Saturday, 31 December 2016

Goodbye to 2016

As 2016 rolls into 2017 with all the excitement this year of culture will bring, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you, our supporters, for staying interested and providing your encouragement as we move into the fourth year of the charity.

This year we have held hugely enjoyable fundraising events such as the Wilberforce quiz and the sponsored walk, which raised much-needed funds.

We also launched our sister project, the Heritage Lottery Funded African Stories in Hull and East Yorkshire. The project has quickly become very popular in terms of website visits and Facebook ( and Twitter ( interactions.

If you haven’t visited the African Stories project yet please take a look; it presents the stories of people of African descent in this region, taking the Wilberforce timeline of 1750 to 2007. We have already recovered many stories, much to the delight and surprise of a number of people who felt that Black history was most unlikely in this county.

We have also been delighted in the number of people who have been keen to share their own personal history in our Contemporary Voices oral histories, held in conjunction with the James Reckitt Library Trust. We look forward to an exhibition on 25th September 2017 at the Hull History Centre as part of the City of Culture celebrations and at Beverley Treasure House in Spring 2018.

It was apt that on 18th October, Anti-Slavery Day, Hull City Council gave us the good news that planning consent had been permitted for our application to gild the Scroll of Abolition held in William Wilberforce’s right hand on top of the monument. Within the week we had acted on this, and by 24th October, work had begun as we commissioned royal gilders Hare and Humphreys to undertake the work. This took 3 days were the scroll was double gilded in 23.5 carat gold leaf that will last throughout this century and into the next, seeing out the tercentenary of abolition! This continues to create a talking point as more people notice the glint of gold, raising the profile of the efforts of all those involved in the abolition movement and bringing prominence to the most important aspect of the story. (See the scroll gilding featured on Yorkshire-based Estuary TV here.)

Our efforts to draw greater awareness of the Wilberforce story and Hull’s involvement in it started with the idea of lighting the Wilberforce monument. We are continuing to speak to Hull City Council and the 2017 Culture team to make this happen at an appropriate point within the calendar of other events.

Supporters will know that it had been our intention that the monument would be light at night by the beginning of 2017 but that has not been possible. We hope to confirm a date soon and it is our intention that the lighting of the monument will be symbolic in its timing and in what it represents so watch this space.

Happy New Year!!

Image 1: December's test lighting of the Wilberforce monument by lighting artist Nayan Kulkani. Image 2: The Wilberforce monument with the gilded scroll.

Monday, 31 October 2016

A Week in the Press...

Last week's scroll gilding saw the Fund mentioned heavily in the regional press. View scans of the main articles below.

Hull Daily Mail (click to enlarge):

Yorkshire Post (click to enlarge):

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

William's Golden Scroll

On Anti-Slavery Day last week, we learnt that planning consent had been given for us to gild the Wilberforce scroll. So we engaged the royal gilders, Hare & Humphreys, to carry out the work and one week later it is done.

Thank you to all of you who have encouraged and contributed to the project. Thanks also to Jamie, Damien and Dave the Master Gilder.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

The Dark Side of the Premier League Dream

Look around Europe’s elite football leagues in 2016 and you will find young African players at the core of many top sides. Take the Premier League for instance; whether it is Kenyan midfield rock Victor Wanyama at Tottenham; Ivorian defensive talent Eric Bailly at Manchester United, or Nigerian sensation Kelechi Iheanacho at Manchester City, African stars are lighting up the competition and serving as aspirational figures to the millions back home. Their status embodies the European dream – not only in the sense of sporting achievement, but also in the elevated profile and monumental wealth that such a position promises. Every year, thousands of young Africans hope to pursue this dream. However, swooping over the horizon are vultures that unscrupulously eye the lucrative rewards of exploiting these hopes for financial benefit.

Take 16-year-old Luc for example. Promised a trial in Europe by an agent in exchange for £6,500, his parents borrowed the money in his native Cameroon from loan sharks. They hoped that their risk would pay off thousands of times over through their son signing for a European club. But on arrival, the so-called ‘agent’ disappeared, abandoning Luc in the middle of Paris.

Maurice, a 15-year-old from the Ivory Coast, was promised a trial in Switzerland for £2,500. After his father borrowed the money, the trial’s location changed to Thailand and after a few inconclusive trials, he too was abandoned.

Or how about Ben, a 16-year-old Cameroonian whose family raided their life savings for €3,000 to pay for a promised trial at Paris Saint-Germain? On arrival in Paris, his ‘agent’ made his excuses and abandoned him in a hotel in the French capital.

