30 April 2023
Last week I was called to Liverpool to play Dad in our production of Demon Dentist, due to the actor being unwell. It was an amazing experience to play a part I didn’t even have the chance to run through on stage, let alone rehearse, and I hugely enjoyed playing opposite our fabulous acting company to packed houses at one of the biggest theatres in the country. It also gave me a chance to explore some of the city, and I was struck by the magnificence of so many of the buildings. However, due to my research for our river tour Terrible Thames, I had a nagging feeling about the opulence I could see all around me. What had led this northern city to become so rich that is could display its wealth in such a stupendous fashion? The answer of course is the slave trade. Liverpool was one of three major ports that serviced the slave trade and by 1740 it had overtaken Bristol and London as the slave-trading capital of Britain. Indeed, such was Liverpool’s dominance of the North Atlantic slave trade, that one in five African captives crossing the ocean was carried in a Liverpool slave ship. Liverpool has acknowledged its role with a museum opened in 2007, but it is a subject still argely ignored in our country. During the slavery section on one of our tours on the Thames, a man at the back shouted “Do we have to hear all this?”. Anyone asking such a question would to advised to go to Liverpool if they want to know why we need to hear a lot more about “this” to understand how Britain was shaped by our leading role in the slave trade.
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