In collaboration with the Peterborough branch of the African Caribbean Forum, Peterborough Museum hosted 'Beyond the Bicentennial, 1788-1838: Exploring 50 Years of the Slave Trade'. The exhibition's focus was the fifty years leading up to the end of slavery in the British Empire, 1833. It highlighted museum objects and local connections to the era of abolition, including black communities in Peterborough and links between slave-produced sugar and the rise of tea drinking in Georgian Britain. Two special event days included Georgian period re-enactors, historical talks on slavery, African drumming workshops, African food tasting and community displays.
The Bittersweet exhibition was held during the summer of 2007 at Tissington Hall, Derbyshire, home of the FitzHerbert family since the 17th century. The exhibition and accompanying booklet by Frances Wilkins describe life, work and slavery on four Jamaican sugar plantations inherited by the FitzHerbert family in the 18th century - Blue Mountain, Forrest, Grange Hill and Vere, plus the coffee plantation of Retrieve Mountain - and subsequently managed from Tissington Hall. Research of the FitzHerbert papers held at Derbyshire Record Office revealed evidence about the lives of the enslaved and the overseers, the sugar production process and the connections to plantation owners in England. The exhibition was housed at Tissington during 2007 and then was available on loan to other houses in Derbyshire and to local schools. The exhibition coincided with Tissington’s annual Well Dressing celebrations. The special 2007 design to commemorate the bicentenary was by Wendy Greatorex (photographer Glyn Williams). Tissington Hall was one of several member houses of the Historic Houses Association to mark the bicentenary.
The Bittersweet programme by the Gateway Gardens Trust involved 80 free guided garden visits over two years, around more than 30 gardens in Wales with a range of community groups, schoolchildren and lifelong learners. The themes of the visits and a mobile exhibition were the links between the slave trade and historic gardens, their makers, what they planted, Welsh abolitionists and the wider links with local communities in Wales. Historic gardens provided the starting point, looking at how everyday vegetables and fruits - beans, potatoes, tomatoes etc. - first reached the UK from the Americas. The project also looked at the history of afternoon tea, and the links between sugar, cotton and tea and slavery. The groups reflected on how many industries, grand houses and gardens were built from wealth linked to slavery, such as Cyfarthfa Ironworks in Merthyr and the expansion of the slate industry at Penrhyn Quarry. Early 18th century-style newspapers were produced, aimed at schoolchildren and adults.
Gardens involved included Cardiff’s Bute Park, Swansea’s Singleton Park, the National Botanic Garden in Carmarthen, Gwydir Castle in Llanrwst, Dyffryn Gardens, Portmeirion, Penrhyn Castle, Picton Castle, Dinefwr Park and Castle and Aberglasney Gardens.
Plant Invasion was a family event of dance, drama, music and design, celebrating the diverse origins of food in everyday diets. The project looked at the origins of tea, and at the trade routes through Liverpool associated with sugar, coffee, tobacco, rice, cotton and enslaved peoples. The festival was organised by the Liverpool charity Hope Street Ltd, and took place at the Palm House in Liverpool's Sefton Park. Fifteen community groups prepared performances and displays based on their investigations into the journeys of non-indigenous plants and the routes they took in arriving in the UK.
As part of the Revealing Histories: Remembering Slavery project, Manchester Art Gallery highlighted items in its collection of fine art and decorative objects which revealed the wealth generated by the region's involvement in the transatlantic slave trade and the public's consumption of sugar, tea, coffee and tobacco. Additional special events included Tina Tamsho-Thomas performing poetry commissioned in response to the objects connected to sugar. In the exhibition 'Manchester Attitude', local community groups created a new display to express their thoughts about the legacy of Manchester's involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. Examples of these community-led artworks include 'Injustice' (with artists Colette Gilmartin and Tony Curry) and 'Simply Read' (with artist Nathan Carter), available to view on Manchester Art Gallery's website.
This small exhibition at Norwich Castle was part of the Norfolk's Hidden Heritage project. It included portraits of Norfolk-based Thomas Fowell Buxton, who was instrumental in the cause for abolition of British colonial slavery, and Amelia Opie, Norwich poet, author and anti-slavery campaigner. The exhibition also featured rare decorative items from the Castle collections relating to the consumption of tea and sugar, and 18th century books loaned by the Norfolk Heritage Centre. An events programme included lunchtime gallery talks and school activities.
Uncomfortable Truths at the Victoria and Albert Museum sought to expose how embedded the transatlantic slave trade was within British culture during the 18th and 19th centuries through art and design. A series of five trails - 'Traces of the Trade' - explored the permanent collections on display through the following themes: Consuming the Black Atlantic, Black Servants in British Homes, Britain and the West Indies, Representing Slavery and Abolitionism, Gold and Slaves Transnational Trade Links. An exhibition of contemporary art examined the impact of the legacies of slavery on modern art and design. The Victoria and Albert Museum commissioned new works by Yinka Shonibare, Romauld Hazoume, Julien Sinzogan and Keith Piper. These and other contemporary interventions by a total of 11 artists were displayed throughout the museum. This exhibition later toured to Ferens Art Gallery in Hull.
The 'Truth and Rights' season of events highlighted often untold stories of Black British heroes, including focus on the actor Ira Aldridge. Visitors were also offered discussions, debates, displays and an eight week free art course. A two-day conference, 'From Cane Field to Tea Cup: The Impact of the Transatlantic Slave Trade on Art and Design' focused on V&A collections took place in February 2007.
York Castle Museum's Unfair Trade exhibition used the museum's collections to explore slavery from the viewpoint of ordinary people, and how consumption of slave-produced everyday commodities - sugar, tea, coffee, cocoa - contributed to the slave trade. It also looked at the part played by York in the abolition of the slave trade and slavery, with the many Quakers of the city supporting William Wilberforce and helping to finance his election campaign. The exhibition continued the focus on consumption into modern life by asking visitors to consider where the products they buy come from. York Castle Museum features a recreated Victorian street, Kirkgate, with its own newspaper, 'The Kirkgate Examiner'. A special edition was distributed to coincide with the exhibition.
To mark the bicentenary, Manifesta (a not for profit company delivering projects addressing cultural diversity) and the Runnymede Trust (an independent policy research organisation focusing on equality and justice) joined forces to launch a youth and digital media initiative, Video ART (Anti-Racist Trails) Postcards. The project explored connections between slavery, colonialism and contemporary issues of racism and related injustice. In the summer of 2007, two groups of teenagers aged 14-19 from the London Borough of Newham participated in workshops to uncover sites related to historical racism and anti-racism in the West India Docks area of London, assisted by video artists and historians. Using video for self-expression, each participant interpreted this history and heritage by producing a short personal video or 'postcard' - there were 33 videos in total. The videos were made available on an online resource, and a Teacher's Guide was created to be used alongside the website.