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.
‘Bromley’s Hidden History’ was led by Bromley Museum, with assistance from Bromley Local Studies and Archives. A touring exhibition, education pack, programme of events and web resources were produced to highlight Bromley’s connections with slavery and abolition. Bromley slave owners and those with capital invested in the Caribbean were highlighted, alongside the influence of William Pitt (who lived at Holwood House) and his political circle in the abolitionist campaign. Consideration was also given to historical black figures living in the borough, such as the actor Ira Aldridge.
Written by composer Paul Field, Cargo premiered in Hull City Hall in March 2007, sponsored by Hull City Council. Cargo featured contemporary songs, narration, dance and images that told the story of the struggles of slaves, the historical work of William Wilberforce and the abolition movement, through to the contemporary struggles against slavery today. Performers included the singer Coco Mbassi, saxophone player Mike Haughton and Springs Dance Company. The narrators and choir were local people, including members of City of Hull Youth Choir, Redemption Gospel Choir and Hot Gospel in Hull. Cargo was also performed in London, Plymouth, Bristol and Liverpool. Smaller events were put on by church and community groups around the UK, assisted by the script, score and backing track of the music being made available on CD-Rom.
After 1825, on leaving Parliament, William Wilberforce retired to Hendon Park in Mill Hill, North London, and during his retirement built a chapel on his estate, now St. Paul's Church. St. Paul's organised a programme of events in 2007 to mark the bicentenary, including concerts by The London Community Gospel Choir and The St. Ignatius Gospel Choir. A series of exhibitions in London Borough of Barnet libraries explored Wilberforce's local connections, and visits to local schools encouraged pupils to express their understanding of slavery and abolition in art, and stressed the need to continue the work of abolitionists today. The programme also included a number of open public meetings with invited speakers exploring different aspects of Wilberforce's life and work, including his collaborations with Thomas Clarkson and John Newton. In 2008 the Wilberforce Centre was opened in the crypt space of St. Paul's.
Inspired by the bicentenary, the Distorted Image exhibition at Hereford Cathedral explored how distorted perceptions throughout history have resulted in prejudice, discrimination and enslavement. Incomplete or misleading images of human beings, who are black or female or in some way considered 'other', have resulted in unjust behaviour against them, particularly in the case of restricted legal and political rights. Alongside the example of slavery, this exhibition also looked at the invariably inferior position of women within church teaching. Distorted Image was part of the ongoing Mappa Mundi and Chained Library exhibition. The Hereford Mappa Mundi is a 13th century map featuring drawings of the history of humankind and the natural world, which records how medieval scholars interpreted the world in spiritual as well as geographical terms.
An exhibition to mark the bicentenary was developed by Enfield Museum Service in partnership with the British Museum and Enfield Racial Equality Council. The exhibition looked at West African culture, the development of the local African community, the links between the transatlantic slave trade and Enfield, wealthy landowners and Quaker abolitionists who lived in the area. Free family days held during school vacations offered traditional Ghanaian story-telling, dancing and drumming, crafts and object handling. Living History Days gave visitors the opportunity to meet actors portraying William Wilberforce and Olaudah Equiano. School workshops included a drama session and performance about a runaway slave developed from material from Lambeth Archive. The museum service also produced a book, edited by Valerie Munday, which explored further the links between Enfield and the slave trade. The book was sent to all schools in the borough, and formed the basis of a teaching resource aimed at Key Stages 2 and 3. Loan boxes and handling collections provided by the museum service include Ghanaian artefacts and items relating to the slave trade. In 2011, Enfield Racial Equality Council unveiled a plaque to commemorate abolition at the Enfield Civic Centre.
2007 saw a number of different projects taking place at Harewood House in West Yorkshire, home of the Lascelles family. The bicentenary was used as an opportunity to explore the family connections with the transatlantic slave trade and the sugar plantations of the West Indies.