These stories are repeated thousands of times over. Deceitful agent offers glimpse of European dream to young footballer. Agent takes money from family of child and arranges travel. Child left thousands of miles from home, penniless, homeless, and often forced to turn to crime to survive. Meanwhile, the family, who often borrowed the money from local loan sharks, are left with crippling debts that they are unable to pay off.

Sometimes abandonment is only the start of the struggle. Al Bangura played in the Premier League for Watford after being promised a trial by an agent in Guinea. That wasn’t the agent’s real intention however; Al was initially brought into the UK to work in a male prostitution ring. He was lucky and escaped – many are not so fortunate.

In 2009, the United Nations reported that the riches of modern-day football had caused it to spawn its own modern-day slave trade. The lucrative nature of trafficking is increasing its popularity, even attracting those who previously would have focused on diamond and timber smuggling. As long as young boys have dreams of following in the footsteps of their football heroes, there are dreams for the vultures to feed from. But how has this been allowed to happen, and what is being done about it?

If we look at the governing body of world football, FIFA, for answers, we come up short. Their own integrity has been infamously challenged in recent years, and they deregulated the agent industry in April 2015 (link via The Conversation) making it easier for fake agents to slip through the net. Their legislation has been criticised as unfit for purpose by Ed Hawkins, author of The Lost Boys: Inside Football's Slave Trade. FIFA’s Article 19 states that clubs cannot sign players under the age of 18, but Hawkins criticises its caveats, stating, “it's not worth the paper it's written on, it's just for window dressing by FIFA, they have given get out clause for clubs to do what they like.”

But FIFA cannot be criticised alone. Migration expert James Esson says “this [human trafficking] is a political hot potato for Fifa... in their defence it is a crime that goes beyond their control.” Concerted pressure is necessary from governments in the territories where these crimes are being committed. Immigration departments need to be vigilant when assessing African children travelling to Europe, and there has been a lack of focus in this area. "For governments and FAs in the region, the trafficking of young players is not a priority... the victims become lost individuals, who nobody wants to do anything about," said Jake Marsh of the International Centre for Sport Security.

The only charity set up to combat the growing issue of human trafficking in football is Foot Solidaire. An organisation set up by Jean-Claude Mbvoumin (a former Cameroon international), Foot Solidaire has helped many young Africans caught in the trafficking trap, including some of the boys mentioned above. They have protested that the scale of trafficking is beyond them and their limited funding, and that more needs to be done by governing bodies.

When Hawkins’ research is applied to Foot Solidaire however, the problem becomes more complex. In research for The Lost Boys, Hawkins was contacted by 20-year-old Japanese footballer and associate of Foot Solidaire, Shinji, who had made payments to an agent for trials that never materialised. It transpired that Mbvoumin was the agent in question, thus implicating the only anti-football trafficking charity in the very practices that it was fighting against.

Furthermore, doubts over the authenticity of victims’ stories makes helping them more difficult. In 2001, Belgian senator Jean-Marie Dedecker brought a case of 442 Nigerians working as football slaves in Belgium in 2001 but failed to yield a single prosecution. However, as a result of the case, the state announced that such trafficking victims could receive benefits. This led to a marked increase in trafficking claims from African boys in Belgium. Solange Cluydts, head of leading anti-human trafficking charity Payoke, called the claims (including those from Foot Solidaire) “bullshit”.

So what is the truth? Well, whilst some of the stories may be exaggerated, the research of Hawkins and others illustrates that the issue of human trafficking through football is clearly a major, growing issue with a rising number of victims. Hawkins notes the story of Jay-Jay, a 17-year-old from Guinea, who was trafficked into slavery and abused by the very “scout” who he paid to help him. Such stories, and those of families back in Africa indebted to loan sharks, are becoming more and more common. Further co-operation between law enforcement, governing bodies, football associations, clubs, agents and FIFPro (the players’ union) is needed. And, as The Conversation suggests, education programmes and awareness campaigns are needed across Africa to protect children and young people from the perils of duplicitous agents with persuasive tales of the European Promised Land.

With the likes of Wanyama and Bailly so integral to the footballing elite, surely it is in the best interests of clubs to combat this issue from a sporting perspective as well as a humanitarian one. Parties across society must work together to ensure that more African footballers ply their trade on the pitch rather than in desperate servitude.

Credits and Further Reading
  • Ed Hawkins’ research on Foot Solidaire and the implications of the 2001 Dedecker case from Hawkins’ article for The Independent.
  • Suggestion of education programmes in Africa from McGee’s article for The Conversation.
  • Article written by Thomas Burrows.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

The News is Out...

