The Sweet History? project saw the Bristol Architecture Centre work with young people from the Knowle West Media Centre to explore the social and economic impacts of the sugar and slave trades on the built environment heritage of Bristol. Working with local artists and historians, the young people put together the Sweet History? Trail, containing photographs and information about 23 sites in and around Bristol that have links to the sugar and slave trades. The project had a particular focus on using digital technology to develop an interactive website (which included an audio podcast of the trail) to engage youth audiences with the study of heritage buildings.
The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) was one of eight heritage bodies in the ‘Revealing Histories: Remembering Slavery’ partnership in Greater Manchester. The project set out to explore the history, impact and legacy of slavery on Britain through collections and community links in the North West.
An exhibition and trail at MOSI explored the connections between Manchester’s economic success from the late eighteenth century onwards and its international trade, particularly the cotton trade with the USA, with its associated links to the transatlantic slave trade. Items identified in the collection included an American Civil War patriotic envelope from 1861, which satirised Britain's willingness to ignore the plight of American slaves. Other events included the creation of a series of terracotta figures depicting slaves on a slave ship by artist Annette Cobley. Workshop sessions to accompany this artwork were based on the theme of silence surrounding slavery.
Human Cargo was a partnership project between Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter. The project consisted of two main components. The first was a historical exhibition, which explored the development of the transatlantic slave trade and, in particular, the role of Plymouth as a port, the involvement of the City's dignitaries and the South West's links with the abolition movement. The second part was a contemporary art response to modern forms of slavery and historical legacies, including the flower picking trade, sweatshop labour and the Fair Trade Movement. This work was newly commissioned and included audio visual pieces, installations, hand-printed wallpaper and participatory objects. A variety of events and activities took place alongside the exhibition including education workshops, performances, African music and storytelling activities, and Elizabethan House re-enactment sessions.
'House Slave - Field Slave: A Portrait of Contemporary Slavery' by Nicola Green was first exhibited at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in October 2007. It was then exhibited as part of Haringey's Black History Month at Bruce Castle Museum in October - December 2010. Nicola's triptych is now in the permanent collection at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool.
Nicola Green's portrait of contemporary slavery 'House Slave - Field Slave' was made for and in collaboration with Anti-Slavery International to commemorate the anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in 2007. The exhibition consists of a large 'altarpiece' scale triptych with preparatory studies. These are set alongside artefacts of contemporary slavery from the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool and the extraordinary photos and text from Anti-Slavery International, which inspired this work. The painting tells the story of contemporary slavery. There are an estimated 12 million people in the world today who are still enslaved - even though the British slave trade was abolished 200 years ago.
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'.
'Freedom and Culture' was a year-long nationwide programme to mark the bicentenary, conceived by Baroness Lola Young of Cultural Brokers (London) and Dr Nima Poowaya-Smith of Alchemy (based in Leeds). In partnership with artists, activists and cultural commentators, the programme explored the dimensions of oppression and freedom around the bicentenary, culminating in a weekend 'celebrating creativity and the African Diaspora' at the Southbank Centre in November 2007. One of several exhibitions that took place as part of the initiative was ‘Crossing the Waters’ at Cartwright Hall in Bradford, which took its central metaphor from the transatlantic slave trade. Almost all the works shown – from Sonia Boyce, Yinka Shonibare and others – were drawn from the permanent collections of Bradford Museums, Galleries and Heritage. The exhibition later toured to the City Gallery, Leicester in 2008.
Changing Perspectives was a community-based initiative based around the experiences of twenty-five African and Caribbean families from the North-East, to explore how their life in the UK contrasts with the lives of their ancestors. The project created a multimedia archive of cultural responses to celebrate the heritage of these families. This included oral testimonies, creative writing, photography, digital storytelling and art, emerging from a variety of community-led workshops. A series of workshops were held at Durham University Library, Archives and Special Collections (pictured), including a session aimed at children and young people, which focused on the experiences of children in the slave trade via extracts from the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano. Project outputs included a book, an interactive website, an exhibition of words and pictures of the community, an oral testimony collection, and series of documentary films. A key aim of the project was to promote community cohesion and develop cross cultural awareness and understanding.
A collaborative project between Barnsley Archives and Local Studies, the Cooper Gallery and Cannon Hall exploring local connections to the slave trade. Cannon Hall is the ancestral home of the Spencer Family, who made their fortune in the local iron industry. In the mid-18th century, Benjamin Spencer became involved in the slave trade, and owned a slave ship called ‘Cannon Hall’; in contrast, Walter Spencer-Stanhope, who inherited the hall in 1775, supported the abolitionist movement. Pupils from local primary schools explored the hall’s connections to the slave trade and abolitionism, and produced artwork in response to the hidden histories, some of which were exhibited in the Cooper Gallery’s exhibition, ‘Witness’.
