In Autumn 2007, the opera 'The Woman Who Refused To Dance' by composer and conductor Shirley J Thompson was performed at Westminster Palace, Houses of Parliament. The piece was based on a 1792 print by Isaac Cruickshank - entitled 'The abolition of the slave trade, or the inhumanity of dealers in human flesh exemplified in the cruel treatment of a young negro girl of 15 for her virgin modesty' - depicting a woman who refused to dance on board a slave ship, and who was hung from one leg as punishment. The opera has recently been re-premiered to mark the 210th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.
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.
The Towards Understanding Slavery: Past and Present initiative by Glasgow City Council aimed to increase understanding of the human effects of the transatlantic slave trade, and explore its impact on Scotland's national heritage and Glasgow's history. A series of events, exhibitions and education programmes ran across the city throughout 2007. These included an exhibition of William Blake's works relating to the idea of slavery at the Burrell Collection, and a photographic exhibition by Graham Fagen, 'Downpresserer', at the Gallery of Modern Art, examining the cultural heritages of Scotland and Jamaica. There was a series of performances and talks at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, and events at the People's Palace and Winter Gardens focused on links between Glasgow's tobacco trade and slavery through the family portrait of the 'tobacco lord' John Glassford (there is said to be a figure of a young black man behind Glassford's chair that has been deliberately obscured or painted over). A year-long programme of lectures, schools events and exhibition highlighting the life of African communities in Glasgow took place at St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art.
The Living Memory Lab was a two-year project in which people from local communities of Plymouth made three-minute films on the subjects of slavery and abolition and local connections to the slave trade. A series of short training courses in basic film-making were offered as part of the project. The project was a partnership between Plymouth and District Racial Equality Council, BBC South West, the community arts agency Creative Partnerships, in collaboration with Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery. The DVD was made freely available for use as a teaching aid and community resource.
Women and Abolition was a collaborative project exploring the role of women in the abolition movement, led by CETTIE (Cultural Exchange Through Theatre in Education) and Yaa Asantewaa Arts and Community Centre. The event in March 2007 included a panel debate, presentations by women activists, poetry and performances of the theatre productions 'Sugar n Spice' and 'Splendid Mummer'.
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.
This photographic exhibition focused on human trafficking was produced by a partnership of Panos Pictures, Anti-Slavery International, Amnesty International, Eaves and UNICEF. Photographer Karen Robinson’s portraits and tales of women trafficked into prostitution explore the devastating impact on their lives. Also on display were David Rose's panoramic photographs of the ordinary British streets where the stories of modern-day slavery have been played out. The photographs were mounted on a cage-like structure which was specially designed for the exhibition at St Paul's Cathedral. The exhibition was also shown in Edinburgh, Hull and Warsaw, and in 2008, in York.
The In Stitches project was led by the African Families Foundation (TAFF) and brought together British, African and African-Caribbean women's quilting groups meeting in London, Liverpool, Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham. The In Stitches Quilt, designed by Janice Gunner, included 60 squares of embroidered images, texts and symbols, depicting historic figures, scenes and artefacts associated with the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition. The Quilt used several of the Adinkra symbols from Africa, originally printed on fabrics worn at funerals by the Akan peoples of Ghana. The accompanying work pack was designed to support learning about slavery based on the four themes of the Quilt: Capture, the Middle Passage, Life in the 'New World', and Proscription of Slavery. The Quilt was unveiled at City Hall in London, and then toured to the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum (Bristol), Central Library (Liverpool), Soho House (Birmingham), the International Quilt Festival (Birmingham) and Central Library (Manchester).
An exhibition by Manchester City Council held at Manchester Town Hall commemorated the contributions of Black service people during World War II. The exhibition also included the Bicentenary Freedom Flag, to mark commemorations of the Abolition Act of 1807. Alongside exploring the efforts of women, West Indian men, and African men in wartime, the exhibition also told the story of the 761st Tank Battalion of the US Army, known as the Black Panthers Tanker Battalion. Primarily made up of African-American soldiers, the squadron was said to be deployed as a public relations effort to maintain support for the war effort from the Black community.
The African and African Caribbean Kultural Heritage Initiative (ACKHI) is a not-for-profit Black Afrikan-led community organisation, with the aim is to promote, protect and preserve the history, heritage and culture, of peoples of Black African heritage living or working in Oxfordshire. The Out of Africa programme of events in 2007 included an exhibition of books about slavery and the slave trade, which toured Oxfordshire libraries, and performances of African music and contemporary dance. The ‘Remembering Slavery’ commemorative service was held in Christ Church Cathedral. ‘Connections’ was a research project looking at Oxfordshire’s links to the system of slavery and the slave trade. ‘InTentCity’ was a visual arts project, in partnership with Fusion Arts, bringing together cultural groups, primary schools and artists to transform tents into works of art – one theme addressed was ‘Freedom’. Reflecting the legacy of the system of slavery and the slave trade, ‘Common Threads’ was an exhibition of textile work by the Textiles for Peace group, local women representing multi-cultural Oxfordshire. In ‘Ancestral Souls’, the African Women’s Art Collection (AWAC) collaborated with women of African descent to produce and exhibit 200 dolls to represent the diaspora of African peoples.
