How BBC London and our audience marked the bicentenary
By Penny Wrout, BBC London Communities Editor
Passage of Time - Uncovering the Untold Histories of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, was a unique event organised by BBC London and The British Library. Here are the various elements which made up the day, including lectures, readings and music.
Detail from 'Slavery' frieze
On March 24th 2007, BBC London ran an event for viewers and listeners called;
Passage of Time - Uncovering the Untold Histories of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
Nearly 200 people arrived at the British Library, which was co-hosting the event with us. They came to hear lectures, readings, music and a debate.
Juwon Ogungbe and Scilla Stewart
The most successful campaigns are always conducted on a number of levels; political, intellectual, literary, or artistic, to name just some.
One way we achieved that was by celebrating the role of Ignatius Sancho, one of the black abolitionists who was active in 18th century London and who was also a man of culture and musical talent.
We also wanted to create something on the day, which in a small way would be a lasting reminder of the event and what it symbolised. Mahogany, a leading group of multi-disciplinary artists who design and create large scale kinetic sculptures, enabled us to do that.
Boy painting 'Freedom' frieze
Mahogany generally make carnival costumes and have contributed to world events including the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. On this occasion though, we asked them to work with the public but against the clock, to produce two 3 metre long friezes by the end of the day. One is entitled Slavery, the other Freedom.
You can click on the video link to see Evadney Campbell's report showing how the pictures developed during the day as well as excerpts from Ignatius Sancho's songs.
Thomas Clarkson was one of the founder members of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1787. He was a young scholar when he first turned his attention to the cause, largely because he wanted to win an essay prize at Cambridge which had slavery as its subject.
Olaudah Equiano is the best-known of the former slaves who fought for the freedom of others. His book 'The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African', was published in 1789, the very height of the campaign to abolish slavery.
Patrick Robinson and Jan Lower
William Wilberforce first brought his Abolition Bill before Parliament in 1789, the same year that Equiano's book was published. But powerful economic forces were at work and it wasn't until 1807 that MPs finally voted for abolition. Nevertheless, that early Wilberforce speech, made a huge impact.
You can see the actors' performances by clicking on the relevant vido files. Patrick Robinson has numerous TV and film credits to his name and was recently in the Royal Shakespeare Company's acclaimed production of Much Ado About Nothing. Jan Lower, is an actor who ten years ago left the theatre to set up ‘Elbow Productions', a specialist film company for museums and exhibitions. He is currently working on a project for the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool.
Alex D Great plays out the show.
Lecture 1. An Examination of the Wider Historical Context of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, by Dr Hakim Adi.
Dr Adi is Reader in the History of Africa and the African Diaspora at Middlesex University. He is a founder member of the Black and Asian Studies Association, which he currently chairs. He has written widely on the history of Pan-Africanism and is author of several books, including three history books for children. You can read the full text of his lecture or click on the audio link to hear him deliver it. Also, don't miss his separate article on our website about London's historic ties with the Slave Trade.
Peter Herbert answers questions
Lecture 2. The Legacies of Slavery for Contemporary British People by Peter Herbert.
Peter Herbert is a barrister and chair of the Society of Black Lawyers. He is known as a campaigning human rights advocate whose interests span employment discrimination, deaths in custody and child care law. He is currently a member of the Attorney General’s Race Advisory Committee, and has sat as an immigration judge since 1996. You can hear Peter Herberts lecture by clicking the audio link.
Debate: What Should the Legacy of this Anniversary be?
Both lecturers were joined on stage towards the end of the day by Esther Stanford and Joseph Harker.
With BBC London's Dotun Adebayo in the chair, the four panelists discussed what they would like to see in perpetuity, following the bicentenary. There were also numerous contributions from the floor. You can hear the debate by clicking on the audio link.
Members of the public who attended our day also contributed their thoughts and reflections for a commemorative book. You can see their comments on the seperate page on our website, and please feel free to add your own. And don't miss our photo gallery from the day (both links at the top of this page).
last updated: 09/04/2008 at 09:19