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Exploring Liverpool's role in the slave trade

Laurence Westgaph: exploring Liverpool's not-always-glorious past
Laurence Westgaph at Blackburne House: exploring Liverpool's not-always-glorious past. Blackburne House was built by John Blackburne, a slave-trade supporter.

A digital educational series from Liverpool’s Everyman and Playhouse theatres, and a specially-commissioned plaque, is to examine and commemorate the city’s role in the transatlantic slave trade.

A digital education pack of The Streets Where We Live will be available free from March on the theatre's website, but in the meantime you can find out more about the project here.

The digital project stems from a bespoke historical walking tour – The Streets Where We Live – originally commissioned in 2021 by locally-based Falling Doors Theatre and the Everyman and Playhouse.

Four writers - Ashleigh Nugent, Marjorie Morgan, Paislie Reid and RJ Lloyd - were invited to join local historian Laurence Westgaph’s Liverpool & Slavery walking tours and create any kind of written response they chose, based on what they learned.

The story of the slave trade’s impact on the development of the city became a bespoke walking tour in August 2021, guiding audiences around landmarks, monuments and street names from a new perspective. The Everyman building itself was revealed as the site of speeches given by Africa-American reformer Frederick Douglass, who spoke at Hope Hall on January 19, 1860 to push for the abolition of slavery, having been enslaved himself.

Alongside the digital series, the Everyman and Playhouse will commemorate Frederick Douglass with a plaque and activities at the theatre, working with Liverpool Black Men's Group.

The free digital resource, aimed at secondary school students, and older people with an interest in the city's history and creative writing for theatre, will hopefully inspire other creative activities, while the plaque will be a lasting physical reminder of the reform movement.

Everyman and Playhouse CEO Mark Da Vanzo said: “I’m so pleased The Streets Where We Live project will have a legacy. We’ve learnt so much through this project and look forward to that continuing with Falling Doors in the future.

“Work now begins with Laurence and the Liverpool Black Men’s Group to obtain planning permission and find an artist to create a lasting commemoration for Frederick Douglass at the Everyman.”

Laurence Westgaph added: “I’m looking forward to working with the Everyman on finding an artist to create a fitting plaque to detail Douglass’s role, not just as an abolitionist but as a social reformer and orator of great importance.”

Sarah Van Parys, director of The Streets Where We Live and Falling Doors Theatre said: “I’m thrilled this isn’t the end of the project we started last year. It feels like it’s just the beginning, with this week’s launch of the digital resources an important milestone in this continuing and evolving project, as we learn more about this city’s history and its role in the slave trade.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about the commission for a plaque at the Hope Street theatre can email the theatre using this link.


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