Since 21st October of last year when we launched Runaways London, the project has gone from strength to strength. In late March, poets Gboyega Odubanjo and Abena Essah were part of a Lloyds of London insurance industry event to mark the United Nation’s International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, where they read from their Runaways London work and took part in a panel discussion. On 7th May, Abena joined Oluwaseun Olayiwola to read as part of a Black History Walks tour led by Tony Warner which focused on uprising and resistance and culminated in a creative writing workshop at the Barbican Library. The Project’s next event on 24th May at 6pm will see 2018-2019’s Young People’s Laureate for London, Montaza Mehri, and Memoona Zahid (former IS&T editing intern) take part in “Freedom Seekers of London – Performative interventions in the London, Sugar & Slavery gallery through poetry and art” at the Museum of London Docklands. The event is free and tickets can be booked here.
Runaways London is about history, storytelling and escape from slavery in 17th and 18th Century London. Between the 1650s and 1780s many hundreds of enslaved people were brought to London. Most were African although a significant minority were South Asian and a smaller number were indigenous American. While in the capital some attempted to escape and, on occasions, those who pursued them placed advertisements in London newspapers seeking the capture and return of these freedom-seekers. The average age of the runaways was 16.
These ‘runaway advertisements’ reveal the existence of enslaved people in London yet tell us very little about them, and all through the eyes of those who enslaved and pursued them. Taking the historical research of Professor Simon Newman and Dr Peggy Brunache as the starting point, the Runaways’ poets detailed above and artists Tasia Graham and Olivia Twist reimagined the stories of London’s runaways, showing people of colour to have been present in London, and as having been actors of resistance and resilience.
Buy the anthology here:
Find out more about the Runaways London project, including resource packs for Key Stage 3 and 4 classes here: https://www.spreadtheword.org.uk/projects/runaways/
Discover the Runaway Slaves in Britain archive from the University of Glasgow here: https://runaways.gla.ac.uk/