Thursday, 31 July 2014

"Slavery is closer than you think" - 31st July

Today has seen the launch of the Modern Slavery campaign ( to raise awareness and help victims of slavery. This reinforces the aim of the William Wilberforce Monument Fund to not only “light the monument” but also to “light the message”. Our message is that slavery exists around the world today and the UK is not immune to it. Our campaign is homegrown and was started to remember past achievements of this city and start a conversation about current issues around slavery.

Wilberforce and his fellow abolitionists around the world started us off along the road but somewhere along the line, their efforts have been undermined and it is for each of us to do what we can to support their efforts and make them count.  

It is difficult to admit that slavery exists in this country and yet it does. The Human Trafficking Foundation suggests that more than 20,000 people are working in slavery in the UK. In this country the most common forms are in agriculture, brothels and domestic roles. The estimated 29 million people still enslaved around the world tells us that there is much to be done and that there is a moral call to do something.

Help us in our campaign to light the monument and draw attention to the fact that Hull was instrumental in starting the path to abolition, and that Hull recognises the need for the world to do more to realise the Wilberforce ethos of freedom and fairness.

Past blog entries (21st April and 8th June) mention issues around the Modern Slavery Bill but more than ever as we become more informed, it becomes imperative that the politicians play their part and move to get this bill through parliament before the next general election.

Please continue to support us - all fundraising is welcome. Homage to the Emancipator, the book about how the monument was built and moved is now in Waterstones in Hull and at the University branch, priced £5.99. Go out, get yourself a copy and support the campaign!

Image taken from the Tumblr page of California-based anti-slavery organisation Made In A Free World.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Onwards and upwards - 15th July

As a campaign that started at the end of November with the aim of raising awareness of the work of William Wilberforce and the abolitionists, we are pleased that the conversation is gaining its own momentum with the proposed move of the monument. Those unfamiliar with Wilberforce will now ask who he was and what he stood for and take a keener interest in the monument itself. In a previous blog entry (23rd March) we challenged many people to try and locate the plaque on the ground at its previous site.

Illuminating the monument was our second aim for which we hoped to raise funds through fundraising activities, donations, heritage grants and arts funding. The announcement last week does not change this as the aim is the same, only the location may be different. We still need to raise the money and public support is still meaningful. Our target for the first year was to raise £5,000 through fundraising and donations. This currently stands at just over £3,000 and we hope to meet our target by the end of the year.

Ordinary local people helped raise money to build the monument and so did those who attended public meetings held in Leeds, Sheffield, Halifax, Doncaster, Beverley, Huddersfield, Ripon, Driffield, Richmond and Whitby together with the wealthy and landed gentry. Money was tight even in 1834 because there was a rival bid to build York School for the Blind as the preferred ‘monument’ to commemorate the work of Wilberforce. York had a higher profile than Hull and so most of the money was redirected there which made the Wilberforce monument even harder to fund (You can learn more in our book Homage to the Emancipator).

Whether the monument is moved or not, the contribution of the public will be small compared to the overall cost of the project. However, to honour the massive achievements and vision that Wilberforce realised will be immensely worthwhile. If you take a look at the monument, you will see that it proudly proclaims “erected by voluntary subscription”. This sense of achievement would be reflected in each individual who contributes to lighting the monument beyond 2017 knowing that they helped to make it happen. Some things only happen when someone takes the first step, and that’s what this campaign did. Let’s make this a joint effort.

Also this week, we'd like to say thank you to Wilberforce College for hosting us during their open day this week. Thank you to the young man who came to our stand and, when asked who Wilberforce was, said, “Yes, he was a top lad” - we couldn’t agree with him more!

Please continue to support us and help us to raise funds.

Image taken from the Hull City Council website.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Proposed plans for Hull city centre

The William Wilberforce Monument Fund’s original endeavour was to light the monument in its current location on Wilberforce Drive, however the Fund is pleased to support Hull City Council in their efforts to regenerate the city.

If as part of this regeneration the Wilberforce Monument is relocated close to its original site and is also lit, then one of our aims will be achieved.  The relocation of the monument to a more prominent site will bring a greater visibility and interest that will lend itself to an understanding of the historic endeavours of Wilberforce and the other abolitionists.

We are in an age where the Wilberforce legacy is as relevant today as it was when slavery was first raised into the spotlight over two centuries ago. The move will serve as a reminder of the issues of modern day slavery especially in light of the current debate around the new bill.

Please support us by purchasing our book about the history of the monument, Homage to the Emancipator.

Image donated by Ian Parkinson of his Uncle Harry out on top of the Wilberforce monument, as it was being moved from its original site.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Slavery as 'secret history' - 6th July update

Slavery as 'secret history'

Some aspects of slavery can be a ‘secret history’ hidden from gaze unless you are curious enough to seek it out - a task made slightly more accessible by recent films. There appears to be no such shyness at proclaiming the strength and reach of the British Empire with its many colonies, but rarely are we encouraged to examine the concept of Britannia - at least not beyond the notion of Britain as a supreme power.

Our resistance to acknowledge unpleasantness is long standing and apparent even in the time of Wilberforce. This invariably made the battle to affect change a difficult one for himself and his fellow abolitionists. In the early beginnings of the abolitionist movement, Granville Sharp made headway by winning the Somersett case that allowed Africans brought to these shores to rest in the assurance that they would not be kidnapped and resold. This also became a means of keeping the business end of slavery away from here.

This however had the side effect of allowing people to pretend things that happen ‘out there’ are abstract and do not impact over here. But it did and it still does; only now it is no longer just ‘over there’. For those of us who travel (particularly in larger cities) it may be that the fingers of slavery have touched some of the people we have glided past without a second glance. The reality of modern day slavery may be closer to you than you will ever know, and if not through the people in our vicinity, we have been unwitting participants by eating itwearing it, or using something linked with it.

Modern day slavery is pernicious and unlike that of the past it holds little preference for race or colour; it is all embracing and inclusive. It is wider than we would like to imagine and this time the trick is not to pretend it doesn’t exist. That is the reason behind this campaign.

Update - 6th July

Wilberforce and his fellow abolitionists here and abroad started the journey towards freedom from enslavement, a journey that is yet to be completed. We see raising awareness as a key part of understanding the past and as a means of making a greater impact on the present. We are therefore delighted to hear that Biggin Hill Primary School in Hull will have Wilberforce as a subject on their curriculum as part of their Settlements topic which looks at Hull and famous people of the city. This will take them towards 2017 as a group of young experts! We will continue to encourage more educational establishments to do the same.

This week also sees us release a new book about the Wilberforce Monument, Homage to the Emancipator. This is the first book on the monument and has been researched and written by one of our trustees, Dr Carolyn Conroy, an art historian. You can read the synopsis on the author’s page and buy a copy through the link on the right side of the blog or by emailing us.

This week's image is a Frith's Series postcard of the Technical College in Hull, now known as Hull College, with the monument visible in front of it.