We have applied for planning permission to gild the scroll that is in William Wilberforce’s right hand where he stands atop the monument. The scroll represents the Act of Parliament abolishing slavery in the British colonies. We hope that by picking it out in gold leaf, this important document will be better seen from below especially when lit.

Consultation has also taken place with Hull College, on whose land the monument stands as we need approval for the necessary access to perform the work.

We continue to work with the Public Realm and City of Culture team together with the well-known lighting artist Nayan Kulkarni to realise the permanent illumination of the monument. The monument, when lit, will be able to be seen by the public from Queens Gardens in the hours of darkness - currently it is not visible at night to anyone standing in the central or western areas of the Gardens.

The story has been covered in Hull Daily Mail (25th August) and Yorkshire Post (30th August) (see images below).

'Golden Highlight for Culture City's Statue' in the Yorkshire Post (click to enlarge):

'Golden Revamp for Statue in Time for 2017' in the Hull Daily Mail (click to enlarge):

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Linking the Past to the Present: July 2016 Update

‘Walking with Wilberforce’ Trail Competition

This month, we were asked to advise on a local schools competition. School children of primary and secondary school age were asked to re-design the tiles used for the ‘Walking with Wilberforce’ Trail in the old quarter of Hull city centre. This involved members of the Fund working with Artlink and Hull City Council. The full competition brief can be seen here.

We suggested the theme of Adinkra; traditional symbols originating from the Akan people of Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast). The Adinkra symbols represent popular proverbs and maxims. They also record historical events and are used on cloth, pottery, sculpture and architecture.

Using some aspect of the Adinkra symbol theme is a means of displaying powerful messages about slavery, freedom, emancipation and the human spirit, all of which can be associated with the close bond between the city and people of Hull and the African nations.

A full set of Adinkra symbols can be accessed at The examples express powerful concepts such as understanding and agreement, peace and harmony, co-operation and interdependence, love, safety and security, and learning from the past.

Researcher-Interpreter Wanted

We are looking to appoint a Researcher-Interpreter for the African Stories in Yorkshire project. For full details see here

Africans in Yorkshire: New Stories Archives

Take a look at the growing Stories Archives with recent additions about Agnes Foster, Ira Aldridge, RAF Hunmanby Moor and Thomas Biggs.  The latest news can be found on the African Stories in Hull & East Yorkshire blog: We are calling on you for any stories, information and recollections that you might want to share.

If you haven’t already, like our new Facebook page for the Africans in Yorkshire project!

The photograph is taken in June 1944 of the airmen with the congregation at Reighton Chapel (reprinted in the Filey & Hunmanby Mercury, 25 June, 1994).

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Freelance Project Researcher-Interpreter: African Stories in Yorkshire

We are pleased to offer a job vacancy for a Freelance Project Researcher/Interpreter for the William Wilberforce Monument Fund's African Stories in Yorkshire project, details below.

Position: Freelance Project Researcher-Interpreter
Organisation: William Wilberforce Monument Fund
Location: UK, England, East Yorkshire
Closing date:  Friday 22nd July 2016
Job Type:  Freelance
Fee: £200/day, 2.5 days per week over a maximum period of 18 months.

The William Wilberforce Monument Fund is looking to hire a freelance researcher-interpreter to work on a new project to explore the presence of people of African descent in Hull and East Yorkshire from 1750 to 2007.  This project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It will culminate in a dedicated website and two exhibitions at the Hull History Centre and Beverley Treasure House. There will also be an oral histories element to the project supported by the James Reckitt Trust through Untold Hull.

This is a community project that will encourage everyone to participate. The position requires an ability to retrieve stories and information across a vast array of areas, from archival research through to personal recollections and community connections.

A keen interest in cultural heritage and research, with particular reference to diversity and the recognition of the historical presence of people of African descent in the Britain is essential. In addition the candidate should have excellent research and writing skills and particular practical experience of archival research and interpretation.

A fee of £200 per day for 2.5 days per week over a maximum period of eighteen months. This includes all expenses incurred by the post holder during the term of the contract.

To apply please send your CV and a covering letter outlining your experience. Please also include a sample of writing of around 500 words to demonstrate your writing skills.

Return your submission by Friday 22nd July 2016 by email to Mrs Gifty Burrows,

A full job description is available at or contact Mrs Gifty Burrows at

Sunday, 12 June 2016

William Wilberforce Monument Fund Awarded Heritage Lottery Fund Grant!

We are thrilled to announce that the William Wilberforce Monument Fund has been awarded a grant of £39,100 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Thanks to National Lottery players, we are now able to begin exploring the stories of people of African descent in Hull and East Yorkshire from the Wilberforce era of the 1750s until 2007.

