Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame is an acclaimed stage musical which highlights the contributions and achievements made by black men and women in the world of sports, science and entertainment. First launched as a community project in 1987 at the Shaw Theatre in Camden, the production was created by Flip Fraser in collaboration with JD Douglas and Khareem Jamal. The show was the first all-black cast production to play in the West End. It returned in 2007 with a new line-up of characters, songs and dances, and recreated significant moments in black history including Kings and Queens of Africa, Freedom Fighters, Great Entertainers as well as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey and Nelson Mandela. The musical toured London, Croydon, Nottingham, Oxford and Bristol in 2007.
Sugar Beat Skank was a reggae-theatre performance presented by Regeyshun Dance and commissioned by the Leeds Bicentenary Transformation Project. It explored 'African antiquity and the spirit of abolition', and gave voice to narratives linking the histories and cultures of Africa and Yorkshire. Sugar Beat Skank was performed at outdoor and indoor events across Yorkshire, including Ilkley Literature Festival in 2007.
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.
In Autumn 2007, the opera 'The Woman Who Refused To Dance' by composer and conductor Shirley J Thompson was performed at Westminster Palace, Houses of Parliament. The piece was based on a 1792 print by Isaac Cruickshank - entitled 'The abolition of the slave trade, or the inhumanity of dealers in human flesh exemplified in the cruel treatment of a young negro girl of 15 for her virgin modesty' - depicting a woman who refused to dance on board a slave ship, and who was hung from one leg as punishment. The opera has recently been re-premiered to mark the 210th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.
The dance-theatre production Heartbeat Riddim Chant was based on the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade. The production premiered at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds in July 2007, and mixed dance, live music and voice, including traditional Caribbean folk dancing blended with contemporary reggae. The show was choreographed by David Hamilton, and featured dancers from Regeyshun Dance and members of the community dance group Back Bone. There were also performances from youth dance groups and young voices from across Leeds, including LS7 Result, Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Gee4orce and Leeds Young Authors.
The Sounds of Slavery was a project by the performance and visual arts group River Niger Arts to research, record and develop a performance-related programme around the musical heritage and legacy of slavery. The project took particular interest in these themes in relation to the City of Liverpool, but also addressed them in global terms. The project created a database of songs and narratives from the period of slavery. Members of the River Niger Orchestra also performed at a Sounds of Slavery performance at Liverpool Hope University. Some of the songs performed included 'The Chase', 'No More Auction Block' and the African American spiritual 'The Jubilee Song'. The project was accompanied by a series of performance and visual arts education workshops with schools.
An evening of presentations and music organised by Fife Workers' Educational Association, examining Fife and Scotland's role in the slave trade and abolition, and efforts to end contemporary slavery.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.