'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.
This mural was created in 2012 by Munir D. Mohammad for the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, one of the oldest African heritage organisations in the country. Titled The Shoulders of Heroes We Lean On, the mural depicts giants of black history, including the antislavery leader Frederick Douglass, as well as the silhouettes of athletes, musicians and scholars.
The Adisa project gave a group of 20 young people of African and African Caribbean heritage the chance to investigate their roots both in Bristol and Africa. The group researched the history and legacies of Bristol's involvement in the trade in enslaved Africans, and its impact on one African country: Ghana. This was a community partnership project in collaboration with the Bread Youth Project, Full Circle Youth and Family and the Mill Youth Centre. The group opened their own exhibition, 'Afrikan Footsteps' at the City Museum and Art Gallery, after a two-week research trip to Ghana to learn about the country's history and culture. The exhibition included short films made by the participants; a Quotes Wall, taken from young people’s interviews with members of their local community; a wall of their personal heroes; a photographic exhibition of their trip; and 'Ma’afa Journey', a film recording their personal reactions to places visited in Ghana.
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.
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.
Down at the Bamboo Club was organised by Picture This, an artists' film and video commissioning agency in Bristol. The project was an exhibition of artists' video exploring Bristol's cultural histories and ideas of legacy. Contemporary artists worked with community groups to develop films and events that used the device of re-enactment to explore subjects such as community relations, identity, the legacy of slave trading in the city and histories of division and solidarity. One such film was 'Bamboo Memories' by Barby Asante. The Bamboo Club was a legendary Bristol nightclub in the 1960's and 1970's which holds great significance for older generations in the city as a place where first groups of African-Caribbeans socialised with white Bristolians.
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.
Sugar & Spice was Gateshead's festival celebrating African and Caribbean culture. Held in October 2007, highlights of the programme included 'Mama Africa', South African singer Miriam Makeba; the opera 'Mary Seacole'; a massed performance of 'On Liberation Street' featuring local performers and singers alongside the Grand Union Orchestra; and 'Roll Jordan Roll' featuring jazz trumpeter Abram Wilson performing with the London Community Gospel Choir. The festival weekend also featured street theatre; jazz,blues and gospel music; a light show; and children's arts activities.
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.
A one-act play by Jonathan Payne, 'Slavery' re-tells the personal stories of enslaved Black Americans, using original recordings of interviews conducted by the United States Government's Federal Writers Project in the 1930s. The play brings together a collection of personal testimonials and spirituals (Christian songs created by African slaves in the United States), to explore the consequences of slavery. Presented in 2007 by the cross-cultural London theatre company Tara Arts and directed by Laura Kriefman, the play toured nationally during Black History Month. An Education Resource Pack was produced and drama workshops for schools were held after the performances to explore the issues raised.
The Engage 2007 Festival of Culture celebrated cultural freedoms in South Gloucestershire. Led by South Gloucestershire Council, and in partnership with local volunteer groups, schools and community groups, the festival took place on 17 November 2007. It featured 40 live performances of drama, dance and music from India, China, Africa, South America and Europe, a world food zone, family workshops, youth and environmental activities and 60 interactive and information stalls. The Impact exhibition was produced as part of Engage 2007, exploring the part that people living in South Gloucestershire played slavery and abolition.
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.
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.
A’ Adam’s Bairns? is an educational resource pack produced in 2007 by a partnership of the National Library of Scotland and the Scottish Development Education Centre (Scotdec). The project explored equality and diversity both past and present, and looked at the attitudes and behaviours which underpinned slavery then and now, such as racism, sectarianism, prejudice and ignorance. The resources and reference materials are aimed at school children and also community and adult learning groups. They made use of material held by the National Library of Scotland and the National Archives of Scotland, and also included contemporary and traditional music produced by Scottish music expert Dr Fred Freeman, including a rendition of 'The Slave's Lament' by Robert Burns. Modules on the programme included slavery, forced movement of people and taking action for change.
Wilberforce 2007 was a year-long programme of events from Hull City Council, commemorating the bicentenary and celebrating the city's diverse communities. The programme, named after 'son of Hull' William Wilberforce MP, was based around the themes of Pride, Freedom, Belief and Change. In partnership with Anti-Slavery International, Hull promoted the Fight for Freedom Petition against modern day slavery. The Wilberforce Lecture Trust held five specially commissioned lectures. The Wilberforce Weekender in July 2007 was a weekend of public events, including the Wilberforce Clipper Challenge Cup, Sankofa Sunsplash (celebrating African and Caribbean culture, food and music), Zapcat Racing, and the annual Jazz Festival. Throughout the year there were concerts and specially commissioned pieces from the Hull Choral Union, Hull Philharmonic, Hull Sinfonietta and the East Yorkshire Motor Services Brass Band. Other initiatives raised awareness of Fair Trade, and there was a variety of educational programmes and events. Funding was also made available for smaller community projects.
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.
In 2009, Full-Flava Entertainment compiled a world music CD and DVD celebrating the cultural diversity of Kingston Upon Hull through a collaboration of a wide selection of diverse musicians, bands and groups based in Hull. The Wilberforce Connexion included artists that have migrated to Hull, or who represented their ancestral country of origin: Angola, Congo, India, Kurdistan, Malawi, Nigeria, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania and United Kingdom.
Hull's parish church of Holy Trinity is where William Wilberforce was baptised in 1759. The Church held a number of performances and events throughout 2007. The Together for Freedom commemorative service took place on 25 March 2007, led by the Archbishop of York and featuring the Redemption Gospel Choir from Hull and Middlesbrough. The Freedom Flower Festival took place in June and the Songs of Freedom Music Festival in September, featuring performances by leading gospel performers and local schoolchildren. The London Community Gospel Choir gave a powerful concert, which highlighted the important role of music in the lives of slaves living on plantations. In August, the Freetown Society of Hull hosted a performance of the Milton Margai School for the Blind Choir from Freetown, Sierra Leone. A Panos photographic exhibition at the Church, Slave Britain, revealed the realities of contemporary human trafficking.
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.