As part of a newly developed Learning Programme, leaflets were produced setting out the family connections to Barbados. 2007 also marked the bicentenary of the Yorkshire election in 1807 contested by William Wilberforce, Henry Lascelles (later 2nd Earl of Harewood) and Lord Milton. Competition between the candidates was fierce, based on issues such as Catholic Emancipation, poverty, workers' rights and abolition of the slave trade.
The Hidden Connections exhibition was a result of partnership between the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) and the Linen Hall Library in Belfast. The exhibition explored Ulster's links with slavery after 1807 via people, events and places, and looked at both the pro and anti-slavery debates in Northern Ireland. It drew on documents from PRONI’s archives, artefacts from the Ulster Museum and contemporary books and pamphlets from the Linen Hall Library and elsewhere. After its launch at Linen Hall Library, the exhibition toured Northern Ireland, travelling to Down Museum, the Harbour Museum in Derry, Lisburn City Library and the Ulster American Folk Park.
The wider Hidden Connections programme featured workshops exploring archival sources, performances and lectures by leading scholars. There was a panel discussion on ‘Slavery Now’, a walking tour of Belfast sites associated with the slavery issue, and a boat trip on the Lagan focusing on the port’s links with slave colonies. Gerry McLaughlin’s ‘Blood sugar’ is a drama documentary devoted to the literature of slavery, music and song. 'Freedom and Liberty' was the theme of the UK-wide Archives Awareness Event. PRONI organised special events and produced a catalogue, 'Ulster and Slavery', listing the references to slavery to be found in the archive.
The Lambeth and the Abolition programme included debates, historic trails, a video conferencing discussion between people in Brixton, Ghana and Jamaica, Caribbean family history classes, creative writing workshops, and a dedicated series of events within Black History Month. ‘The Runaways’, an original drama about a runaway slave boy and a kitchen maid in London in 1700, was performed in Lambeth primary schools, accompanied by a workshop. The project researched the local historical links to abolition, and famously the activities of the Clapham Sect (William Wilberforce and his associates) who attended Holy Trinity Church in Clapham. A booklet by historian S. I. Martin sets the history of abolition in the larger context, through his study of the African Academy at Clapham, and his mapping of some of the links between Lambeth, Jamaica and West Africa at the beginning of the 19th century.
A programme of events to mark the bicentenary was organised by Edinburgh Inter-Faith Association. This included a slavery walk in the footsteps of Robert Wedderburn, a commemoration and thanksgiving service at St John's Church in Edinburgh, and a debate and discussion on the theme 'Trading People - Then and Now'.
The National Portrait Gallery created a new gallery trail to mark the bicentenary, written by Dr Caroline Bressey. The trail highlighted portraits of key individuals, ranging from Elizabeth I to William Wilberforce, linked to the slave trade and its abolition. Portraits included those who invested in the trade, or who owned slaves and supported slavery, as well as images of enslaved people themselves and of people who were prominent in the movement to abolish the trade. The trail ended with a series of contemporary portraits of individuals involved in preventing slavery today. A week of talks, music, film and family activities included a discussion of the painting 'The Anti-Slavery Convention, 1840' by Benjamin Robert Haydon.
A commemorative event to mark the bicentenary in Rothley, Leicestershire, was organised by a planning group of Rothley Parish Church and the Committee of the Rothley History Society. The event on 25 March 2007 launched a new book by Terry Sheppard and Iain Whyte, ‘Rothley and the Abolition of the Slave Trade’, which explored the ‘mutual endeavours’ of Thomas Babington, Thomas Gisborne, William Wilberforce and Zachary Macaulay. These men were linked though family and university connections, and their involvement in the campaign to abolish the slave trade. Many of their meetings took place at Babington’s home, Rothley Temple, now known as the Rothley Court Hotel, where the event in 2007 was held.
The day included dramatic readings from 18th century documents relating to the campaign for abolition, an exhibition of panels from Anti-Slavery International, an interview with a descendant of Thomas Babington, and a choir concert from the Kainé Gospel Choir. In collaboration with Charnwood Borough Council, a new plaque was unveiled to remember the suffering of African people and the part played in ending the trade by Babington, Wilberforce and others. In December 2007, the planning group invited organisations in Rothley and Leicester to submit items contemporary to 2007 to be placed in a time capsule, to be laid up at the court until the tricentenary in 2107. The oak casket sits behind glass in a niche at the hotel.