About the Project

This project is unique to this area and connects with this region’s strong historical association with William Wilberforce and the anti-slavery movement. It intends to demonstrate that an African presence in Britain is not a recent phenomenon and instead will recover stories from around the time of Wilberforce to the present day: 1750-2007. This important new website has been created to showcase the new stories and new research. It will enable and encourage everyone to participate in the collecting of stories of people of African descent by inviting people to view and submit information, ideas, photographs, essays and individual stories. We are also planning exhibitions at Hull History Centre in 2017 and Beverley Treasure House in 2018.

A Community Project: How can you get involved?

This project is community-driven and inclusive with the opportunity for any interested person to contribute to the outcomes. The charity welcomes the help and support of volunteers to engage in archival research in areas such as military history, education, fisheries, health, public services, entertainment and sport in the local area. This archive is of national importance because it will evidence Britain’s rich and diverse history. The project will also be of social and educational value and serve as direct support to the GCSE History curriculum.

We also welcome contact from anyone of African descent (African, Caribbean, American) who were living in the area before 2007 in order that we can collect contemporary oral recordings of stories for future generations.

If you can help with our research we would love to hear from you! You can contact us with information, images, ideas, suggestions and offers of help by going to the website for more details. Thank you.

Visit and Like African Stories in Hull & East Yorkshire on Facebook and Twitter!

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Ever Closer: May 2016 Update

The mini-series 'Roots' by Alex Haley was one of the most evocative pieces of television in the 1970s, introducing generations of viewers to the true horrors of the transatlantic slave trade and its aftermath. It was a truly gripping piece of theatre that brought to life the suffering of thousands of people of African descent. With the issue of modern day slavery so prominent today, with people traffickers exploiting the young and vulnerable, it is perhaps appropriate that the 'Roots' story is being remade; being shown to UK audiences later this year. In doing so it may introduce a contemporary audience to the slavery narrative that is so often forgotten. It is a thread that the William Wilberforce Monument Fund seeks to keep in the public consciousness.

The charity's efforts to raise sufficient funds to light the Wilberforce monument in 2017 have moved a step closer with a successful third annual quiz night held on 20th May at the Cottingham Parks Golf Club. The charity raised over £400 on the night. Thanks must go to Gerry Smyth, Chris Smyth and Andy Marsters who all worked hard to make the evening a success. Many thanks also to Best Western Hotels, The Deep, North Yorkshire Moors Railways and all individuals who donated gifts on the evening.

In addition we have also received generous donations from both Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd and St. John's College, Cambridge towards the fund.

Further to the primary cause of the charity to light the monument, we have a related project under consideration. African Stories in Hull and East Yorkshire seeks to delve into a little known part of Hull and East Yorkshire's history, researching the history of people of African descent in the area from 1750 to 2007. With this project we hope to provide a counter-narrative to the widely held view that there was virtually no presence of such people in the area during that timeframe.

If you'd like to know more, visit or email

Image credit: The Wilberforce statue outside Wilberforce House, Hull. Image found at the Hull and Hereabouts photo blog.

Friday, 15 April 2016

On the up?

The Human Trafficking Foundation is one of several organisations that have revised the number of people involved in modern slavery in the UK from 13,000 to 20,000. But how is possible that the number is rising after the Modern Slavery Act came into force last year?

The reasons are complex. For example, the UK Government put out a host of modern slavery adverts over a year ago with the catchphrase “It’s closer than you think”. The statement is true, but a year ago is in the distant past for many people and without being frequently reinforced, the message is easily forgotten.

The point was that we, the public, have a key role to play as the eyes and ears of suspicious activity happening under our noses. Yet recent research undertaken by a team led by Dr David Walsh (University of Derby) and reported in a recent public lecture evidences that too often we do not know what to look out for, or understand the true nature of modern day slavery and trafficking.

This lack of awareness is also mirrored within the business world. Too often we do not perceive the most powerful factor of control - psychological coercion - as part of the story. We also have the perception that modern day slavery is something that happens abroad without the possibility of any aspect of it touching our lives, despite the official figures stating the contrary. We forget that as consumers, users of service industries and workers using secondary products that we are indeed part of the story.

Very soon, businesses with a turnover of more than £36m will be obliged to report annually on the health of their supply chain. But the quality of this reporting will vary from wilful ignorance or genuine lack of awareness of the need to conform to this part of the Act. Campaign organisations such as Kalayaan work to make the laws surrounding the employment of overseas domestic workers less open to exploitation. Many workers are currently tied to their employers through the need to have their passport visas fixed to the visa of the employer they came to the UK with, which makes them more vulnerable.

