavery; a Caribbean weekend; and a day of activities and workshops with a multi-faith groups of teenagers from Liverpool. A DVD of all the information gathered was given free to schools and libraries.
A replica of the nineteenth-century slave ship Amistad visited Liverpool, Bristol and London as part of the Atlantic Freedom Tour in 2007-2008. The ship set sail from its home port of New Haven, Connecticut, on a 16-month 14,000 mile transatlantic voyage to retrace the slave industry triangle. The ship stopped at more than a dozen Atlantic ports, including Freetown in Sierra Leone. Students from the UK had the opportunity to join the crew of the schooner – a replica of the original ship commandeered by 53 of its African captives in 1839 – on one of its legs, and transmitted text, images and videos back to the classroom. At each UK port, the ship was open for guided tours. There were also accompanying lectures.