Back to blogging #2 – events

Launch of the Slave Trade Legacies projects

Launch image

Launch of Slave Trade Legacies projects

Community events kicked off in style on 12th May 2014 with the launch of the two Nottingham-based Slave Trade Legacies projects on (i) Global Cotton Connections and (ii) the Colour of Money. Bright Ideas had done such a fantastic job of marketing the event that our room at Nottingham Contemporary was packed and buzzing with anticipation. The programme for the day was as packed as the room, with guest speakers including:

  • Patrick Vernon OBE Genealogist / Associate Fellow, Every Generation Media / University of Warwick
  • Dr Shawn Sobers Senior Lecturer in Photography, University of the West of England
  • Dr Martin Glynn Criminologist and Public Health Researcher, University of Wolverhampton
  • James Dawkins PhD Student, University College London

Alongside talks about slavery, its histories and legacies, Susanne and I introduced the Global Cotton Connections project, in the hope that some of those attending the launch would want to get involved. It was the first time either of us had been introduced to music!

Despite the upbeat mood created by the Bright Ideas team who were running the event, the topic of slavery is one that is inherently challenging. Discussions between speakers and participants raised a number of difficult questions. A key issue here was whether slavery legacies are too painful to discuss. Questions of relevance and the motives of academics working on these topics were also raised – why do academics get involved in this kind of work? Should limited resources be spent on projects concerned with histories and heritage?

Although discussions were at times challenging, the day proved a success, with participants taking to twitter to talk about it:


Connecting community groups – Hindu Samaj Sheffield event


Later that week, on Friday 16th May, Susanne attended the Global Cotton Connection’s first community event in Sheffield organised by Esme Cleall (University of Sheffield) and Chamu Kuppaswamy, who has taken a leading role in the Hindu Samaj Heritage projects. As well as presenting on the research we’d been doing on the Strutt archives at Derbyshire Record Office, Susanne gave an account of the Slave Trade Legacies launch event and outlined how we hoped to bring together the different groups from Sheffield and Nottingham through a series of events, including trips to the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. An account of this workshop by Chamu can be found on the Hindu Samaj Heritage blog, along with a summary of the first joint community trip to the Peak District – more on this to follow in a later blog post.


Spreading the word – Kemet FM & BBC Radio Nottingham

KemetfmAs part of Bright Ideas’ marketing of the Slave Trade Legacies launch event, Susanne and a number of the guest speakers were invited to join Kevin Brown at the studios of 97.5 Kemet FM for his Talk Back show on 11th May. As Nottingham’s first Official Urban Radio Station, Kemet FM serves the needs of the African and Caribbean communities of Nottingham and surrounding areas.


Slave trade legacies logoBright Ideas logo



Later that same week Susanne and Danielle Woods from Bright Ideas were invited onto Reya El-Salahi’s Sunday evening show on BBC Nottingham to discuss the Slave Trade Legacies projects further. A clip from this interview can be heard here:


Back to blogging #1 – connecting, collaborating, contributing

Apologies for the break in posts – we’ve had a busy few months of archival research, stakeholder meetings and community events. Having just got back from holiday, which meant a break from work email and our project’s Twitter feed, I wanted to take the opportunity to get back to blogging with an account of some of our recent activities. More to follow soon.

Connecting with other organisations

Collaboration is central to our project, and shortly after our last blog post, Susanne and I made two important new connections – with the Arkwright Society, who own and manage Cromford Mill, and with a thriving community-based business in Nottingham called Bright Ideas.

Arkwright Society – working with heritage stakeholders

Our first meeting at the Arkwright Society was very positive. On Friday 4th April we met with Michael Ledger, the Society’s Education Officer, who received our project and its aims for community-based collaboration with great enthusiasm. Most importantly the meeting opened up an opportunity to engage with the current development of the Cromford Mill site, which in part aims to increase the heritage provision for the whole Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site through the creation of a ‘Gateway’ visitor centre at Cromford Cromford Mill - interpretation boardMill. Although at this initial stage it sounded as though we wouldn’t be able to contribute to the permanent displays in the centre itself, other opportunities to help shape the interpretation of the site were welcomed. Options we discussed that would enable visitors to explore the global connections of the cotton industry, including its colonial and slavery histories and legacies, included: creating a new guided walk; producing a set of temporary exhibition panels and leaflets; developing an object handling/memory box; contributing to the site’s on-line blog.

This was a great start, but we weren’t naïve enough to think it would be plain sailing from herein out. Bringing a new set of interpretive perspectives, a new set of voices, to a site that is typically heralded for its role in Britain’s so-called ‘industrial revolution’ was never going to be easy. How to challenge a Whiggish history of ‘great men’ such as Arkwright? How to widen the horizons from a view centred on the Derwent Valley to its position in the truly global network of the cotton industry? Importantly, Susanne has been involved in thinking through some of these questions through her participation in the series of Derwent Valley Mills Research Framework meetings that took place March-May 2014. Funded by English Heritage as part of its programme of regional research frameworks, it aims to provide a Research Agenda and Strategy for the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site and its wider Buffer Zone.

Connecting with communities – Hindu Samaj Sheffield & Slave Trade Legacies volunteers

Key to our plan for shaping interpretation at Cromford and the wider World Heritage Site are the local communities and community groups in Nottingham and Sheffield.

Hindu Samaj logoOur Co-I Esme Cleall had previously worked with the Hindu Samaj on a Heritage Lottery Funded project called ‘British Raj in the Peak District: Discovering, Recovering and Sharing Colonial History’. This collaborative partnership was extended to the Global Cotton Connections project to enable the participation of members of Sheffield’s Indian community in exploring aspects of colonial history that link the physical and cultural heritage of the Peak District and Sheffield to their Indian heritage.

Our hopes to connect with members of the Black British communities of Nottingham through our project so as to explore some of the slavery legacies of the cotton industry were boosted when Helen Bates, a freelance community historian working with us, introduced us to Lisa Robinson, Director of Bright Ideas.Bright Ideas logo Offering a wealth of experience in community engagement in Nottingham, especially with those of African-Caribbean heritage, Bright Ideas has been an invaluable partner for the project,  even though managing the expectations and needs of a University research project alongside those of a community business has not always been straightforward.

As part of the partnership with Bright Ideas, the Global Cotton Connections project teamed up with a Heritage Lottery Funded project that is also concerned with slave trade legacies and the ‘hidden histories’ of so much of Britain’s heritage landscape. Focusing on the heritage of the Black British Caribbean community, the Colour of Money project enables volunteers from this community to investigate how the lives of their ancestors were affected by the transatlantic slave trade, as well as considering how their enslaved ancestors contributed to the building of modern Britain.

Slave trade legacies logos

You can read more about the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies project activities through two blogs and a Facebook page: