'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.
A collaborative project between Churches Together in Northampton, English Heritage, Northamptonshire Black History Association (NBHA) and The Northampton Schools Excellence Cluster. Freedom From the Past: Long Time Coming was led by Mary Clarke, Director of the Doddridge Centre, where the NBHA office is based. The project commemorated the 1807 Act and the wider histories of black resistance and the fight against the slave trade through music, drama and historical workshops in Northampton.
The 'Passage' event was held in St Giles' Church on 25 March 2007, an evening of drama, songs and speeches reflecting on the legacies of slavery. There was a 150-strong gospel-style community choir drawn from schools in the Northampton area and local community groups. The event was one of a range of project activities in Northampton which brought together schools, community groups, churches and heritage organisations to explore the issues of slavery in the British Empire. Other events included a community event and 'Walk to Freedom' at the Northampton West Indian Community Association (NWICA) to mark 'Emancipation Day', annually held throughout the Caribbean to celebrate the abolition of slavery. English Heritage funded a professional DVD recording which was afterwards made freely available to NBHA members and others.
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.
Freedom Think Tank was a time limited Black-led voluntary group established to influence the agendas of organisations in the North East commemorating the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. The group also organised commemorative events, focusing on themes of promoting social solidarity and raising awareness of the participation of Black people in abolition.
In this website and Key Stage 3 Resource Pack, the City of London Festival examined the work of the Afro-European violinist George Bridgetower (1778-1860) and, in particular, his relationship with the composer Ludwig van Beethoven. The resource also explored the role of other artists, writers and musicians who were active at the same time as Bridgetower, with a special focus on their relationships to the anti-slavery movement. The website provided music, video clips and worksheets, alongside an interview with Julian Joseph, composer of the jazz opera Bridgetower - A Fable of 1807, toured by English Touring Opera. The resource was part of a broader education project developed by City of London Festival, which included the exhibition, 1807: The Life and Times of George Polgreen Bridgetower, held in the walkways of London's Tower Bridge. The education project also included storytelling, music and creative writing workshops in secondary schools.
The dance-theatre production Heartbeat Riddim Chant was based on the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade. The production premiered at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds in July 2007, and mixed dance, live music and voice, including traditional Caribbean folk dancing blended with contemporary reggae. The show was choreographed by David Hamilton, and featured dancers from Regeyshun Dance and members of the community dance group Back Bone. There were also performances from youth dance groups and young voices from across Leeds, including LS7 Result, Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Gee4orce and Leeds Young Authors.
Hebden Bridge Arts Festival commemorated the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 2007 in performances and exhibitions, and extending out from that, to a celebration of the idea of freedom. Events linked to the consideration of freedom had a broken chain as an identifying symbol in the festival brochure. Highlights included the world premiere of 'Can't Chain Up Me Mind' by the Grand Union Orchestra, a celebration of jazz and emancipation.
In 1947, 70 years ago, the public discovered one of the first sound recordings of Pygmy music collected in Equatorial Africa by the French ethnomusicologist Gilbert Rouget.
These were recorded during the Ogooué-Congo Mission, a scientific expedition led by the 23-year old French ethnologist Noël Ballif. This mission was the first organised by the Liotard group, a collective of young French explorers from Paris’ Musée de l’Homme.
From July to December 1946, the 12 members of the expedition travelled across the former Middle Congo (the current Republic of the Congo) and Gabon. They spent six weeks completely immersed in Bambinga Pygmy tribes from the Haute Sangha region, in the North of Moyen Congo - an experience that turned out to be decisive for some of them.
Whether they are sound recordings, photographs, films, artifacts or scientific studies, the documents collected and produced during and after the Ogooué-Congo Mission allow us to discover their adventure.
Easton Lodge is a historic estate in Essex, with gardens open to the public. The Gardens of Easton Lodge Preservation Trust led two projects to mark the bicentenary. Liberation Song involved three local schools working with Grand Union Orchestra to explore the roots of musical instruments and styles, culminating in a community concert. A visual arts project involving seven local schools examined the history of Easton Lodge and trading links during the 18th century. Children decorated and displayed cotton reusable carrier bags and displayed them on yew hedges in the gardens. Connections were made with the story of the 18th century Ghanaian anti-slavery campaigner Ottobah Cugoano and the modern day Fair trade movement.
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.
The Museum of London Docklands opened the London, Sugar and Slavery gallery in 2007, and it remains a permanent exhibition. The museum, housed in an old sugar warehouse on London’s West India Dock, retold the narrative of the transatlantic slave trade from the perspective of London, once the fourth largest slaving port in the world. Through personal accounts, film, music, interactive exhibits and over 140 objects, the exhibition looks at the various stages of the transatlantic slave trade, including life and trade on the West India Dock, and conditions for the enslaved on the Middle Passage and the Caribbean plantations. The final section of the gallery focuses on the legacies of the slave trade for British society today. Community collaborations also helped shape the gallery.
The museum also created a walking trail for the local area, highlighting key architectural features and buildings that had a role in the transatlantic slave trade. The Slave Map of London was developed in collaboration with three London museums: the Cuming Museum in Southwark, Bruce Castle Museum in Haringey and Fulham Palace Museum. Users navigated an online map to discover over 100 different locations throughout London which played a part in the transatlantic slave trade and the fight to end it. A schools programme that accompanied the opening of the exhibition included drama performances and workshops. Courses that ran alongside the exhibition in 2007 included ‘Resistance and Achievement: the story of African and Caribbean people in Britain’, in partnership with Middlesex University.
In 2018, the museum reflected on the 10 year anniversary of London, Sugar and Slavery with a workshop to explore the significance of the gallery, with contributions from artists, museum practitioners and emerging artists.
Mass Carib is a choral performance piece written by Felix Cross. In 2007 it was performed outdoors at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich by Nitro Theatre Company, as a finale to the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival. To accompany the performance, the festival collaborated with the National Maritime Museum and Nitro on a programme of workshops in schools in Greenwich exploring the themes of the production. Mass Carib was written as a Requiem using the liturgical form of the Catholic Mass. It draws on music from West Africa, eighteenth-century Europe and various Caribbean islands. Mass Carib is sung in English, French, Patois, Latin and Yoruba.
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.
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.
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.
Redbridge Museum's exhibition to mark the bicentenary examined the London Borough of Redbridge's connections to the slave trade and abolition. These links included local resident Josiah Child, once Governor of the East India Company, an investor in the Royal African Company and owner of plantations in Jamaica. The Mellish family of Woodford had connections with the West India Docks in London, built for the sugar trade. Alexander Stewart of Woodford owned Jamaican plantations and acted on behalf of owners of enslaved Africans in compensation claims after abolition. The exhibition also examined church records detailing some of the Black residents of Redbridge in the 17th and 18th centuries. Music from the Caribbean island of Dominica was included, as was a series of personal responses to the bicentenary by local residents.
Remembering Slavery: A Musical Journey was a performance at Luton's summer festival in July 2007. Young people told the story of slavery through music from Africa to the Caribbean to South America.