In 2007, Royal Mail marked the bicentenary of the abolition of the British slave trade with a series of stamps. Designed by Howard Brown, the First Class stamp showed Olaudah Equiano. Other stamps in the collection featured the abolitionists William Wilberforce, Granville Sharp, Thomas Clarkson, Hannah More and Ignatius Sancho.
Westminster Abbey organised a series of lectures and events to commemorate the bicentenary. These included the lectures 'Olaudah Equiano, Black Abolitionist' by Professor Vincent Carretta, and 'The Abbey and the Abolition of the Slave Trade' by The Reverend Nicholas Sagovsky, Canon of Westminster. There was also an opportunity for visitors to attend William Wilberforce's memorial. On 27 March 2007 a national service of commemoration was held at the Abbey, and broadcast live on BBC One and BBC Radio Four. The service was attended by HM The Queen, the Prime Minister Tony Blair, other dignitaries and members of community and human rights organisations. Proceedings were disrupted by Toyin Agbetu of the Pan African, human rights based organisation Ligali. He objected to the celebratory tone of the service and its primary focus on William Wilberforce, highlighting the role of African freedom fighters and the absence of an official apology by the monarchy, government and church for Britain's leading role in transatlantic slavery, or Maafa (the Kiswahili term meaning ‘Disaster’, which is used to refer to the exploitation of Africa and its people by Europeans).
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 historians Angelina Osborne and S. 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.
The Slave Trade Abolition in Cambridgeshire & Suffolk (STACS) project was managed by St John's College at Cambridge University (the former college of the abolitionists Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce). Working with local schools, the project aimed to raise awareness of the often overlooked roles played by Thomas Clarkson and Olaudah Equiano within the slave trade abolition movement in East Anglia. Drama workshops led by two historical enactors led to student performances of their plays about the abolition movement. Two public presentations run by students, one in Cambridge and another at the Ipswich Caribbean Association, discussed and debated why the counties of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk should remember the life and work of Equiano and Clarkson. The final outcome of the project was the publication of new teaching resources and curriculum material to introduce students to the work of Equiano and Clarkson, and to place the transatlantic slave trade in local, national and international historical contexts. During the course of the project, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a Sunday worship service from St John's College, in association with 'Set All Free'.
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.
The official publication from the Evangelical Alliance to commemorate the bicentenary had three main aims: to draw attention to biblical perspectives on slavery and society, to examine the contributions of some key abolitionists, and to offer some suggested activities for churches and groups to mark the bicentenary.
This community-based mass reading scheme drew together partners from four areas of the UK; Bristol and the South West (Great Reading Adventure), Liverpool and the North West (Liverpool Reads), Hull (Hull Libraries) and Glasgow (Aye Write! Bank of Scotland Book Festival). 50,000 free copies of Andrea Levy’s award-winning novel 'Small Island' were distributed - a story of Jamaican slave descendants arriving in the UK in the 1940s, it addressed resonant themes of identity, racial awareness, forgiveness, ignorance and survival. There was also an accompanying reader's guide. Younger audiences took part by reading Benjamin Zephaniah’s 'Refugee Boy', or Mary Hoffman’s 'Amazing Grace'. Activity packs inspired discussion of historic and contemporary issues addressed in the texts. Featured are some of the responses of pupils from Parson Street Primary School, Bristol, to 'Refugee Boy'.
The Songs of Slavery CD and booklet were produced by a community-based project, led by the Hull and East Riding branch of the Historical Association. The project was part of the Wilberforce 2007 initiative in Hull. Songs of Slavery recorded 19 songs relating to slavery, alongside six short narratives. Most of the songs date from the mid-19th century and were originally composed and sung by enslaved peoples. Some were based on religious beliefs, others also contained coded messages to aid escape and resistance. The Songs of Slavery tracks were sung or narrated by local choirs, singers and musicians, together with students from local schools and colleges.