The Manchester Museum 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.
The Manchester Museum examined the role of Victorian institutions in promoting the racist thinking that justified slavery; objects and images in the museum's collections were identified as having been used to support racist ideas. Events and workshops included a debate based on the question 'Are museums racist?', plus sessions on African dance traditions. 'This Accursed Thing' was a promenade performance around the museum, examining the transatlantic slave trade through the eyes of those involved - abolitionists and traders, slavers and slaves - and looking at ways in which individuals attempted to dispel racist myths. The 'Myths about Race' exhibition was the culmination of Manchester Museum's participation in the Revealing Histories project.
Remembering Slavery 2007 involved 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, and identify connections with the region.
The Freedom Performance was a collaboration between Tyne and Wear Museums, Dance City (a dance school in Newcastle), professional artists, performers and community and youth groups from across Northumberland and Tyne and Wear. The performance was inspired by music, dance, literature and objects relating to the slave trade and its legacy.
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.
The North East Cultural Diversity Arts Forum (NECDAF) is an umbrella organisation for arts and cultural organisations promoting arts practitioners from ethnic minority communities in North East England. Liberation Lullabies was their event to commemorate the Abolition Act at the Tyneside Cinema in Gateshead. The show featured Congolese singer Robert Maseko and his band Congobeat, and the Sun Dance group performing traditional African dance,
The 'Routes to Freedom' season of events took place throughout Autumn 2007 at The Drum, an intercultural arts venue in Birmingham. The programme explored the struggle for social justice and equality in relation to African, Asian and Caribbean communities, and marked two key historical events and their impact: the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act and the 60th anniversary of the partition of the Indian subcontinent. The programme was made up of theatre productions, touring exhibitions, film screenings, readings, dance performances and special events, including 'Coolies of the Caribbean' and a conference about Olaudah Equiano.
20 young people from the Aston area of Birmingham worked on a commemorative project exploring the impact of the 1807 Act on the African, Caribbean and Asian communities in the UK and the contributions of these communities to British society since then. Their performance at The Drum showcased poetry, singing and dance.
'The Cotton Tree Passage' was a dance theatre production by Koromanti Arts performed at The Drum in Birmingham as part of the Routes to Freedom season. The production depicted the spiritual passage of slavery from Africa to the Caribbean and the UK. A collaboration between 'H' Patten and dance, music, film and visual artists, this piece combined multimedia techniques and contemporary African, Caribbean and urban dance, including African hip-life and Jamaican dancehall.
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.
East Riding's Freedom Festival in 2007 commemorated the abolition of the slave trade and explored issues of modern day slavery through a multi-sensory performance featuring pupils from mainstream and special schools in the East Riding area. The play was in three parts - the transatlantic slave trade, emancipation and modern day slavery. Resources and activities from the project were then made available to schools interested in developing an inclusive arts project.
Crystal Clear Creators is a not-for-profit arts organisation based in the East Midlands. Reflecting on the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade enabled a series of community creative writing workshops in Leicester exploring themes of the slave trade. The workshops involved talks from experts in the field, a tour of relevant places of interest, and research at the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Records Office. Those involved then wrote, produced, recorded and broadcast radio dramas on the subject, and held a day of performances for the public. The project was developed with Leicester's Arts forum LACAF and Mainstream Partnership. A follow-on project in 2009-10, Reflections: The Trans-Atlantic Slave-Trade, was a course for young people about the transatlantic slave trade, which included researching and writing about the subject. The project culminated in a day of performances and an exhibition at New Walk Museum.
Leicester's Black History Season in October-November 2007 marked the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. Its aim was to redress the balance from a 'Eurocentric point of view' of abolition, and focus on the Afrikan perspective with the theme of 'Souls of Black Folk'. Musical performances included gospel, Motown, reggae and jazz. Other events in venues across Leicester and Loughborough included traditional South African dance, contemporary dance, performance poetry, comedy, multimedia performances, storytelling, theatre and an exhibition, 'Africa's Gift', focusing on the economic and cultural contributions of the slaves and their descendants.
The Sing Freedom project was based on the Spirituals sung by African peoples as a response to being enslaved. The generally Christian songs often contained instructions about escape and resistance. The project was a collaboration between Kainé Management Group, Leicester African Caribbean Arts Forum, Leicester City Council Arts & Museum Service and Library Service. It included research into the songs, a touring exhibition, and performances. A series of song writing workshops for young people in partnership with BBC Radio Leicester aimed to give each participant an understanding of the effects of slavery and perceptions they have on present day freedom. At Leicester Guildhall Kainé Gospel Choir and friends came together for an evening celebrating the Spirituals, where songs such as The Gospel Train, Wade in the Water and Swing Low Sweet Chariot were sung.
A collaborative project to explore the links between Southampton and the slave trade led by Southampton City Council, the University of Southampton and The Confederation of African Caribbean Communities. One highlight of the programme was a concert at the Turner Sims Concert Hall at the University of Southampton to celebrate the impact of black music and black musicians. The concert, part of Black History Month 2007, featured the works of black composers such as Joseph Bologna and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, performed by the Southampton Youth Orchestra, Southampton Youth Choir and the Southampton Youth Jazz Orchestra.
A carnival of dance held at Moggerhanger Park in Bedfordshire in Summer 2008 to mark the bicentenary. The project was led by arts organisation T. Hop (The H'art of Performance) with schoolchildren from Stephenson Lower and Moggerhanger Lower School. The theme was the history of carnival and slavery in Trinidad.
The Greater London Authority produced an Events Guide for Londoners in 2007 detailing some of the initiatives taking place in the capital involving the Mayor. This included Africa Day on Trafalgar Square, celebrating the positive contributions of London's African communities, and 'Rise: London United', an anti-racist music festival. The conference 'Faith Symposium: In God's Name?' at City Hall examined the role of the Church in the transatlantic slave trade. There was also a seminar on the legacies of the transatlantic slave trade from a Caribbean perspective and a Caribbean Publishers Book Fair held at London Metropolitan University. The Dr Eric E. Williams Memorial Lecture Series at City Hall was made available as a webcast.
2007 saw a number of different projects taking place at Harewood House in West Yorkshire, home of the Lascelles family. The bicentenary was used as an opportunity to explore the family connections with the transatlantic slave trade and the sugar plantations of the West Indies.
To spotlight Harewood House's historic links with the Caribbean and carnival, in September 2007 a production of Carnival Messiah was held in a Big Top in the grounds. Carnival Messiah is a reinvention of George Frideric Handel’s oratorio Messiah as carnival theatre and heritage experience. The West Indian celebration features dancers, singers, masqueraders, musicians and actors. Stories from the Caribbean folk tradition, medieval mystery plays and African ritual combine with contemporary popular music and dance styles, including gospel, calypso, reggae, jazz, hop hop, bhangra and steel band. Geraldine Connor was Creator and Artistic Director and David Lascelles of Harewood House was Executive Producer. A community education and outreach programme ran alongside the project.
Bridgetower - A Fable of 1807 is a jazz opera composed by jazz pianist Julian Joseph, with libretto by author Mike Phillips. It was commissioned for the City of London Festival's bicentennial commemoration of the Abolition Act. The opera recreates the story of the Afro-European violinist George Polgreen Bridgetower (1778-1860), who was born into slavery, became a friend of Beethoven and was acclaimed throughout Europe for the standard of his playing. The opera was directed by Helen Eastman and toured by English Touring Opera. It opened during the 2007 City of London Festival at London Symphony Orchestra St Luke's, and later toured venues around the UK. Each performance featured a local community choir, with members drawn from local amateur choirs.
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.
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.