In addition to public ignorance and business negligence, crisis situations created by natural disasters can leave refugees of impoverished countries at greater risk of exploitation. For refugees, climate-caused disaster or foreign policies which bring war into their home nations, can enhance the problems caused by their low economic output, leaving the country more prone to modern day slavery.

So, fewer wars, better responses to natural disasters, less famine, greater corporate responsibility and fair pricing structures are just some of the responses needed to bring down the number of people affected by modern slavery from the 35 million worldwide. It may seem like big figures and small individuals, but many a drop make an ocean, and maybe it is time to consider what we can do as individuals.

Image credit:

Sunday, 28 February 2016

New Website for African Stories in Hull & East Yorkshire Project

We have a new website to support the African Stories in Hull & East Yorkshire project: On the site, you will find useful information on how to research and where this can be done.

We will archive everything that is submitted and the website will give you the chance to contribute research, short essays, ideas and images. The purpose of this project is to provide an archive which is designed to be open to everyone and welcomes anyone to take part to share the experience.

Please support the project. Download the poster here, then print it and put it up in your offices, local cafes, workplaces etc. Thanks as ever for your wonderful support!

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Project Announcement: The Story of People of Africans Descent in Hull and East Yorkshire

Project Aim: An exploration of the presence of people of African descent in Hull and East Yorkshire from the Wilberforce era of the 1750s, up until 2007.

The migration of black minorities to Britain is commonly associated with the ‘Windrush Generation’ that migrated from the West Indies in the period after World War II. However, this is inaccurate. The National Archives, in commenting about black presence, acknowledges that “Black and Asian presence in Britain is not a recent one. Black and Asian people have lived, worked and died in Britain for 500 years or more. They have contributed to the wealth, development and history of this country, directly and indirectly helping put the Great into Great Britain.”

The oldest skeleton of an African in Britain is said to pre-date William the Conqueror, dated between 896 and 1025 AD, and there are other examples from the 12th Century. Even as recently as November last year, Roman skeletons found in London were said to have had members of African heritage. These examples give credence to the fact that Africans have been present in Britain since before the ‘Windrush’ period and that of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which are the points in history that most people associate with black presence. The Georgian and Edwardian period also saw significant periods of migration, a fact that further challenges the perception that minority groups are recent additions to British society. It took until 1984 for the narrative to change when Hull journalist Peter Fryer wrote about black people as individuals “woven into English society” rather than as a collective group in his book Staying Power (Kathleen Chater, Untold Histories).

There has been recent research into black presence but the gaze is often on larger cities, especially those with their own slavery connections such as Liverpool, Bristol and London. Exploring the black presence in Hull with its somewhat different relationship to the slavery story will offer an interesting alternative especially in this region which still has proportionately fewer examples of minority presence. Hull’s link to William Wilberforce perhaps makes the presence of Africans particularly relevant and deserving of some attention.

The period between 2015 and 2024 has been declared the International Decade for People of African Descent by the United Nations. This initiative aims to eliminate discrimination as it recognises that racism and racial disadvantage still impacts on people of African descent. In so doing, it aims to promote inclusion and recognise the important contributions made by such people to other societies. This project will go some way in supporting this ethos.

This project also aims to promote better social cohesion through a greater understanding of migration and insight into the commonalities of lives in all cultures in an effort to dispel the sense of ‘otherness’.  Further to this, the project intends to provide a local resource to the new GCSE History curriculum which offers Migration in Britain as an option (, p.13).

Current, relevant exhibitions can be found nationally at Tate Britain, the British Library, and Black Cultural Archives, all of which makes the African story current.

This project should be seen as community-driven with the opportunity for any interested person to contribute to the outcomes. It is hoped that there will be an educational resource, narratives, photographs and oral histories cataloguing the experiences of individuals. We also envisage a display of African artefacts representing black culture from a leading collector, who is happy to be involved. This will sit beside local findings to give a more rounded exhibition of national importance that will reflect African culture.

We have established support from academics, educationalists, historians and individuals within the community. We need everyone who is interested to start looking through photographs, archives, and other sources of local knowledge, and let us know what you are finding. We need talented organisations and individuals to support us in our work.

Please get in touch with your interest or findings by email at This is a community project - be part of the story.

Our thanks in the initial consultation go to Audrey Dewjee, Allison Edwards, Prof John Oldfield, Dr Nick Evans, Dr Jacqueline Jenkinson, Dr Madge Dresser, Dr Ryan Handley, Alex Ombre, Dr Carolyn Conroy, Martin Taylor, Greenwich Maritime Museum, Beverley Treasure House, Jessica Leathley, Clare Huby, Jeffrey Green and Martin Spafford.

Image of Sarah Forbes-Bonneta from