Dark Heritage from Bee Arts Community Interest Company comprised The DARK, a sonic art installation, and accompanying participatory educational activities. The DARK touring installation is a pitch black space designed to bring home the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade in the 18th century. The three dimensional soundscape uses ghosts as metaphors for the hidden aspects of the past, based on the Liverpudlian slave-ship worker Edward Rushton, slave ship Captain John Newton, and Kunie, an African man who met Rushton aboard an American ship. A programme of public sessions and creative educational workshops aimed at schools, colleges, youth and community groups were produced in collaboration with Kingswood Primary School in Lambeth. Dark Heritage travelled to six locations in the UK in 2007-08 starting in Greenwich, travelling to Ipswich, Gloucester, University of Hertfordshire, Norwich and finishing in Manchester.
London Shakespeare Workout presented a new 21-song musical, celebrating the life of the African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dunbar's parents were freed slaves and he used some of their tales of plantation life in his work. Set backstage in a British theatre in 1897, the play explored themes such as love and loneliness, racial interactions, and the abolition of the slave trade. With an original score by Tim Williams, the play opened in Westcliffe, and toured 26 venues around the UK. Each performance was followed by a ‘talk-back’, allowing audience members to share their views on the issues raised by the production. Special interactive workshops were also created for schools and community groups to bring the concepts of slavery and abolition to life through history and literature.
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.
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.
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.
Norfolk’s Hidden Heritage was a partnership project between the Norwich and Norfolk Racial Equality Council (NNREC), the Norfolk Record Office (NRO) and the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service (NMAS) which researched the links between Norfolk and transatlantic slavery. For example, many slaving voyages left England from King's Lynn, while the Dalling family of Norfolk owned the Donnington Castle plantation in Jamaica. The exhibition, curated by Norfolk Record Office, won an award for the Best Black History Project for the East of England from the Black History Society. The website provided an interactive timeline to trace Norfolk’s Hidden Heritage from 1670 to today. There was also a database to search for important people, places and dates. Workshops were run in a number of schools, and information packs distributed. More widely, the project worked with the University of East Anglia, Norwich City College, the Prison Service and the Youth Offending Team. As part of the project, Norwich Academy Drama Group put together the production 'Diary of a Son of Africa', about an enslaved African who eventually gained his freedom.