A number of events to mark the bicentenary of the Abolition Act of 1807 took place as part of Ilkley Literature Festival in 2007. Authors Caryl Phillips and Ben Okri discussed their work, and writers from the Peepal Tree Press Freedom Project premiered their poetry. 2007 Poet in Residence Rommi Smith invited festival goers to help create a unique literary 'Freedom Quilt', and gave a multi-media performance drawing on her recent visit to the Gambia. Street theatre was provided by performances of Sugar Beat Skank by Regeyshun Dance and the Leeds Bi-centenary Transformation Project. Members of the Leeds Diasporian Stories Research Group shared new material uncovered in the course of their research into the links between Yorkshire and the Atlantic trading world, and actor Joe Williams performed and answered questions as the African abolitionist Olaudah Equiano.
The In Stitches project was led by the African Families Foundation (TAFF) and brought together British, African and African-Caribbean women's quilting groups meeting in London, Liverpool, Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham. The In Stitches Quilt, designed by Janice Gunner, included 60 squares of embroidered images, texts and symbols, depicting historic figures, scenes and artefacts associated with the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition. The Quilt used several of the Adinkra symbols from Africa, originally printed on fabrics worn at funerals by the Akan peoples of Ghana. The accompanying work pack was designed to support learning about slavery based on the four themes of the Quilt: Capture, the Middle Passage, Life in the 'New World', and Proscription of Slavery. The Quilt was unveiled at City Hall in London, and then toured to the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum (Bristol), Central Library (Liverpool), Soho House (Birmingham), the International Quilt Festival (Birmingham) and Central Library (Manchester).
The African and African Caribbean Kultural Heritage Initiative (ACKHI) is a not-for-profit Black Afrikan-led community organisation, with the aim is to promote, protect and preserve the history, heritage and culture, of peoples of Black African heritage living or working in Oxfordshire. The Out of Africa programme of events in 2007 included an exhibition of books about slavery and the slave trade, which toured Oxfordshire libraries, and performances of African music and contemporary dance. The ‘Remembering Slavery’ commemorative service was held in Christ Church Cathedral. ‘Connections’ was a research project looking at Oxfordshire’s links to the system of slavery and the slave trade. ‘InTentCity’ was a visual arts project, in partnership with Fusion Arts, bringing together cultural groups, primary schools and artists to transform tents into works of art – one theme addressed was ‘Freedom’. Reflecting the legacy of the system of slavery and the slave trade, ‘Common Threads’ was an exhibition of textile work by the Textiles for Peace group, local women representing multi-cultural Oxfordshire. In ‘Ancestral Souls’, the African Women’s Art Collection (AWAC) collaborated with women of African descent to produce and exhibit 200 dolls to represent the diaspora of African peoples.
The National Portrait Gallery created a new gallery trail to mark the bicentenary, written by Dr Caroline Bressey. The trail highlighted portraits of key individuals, ranging from Elizabeth I to William Wilberforce, linked to the slave trade and its abolition. Portraits included those who invested in the trade, or who owned slaves and supported slavery, as well as images of enslaved people themselves and of people who were prominent in the movement to abolish the trade. The trail ended with a series of contemporary portraits of individuals involved in preventing slavery today. A week of talks, music, film and family activities included a discussion of the painting 'The Anti-Slavery Convention, 1840' by Benjamin Robert Haydon.
Slavery here! was a project hosted by museums across the Tees Valley led by Preston Hall Museum. It featured an interactive exhibition to explore the story of the Tees Valley’s connections with slavery. For example, the town of Stockton-on-Tees had its own Sugar House, a refinery that processed sugar from the Caribbean. The exhibition also looked at the work of local abolitionist campaigners Dr Robert Jackson and Elizabeth Pease, and the impact of contemporary slavery on today's society. Alongside the exhibition at Preston Hall Museum, other special events included workshops on African drumming and culture, object handling, and introductions to Fair Trade products. The project also produced a commemorative quilt (in collaboration with Newtown Community) and a film, ‘Manacles and Money’.
The Abolition of Slavery Quilt was created to commemorate the bicentenary by the Freedom Quilters of Wisbech, a community group with an interest in patchwork and quilting. The quilt is made of several panels, one of which depicts the Thomas Clarkson memorial in Wisbech town centre; other panels stress the link between Christianity and the abolition of the slave trade. It was displayed at Wisbech Baptist Church at the Annual Rose Fair in July 2007. The Rose Fair Flower Festival raises money for charity, and in 2007 had a theme of 'Heroes of Freedom'. The quilt was also loaned to Peckover House, a National Trust property in Wisbech. It remains on display at Wisbech Baptist Church.
This exhibition in Westminster Hall told the story of the pressures and events, at home and abroad, which influenced Parliament's abolition of the British slave trade in 1807. The Act itself was displayed alongside petitions sent to Parliament by the public. Also on display was Thomas Clarkson's African Box, used on his abolition tours.
As part of the wider project, the Parliamentary Education Service appointed poet and writer Rommi Smith as Parliamentary Writer in Residence to the exhibition. In a series of workshops, Rommi worked with secondary school pupils to explore the historical, social and emotional issues around the transatlantic slave trade in poetry and prose. This included letters and statements that they would have sent to the prime minister of the time, to Olaudah Equiano and other key figures. To mark the UNESCO International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition on 23 August 2007, the Parliamentary Education Unit asked people to submit squares for a commemorative quilt. Some of these designs are available to view on the Parliamentary Archives website, which also uses original source material to tell the story of Parliament's complex relationship with the British slave trade.
The Quaker Quilters of Norwich Quaker Meeting held the Slave Quilts Exhibition at the Friends Meeting House in Norwich in May 2007. By the 1860s in the United States there were organised flights to freedom for enslaved people from the southern plantations via the Underground Railroad – a network of paths leading to the North and Canada. The ‘safe houses’ where assistance was offered on the way were often the homes of Quakers. This exhibition looked to reproduce some of the secret codes said to be hidden within the symbols and patterns featured in quilts made by slaves, to pass on directions to those looking to escape.
Threads of Strength and Fortitude was an exhibition of a series of textiles by artist Penny Sisto, created as a personal response to the bicentenary. The quilts were shipped over from New Albany, Indiana, and exhibited at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. Eight quilts explored the theme of slavery through depictions of servitude, emancipation and the flight to freedom. Pieces on show include 'Slave Ship 1,' which depicts eight enslaved Africans chained by their necks on a slave ship. Another quilt, 'Ran Away', showed a farmer leading Underground Railroad travellers by lantern light. The exhibition was accompanied by an interactive DVD, 'Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage: Men and Women of the Underground Railroad in the Indiana and Kentucky Borderland'. There was also a series of events, including guest lectures and workshops on the subject of the abolition of slavery aimed at school and community groups. Art-based workshops explored the themes of peaceful resistance.
The Friends of Narberth Museum presented an exhibition which examined the people, places and events in West Wales with links to the transatlantic slave trade and the campaign for abolition. Children from local schools worked with copies of documents and diaries relevant to the Narberth area, and designed their own commemorative plates. Events included a talk on the Underground Railroad and quilting, a children’s writing workshop, and a Deep South supper with music.