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Saturday, 8 August 2015

Stolen Lives: A sense of moral repugnance against modern-day slavery

Stolen Lives is a new web based project which looks at issues of historical and contemporary slavery through music, songs, words, images, film and animation.

‘Stolen Lives’ is a collection of 17 songs and narratives designed to have multiple uses. It is anticipated that the resources will not only be of use to schoolteachers, especially those teaching at Key Stage 3 (ages 11 - 14) and Key Stage 4 (ages 14 – 16), but also to youth groups, museums, music and dance groups, and churches and faith groups. The project is also interactive. It is hoped that users will post their own performances or interpretations of the material that has been put together, allowing for a much broader sharing of ideas and practice.

The pieces provide starting points for discussion and also hope to inspire new creative work in art, dance, drama, images words and music for schools and other groups or individuals interested in the issues. These are all available as a free resource on the Stolen Lives website.

Professor John Oldfield, Director of the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE) the University of Hull, is the project leader. Kevin Bales the co-investigator. Music is by Paul Field and visuals by Peter S. Smith.

Behind the project is a serious intent, namely to use music and images to promote awareness of modern-day slavery and – just as important – the pressing need to do something about it. Nineteenth-century abolitionists were well aware of the power of music to persuade and inform: indeed, anti-slavery songs were an important part of their opinion-building activities, particularly in the United States. The same is true of images, whether Wedgwood’s famous image of the kneeling slave, or the cross section of the slave ship ‘Brookes’. ‘Stolen Lives’ follows in the same tradition. Put simply, the aim is to use music and images to inform public opinion and, in the process, create a sense of moral repugnance against modern-day slavery and for slavery in all its forms.

We should never underestimate the power of such aids to change attitudes and impact on policy and policymakers.

As William Wilberforce so memorably put it: ‘You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know’.


Paul Field - Strange Cargo.

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