The Songs of Slavery CD and booklet were produced by a community-based project, led by the Hull and East Riding branch of the Historical Association. The project was part of the Wilberforce 2007 initiative in Hull. Songs of Slavery recorded 19 songs relating to slavery, alongside six short narratives. Most of the songs date from the mid-19th century and were originally composed and sung by enslaved peoples. Some were based on religious beliefs, others also contained coded messages to aid escape and resistance. The Songs of Slavery tracks were sung or narrated by local choirs, singers and musicians, together with students from local schools and colleges.
The Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE) was officially opened in Hull in 2006 in anticipation of the city's bicentenary commemorations. The University of Hull research centre specialises in researching the history of slavery, while also examining contemporary slavery and human rights abuses in the present day. The patron of the institute is Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the institute was opened by then President of Ghana, John Agyekum Kufuor. The WISE Humanitarian Wall commemorates historical and contemporary figures in the struggle against slavery, including Olaudah Equiano, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Nelson Mandela.
Campaign! Make an Impact was a British Library developed programme that used history to inspire young people into active citizenship. The Bitter Sweet Project involved students from Easingwold School engaging with collections from the British Library, Hull Museums Service and Harewood House. Year 9 students studied the 1807 campaign to abolish the transatlantic slave trade and then created a graphic novel about Harewood House’s links to the sugar trade.
La Bouche du Roi was created by artist Romauld Hazoumé, who lives and work in the Republic of Benin, West Africa. The multi-media artwork is named after a place on the coast of Benin from where enslaved Africans were transported. It comprised 304 plastic petrol can 'masks', each representing a person, arranged in the shape of the woodcut of the Liverpool slave ship Brookes. The aroma of tobacco and spices are represented alongside the terrible smells of a slave ship. The artwork was accompanied by a film showing the motorcyclists who transport petrol illegally between Nigeria and the Republic of Benin. The cans and motorcyclists are metaphors for modern forms of enslavement and resistance. First exhibited at the British Museum in London, La Bouche du Roi toured to the following venues during 2007-9: Ferens Art Gallery in Hull, International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, Bristol's City Museum and Art Gallery, Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, and the Horniman Museum in London.
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.
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.
A performance by the London Shakespeare Workout based on George MacDonald Fraser's novel 'Black Ajax'. The play, set in Regency England, tells the historical tale of two enslaved men through dialogue, song and verse. One slave is from America, another is from Africa. The former, Tom Molineaux, becomes the first Black Prize Fighter in Britain. Black Atlas featured an original score by Tim Williams. The play opened in Cambridge and toured to 40 different venues around the UK.
In conjunction with York Theatre Royal, Riding Lights Theatre Company produced a new play written by Murray Watts, directed by Paul Burbridge, with original music by Nigerian musician Ben Okafor. African Snow: Secrets of the trade was originally commissioned by the Church Mission Society, an organisation founded in 1799 by representatives of the abolition movement, including William Wilberforce. The play sought to explore the ideas associated with antislavery and how they can be put to use in the modern day campaign for the end of slavery. Opening at York, the play went on to have a West End Transfer followed by a national tour. The main characters are John Newton, the converted slave-trader who later wrote 'Amazing Grace', and the former slave and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano. The play saw them confronting each other’s differing perspectives, creating a dialogue in which the audience could witness alternative views towards slavery. A 'snow' was a class of ship, commonly used for the transportation of slaves. 'The African' was the first slave ship on which John Newton sailed.
The Sites of Memory project was the first research by English Heritage (now Historic England) to provide an overview for the public of the buildings, memorials and grave sites across England that reflects the role of the slave trade in British history, and resistance to it. The project explored the history of Black people in Britain during the 18th and 19th centuries by exploring the stories behind the historic built environment of local streets, buildings and landmarks. The research (by historians Angelina Osborne and S. I. Martin, on behalf of English Heritage) also identified sites associated with the slave trade and plantation wealth, and with the abolitionists who campaigned for an end to slavery. English Heritage also made recommendations for new listings for historic sites that mark the Black presence.
As part of the Wilberforce 2007 programme, ArtLink Exchange, a community arts organisation in Hull, worked with local schoolchildren to produce an exhibition of artwork inspired by the bicentenary. This included artwork created by pupils from Sir Henry Cooper School and Endeavour High with artist Isaac Acheampong.
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.
Part of Wilberforce 2007, the Walking with Wilberforce Heritage Trail is a journey through Hull's Old Town, via twelve important landmarks related to William Wilberforce and the theme of freedom. Along the trail is the Humanitarian Wall, at the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation, constructed in 2006 to commemorate worldwide actions for human rights and justice. The ceramic markers, inspired by the Sankofa bird, were designed especially for the trail by three community and art groups from Hull's Africa Forum, from Hull College ceramic students and from local schools working in collaboration with two local ceramic artists. The trail was launched with a celebration of African culture led by students from Hull schools and the local Congolese community.
This sixty-mile walking trail was devised to commemorate the bicentenary by East Riding Local Strategic Partnership's Community Cohesion Forum and the Yorkshire and Humber Faiths Forum. The trail connects some of the important places in the life of the abolitionist William Wilberforce: it starts in Hull (where Wilberforce was born), connects with Pocklington in the East Riding of Yorkshire (where he attended school) and finishes at York (where he was declared MP for the County of Yorkshire).
Hull Truck Theatre supported Wilberforce 2007 with two specially commissioned productions, Slavers and Sold, and a playwright festival. For one week in August 2007, Hull Truck Youth Theatre presented Slavers, set in 2007, which told the story of abolition through the eyes of young people in Hull. Written by Rupert Creed and directed by Karen Dainty, the play followed a group of school leavers and their potentially prosperous business-start up, trading in human cargo. When some started questioning the morality behind the business, the audience was transported back to the debates of Wilberforce and his allies two hundred years previously. Another play, ‘Sold’, in conjunction with Liverpool Hope University, sought to raise awareness about the victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation today.
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.
Wilberforce House Museum re-opened in 2007 after a significant redevelopment. In 1907 the 17th century building, and William Wilberforce’s birthplace and home in Hull’s Old Town, became Britain's first museum of the history of slavery. In 2007, the museum was fully refurbished with new displays. Some of these showcased existing collections, including those relating to the life of their famous patron, the slave trade and plantation life. Other displays engaged with themes considered absent from former interpretations, including the wider abolition movement. Another significant new feature was the inclusion of two galleries relating to modern slavery and human rights. These exhibits drew attention to local and global issues, with objects donated by members of the local community and contemporary antislavery campaign groups.
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 Museums had a programme of special exhibitions at the Ferens Art Gallery commemorating Wilberforce 2007. The Abolitionist's Parlour was a new work commissioned by the Gallery. The video installation by artist Keith Piper explored the role of William Wilberforce through the writings of a fictional black woman and ex-slave. Uncomfortable Truths: The Shadow of Slave Trading on Contemporary Art, in partnership with the Victoria and Albert Museum, explored the uncomfortable relationship between art, design and slavery through the work of eleven international artists. The international audio-visual exhibition Anne Frank + You explored the thoughts and themes from Anne Frank's diary which included conflict, racism, democracy and freedom. Mind Forg'd Manacles: William Blake and Slavery was an exhibition of rare watercolours and prints by William Blake, on loan from the British Museum. Ferens Art Gallery also hosted La Bouche du Roi by Romuald Hazoume, a multi-media exhibition based around the Brookes slave ship.
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.
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.