Karibu provides information, advice and help service to African women and their families in Ipswich and Suffolk. Karibu women joined the celebrations marking African History Month in Suffolk in 2007. The event 'Reaching Out Promoting Cultural Values' was designed to reach out to other local communities. It featured a keynote speaker address, workshops on health and beauty, and parades of foods and culture from Africa. 'Our Children Our Pride' was an activity day featuring carnival arts and crafts, drumming sessions, dance, and stories from Africa.
The Quaker Quilters of Norwich Quaker Meeting held the Slave Quilts Exhibition at the Friends Meeting House in Norwich in May 2007. By the 1860s in the United States there were organised flights to freedom for enslaved people from the southern plantations via the Underground Railroad – a network of paths leading to the North and Canada. The ‘safe houses’ where assistance was offered on the way were often the homes of Quakers. This exhibition looked to reproduce some of the secret codes said to be hidden within the symbols and patterns featured in quilts made by slaves, to pass on directions to those looking to escape.
Kenwood House in North London is closely connected to the history of the slave trade through the lives of two of its former inhabitants. Lord Chief Justice Lord Mansfield made a milestone ruling in 1772 towards abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Dido Elizabeth Belle - born to an enslaved mother - is believed to have been Lord Mansfield's illegitimate great-niece. This exhibition by English Heritage, and sponsored by the Friends of Kenwood, explored their relationship, and the social dimensions of the British slave trade intertwined with the history of Kenwood. Visitors to the exhibition were invited to leave a creative literary response. The Wall of Words, a literary mural in the form of a poem inspired by the recorded responses, was created by Beyonder, a multimedia artist and educator.
The Wilberforce Women project was launched by the Hull Women's Centre with the support of Wilberforce 2007. Hull based photojournalist Lee Karen Stow worked with groups of women from the twinned towns of Hull and Freetown (Sierra Leone), through photography and messages of friendship. Women from Hull were invited to think about themes of Pride, Freedom, Belief and Change and contribute a photograph on the chosen theme to send as greetings to women in Freetown. To return the greetings, women in Freetown were taught basic photography skills in order to interpret their own thoughts on the themes. A selection of the images were displayed at the Humber BBC Open Centre and on the BBC Humber website, as well as a dedicated exhibition at the Ferens Art Gallery and at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation. A second stage of the project saw the images and messages being collated into a photographic book and DVD.
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.
Freedom Song involved young people from Derby, Leicester and Nottingham creating their own digital musical video shorts to express contemporary social and cultural experiences. The group in Derby looked to develop links to regional history and culture through the study of the songs of oppression and freedom of the slave trade and its musical legacies today. A heritage project involved participants researching music of their ancestors and predecessors in the cultural tradition, exploring the Windrush migrations, oral traditions and the impact of female artists on music cultures in the UK.
Written by Ghanaian playwright Ama Ata Aidoo, The Dilemma of a Ghost deals with colliding cultures in 21st century Africa. An African-American woman accompanies her Ghanaian husband as he returns home, but the couple are haunted by ghosts of the inheritance of the slave trade. A collaboration between London theatre company Border Crossings and the National Theatre of Ghana, the production used music and dance to celebrate 50 years of Ghana’s independence and 200 years since the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. The play was performed in Birmingham, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, London, Plymouth and Slough. The production was was accompanied by a new book from Border Crossings, working in collaboration with Anti-Slavery International. ‘Theatre and Slavery: Ghosts at the Crossroads’ explored the ways in which world theatre responds to key issues in modern society and politics, including the issue of contemporary slavery.
SCAWDI are a Birmingham-based community group specialising in working with local volunteers to research the early presence of Black people in the West Midlands. In collaboration with English Heritage, ‘Interwoven Freedom’ enabled a group of local women to visit archives, exhibition and historic sites and explore the role of women in the abolitionist movement. The participants drew on traditions of abolitionist women such as Elizabeth Cadbury creating and distributing workbags filled with anti-slavery manifestos by making their own textile bags from fair trade cotton and African cloth. They wrote their own manifestos which mixed historical facts with fictional stories and poems. The accompanying exhibition of textiles, text panels and an audio documentary toured London and 11 regional venues. The exhibition included photographs documenting the project by photographer Vanley Burke.
This exhibition held by the Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections at the University of Birmingham included material from the archives of the Church Missionary Society held there, and some of its rare book collections. The accompanying information boards are featured here. The exhibition focused on the role of religion in the abolitionist movement, the power of the African voice in literature, and the role played by Birmingham residents in the anti-slavery campaigns. A booklist on anti-slavery publications held at the library was also produced. The exhibition was part of a University-wide initiative, with additional involvement from academic departments and the Guild of Students. An online exhibition was also produced in collaboration with the Library of the Religious Society of Friends: 'Quakers and the path to abolition in Britain and the colonies'.