The ‘Hidden Stories’ project also explored the Crossley Family archive held by Barnsley Archives and Local Studies (Benjamin Crossley owned a sugar plantation in Jamaica). Barnsley Archives worked with the Barnsley Black and Ethnic Minority Initiative on a project to encourage black and minority ethnic groups in the Barnsley area to discover more about their roots. Other partners included Barnsley Out of School Study Support Network, Foulstone City Learning Centre and Just Addictive Music.
The Revealing Histories: Remembering Slavery project sought to uncover the North West's involvement in the slave trade (and the consequent social and economic effects of this involvement) and the region's contribution to the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and colonial slavery. Eight museums and galleries across Greater Manchester collaborated to commemorate the lasting legacies of the transatlantic slave trade. The participating venues were: Bolton Museum and Archive Service; Gallery Oldham; Manchester Art Gallery; The Manchester Museum; Museum of Science and Industry; People's History Museum; Touchstones Rochdale; and Whitworth Art Gallery. A collaborative website and a programme of exhibitions, trails, performances, films and events took a new look at the collections of these museums and galleries and the buildings in which they are housed, revealing hidden histories of the region's involvement in the slave trade. The project also examined slavery's contemporary legacy and relevance.
The Whitworth Art Gallery was one of eight heritage bodies in the ‘Revealing Histories: Remembering Slavery’ partnership in Greater Manchester. The project set out to explore the history, impact and legacy of slavery on Britain through collections and community links in the North West.
'Trade and Empire: Remembering Slavery' explored the themes of trade and empire, commerce and collecting, and the impact of the experience of slavery and its legacy. Four invited artists and academics (SuAndi, Kevin Dalton-Johnson, Dr Emma Poulter and Dr Alan Rice) worked with Whitworth curators and learning staff to create the exhibition. It comprised of selections from the Whitworth's collections, contemporary works by Black artists, and objects on loan from Manchester Museum, John Rylands University Library Manchester, Bolton Museums and Archives Service and private collections. Areas of focus included a history of the Benin Bronzes, representations of Black people in British art, photographs of West Africa belonging to Tom Singleton Gardner, and printed textiles designed by Althea McNish. The exhibition was accompanied by a series of community engagement events.
Bristol was major trading port for the transatlantic slave trade in the 18th century. The city of Bristol marked the bicentenary of the Abolition Act with more than 100 events across the city - exhibitions, plays, debates, talks, concerts - under the umbrella organisation Abolition 200. In January 2007, city leaders signed a declaration of regret for the city's role in the trade. Over the weekend of 24-25 March, bells rang out across the city and a Service of Remembrance and Reconciliation was held at Bristol Cathedral, organised by a partnership of the Cathedral and the Council of Black Churches. 2007 was themed as the Year of Black Achievement, aiming to bring better provision of black heritage resources to schools in Bristol, with a particular focus on black attainment. Over 30 creative community projects were funded by Abolition 200 - including art installations, educational projects and community theatre - to reflect the themes of education, commemoration and legacy.
Featured here are some of the events from Abolition 200.
Breaking the Chains opened at the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum to coincide with the bicentenary, and told the story of the British transatlantic slave trade and its abolition. Developed in partnership with Bristol City Council's Museums, Galleries and Archives' Service, the exhibition used artefacts, film and testimony to challenge perceptions about Britain's involvement in the slave trade and its legacy today. It featured a multimedia gallery of digital memories and feelings on the contemporary legacies of the slave trade; interactive sound stations to see and hear personal testimonies and the power of black music; and the ‘Me deya’ gallery, led by Firstborn Creatives, a collection of work from artists and communities who wished to share their creative pieces about the legacies of the slave trade. Associated events included African music for children, community dance events and public debates.
Port City was a large-scale exhibition featuring over 40 international artists and addressing issues of migration, trade and contemporary slavery. Set in the arts centre and gallery Arnolfini, it was accompanied by a programme of art, music, film, literature and educational activities. Coinciding with the bicentenary year, several works explored Bristol's histories of trade, as well as a contemporary port. For Seeds of Change, Brazilian artist Maria Thereza Alves researched sites around the Floating Harbour where ballast would have been off-loaded. The ballast seeds discovered were germinated by local groups so as to make a garden of ‘living history’, reflecting the different routes travelled by Bristol merchants. Other highlights included a model of a 'global village' made from sugar by Meschac Gaba and kaleidoscopes showing contemporary scenes from the triangle of the transatlantic slave trade by Mary Evans.
A bronze statue of the slave trader Edward Colston was erected as a memorial in Bristol city centre in 1895. The monument and the memories it evokes of Colston's trading in enslaved Africans is frequently used as a point of reference for Bristol's contribution to the transatlantic slave trade. The Two Coins is a visual sculpture and moving image installation created by artist Graeme Mortimer Evelyn to revolve around such monuments. The installation aimed to present an unprejudiced historical legacy while highlighting collective responsibility to prevent forms of 21st century slavery.
The Reconciliation Reredos project to develop a major public artwork was the response by Saint Stephen’s Church in Bristol city centre to a complex historical legacy. St Stephen's was the harbour church which benefitted from merchant’s donations, which effectively ‘blessed’ slave trade ships leaving the port, and which served as the burial site for Africans living in Bristol in the era of the transatlantic slave trade. The project involved the commissioning of a new altarpiece: four pieces of contemporary artwork exploring the mercantile connections that built the city of Bristol were created by artist Graeme Mortimer Evelyn, transforming the stone-carved Victorian Reredos housed in the church since 1875. A community learning programme engaged groups of people from the city through workshops, forums and events around the four focus concepts: Creation, Imago Dei (the Image of God in humanity), Reconciliation and Hope.
COSTA stood for 'Commemoration of Slave Trade Abolition' and was a project of Sul'Art, a community art organisation in Bristol. Sul'Art delivered a programme of music, drama, art and dance to a number of schools and community groups to explore meanings of the bicentenary, working around themes such as migration, identity, celebration of difference, critiques of consumerism and intergenerational dialogue. Sul'Art also presented a number of performances of the professional jazz show ‘King Cotton’, dramatising the story of the cotton industry in music, song and film.
As part of the Abolition 200 programme, the Bristol 1807 project set out to explore the lives of ordinary Bristolians in 1807. An exhibition in the Central Library, and a series of touring exhibitions in Bristol's libraries and community centres explored society, culture, trade and travel in 19th century Bristol, a city and port with many ties to transatlantic slavery. The project collaborated with local schools to provide creative art workshops for children around themes of slavery and freedom. There were also 'Treasures in Store' hands-on sessions with rare library artefacts concerned with the period of abolition including books, newspapers and everyday objects. A book emerging from the project, 'Bristol in 1807: Impressions of the City at the Time of Abolition' by Anthony Beeson, was published in 2009.
Remembering Slavery 2007 was a regional initiative involving museums, galleries and other cultural organisations across the North East of England in a programme of exhibitions, events, performances, lectures and activities to explore the themes of slavery and abolition.
As part of the initiative, the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle exhibited art objects from its collection, which traced the European demand for luxury goods linked to the system of plantation slavery, such as tobacco, sugar and indigo. For example, the exhibition included a number of sugar moulds and designs, alongside tobacco graters and tins. The recently conserved 'Girl with a Dog' by Philip Vilain (c. 1708) was also on display; the painting features a black servant faded into the background, revealing of eighteenth-century British society's racial divisions.
A Shared History, A Shared Future was a series of projects led by Birmingham Libraries to engage with different communities within Birmingham. The project as a whole identified archival materials, local historical documents and music with an emphasis on the diverse multicultural nature of historical and modern indentured slavery, and how it relates to everyday lives in Birmingham. Over 1000 participants from schools and community groups took part in over 150 workshops to create stories, artwork, banners, protests, games, films, dances, drama and performances. A resource pack, the liberty box, was produced to encourage community groups, youth groups and others to explore the issues of slavery. In August 2007, the project organised the March for Justice in Birmingham city centre, a recreation of the Quaker and philanthropist Joseph Sturge's march against slavery in August 1838. The day included an anti-slavery fashion show, a limbo performance, storytelling, African drumming, and a Slavery Question Time Special hosted by an actor representing Olaudah Equiano.
Lancaster was the UK's fourth largest slaving port at the height of the transatlantic slave trade in the 18th century. Lancashire Museums worked with a range of partners to raise awareness of this largely hidden history - first from 2002 through STAMP (the Slave Trade Arts Memorial Project), and in 2007 through Abolished? This bicentenary project consisted of exhibitions, creative writing, radio broadcasts, and schools projects, one of which produced a Slavery Town Trail that explored some of the buildings made possible by the wealth the slave trade brought to Lancaster. At the heart of the project were commissioned installations and interventions by artists Lubaina Himid ('Swallow Hard: The Lancaster Dinner Service' at the Judge's Lodgings) and Sue Flowers ('One Tenth' at Lancaster Maritime Museum). Both were accompanied by outreach programmes and workshops with local schools. A touring exhibition was produced in partnership with Anti-Slavery International and Lancashire County Council Youth and Community, which looked at transatlantic slavery and modern day slavery. The exhibition toured throughout Lancashire.