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Theatrical tour gives voice to 18th century Black British abolitionists


William Wilberforce’s movement to abolish slavery and the slave trade used the power of stories of Black British and female abolitionists, and ultimately led to the Slave Trade Act of 1807. Now a theatrical performance, written and directed by academics at Brunel University London and the University of Essex, is touring the UK to celebrate the vital contributions of individuals such as Olaudah Equiano, Mary Prince and Mary Birkett Card – all in a unique immersive experience. 

Audience members for each performance of Breaking the Silence bear witness to a fictionalised meeting by key members of the 18th and early 19th-century British abolitionist movement. Through original speeches, personal narratives and song, these individuals’ powerful stories are brought to life in their own words. 

Breaking the Silence is being performed in historic churches where freed slaves are buried and/or with close ties to the slave trade and abolition, and is continuing to unlock local connections to slavery and abolitionists. It sold out in Sunderland Point, has visited Liverpool and Fulham, and will be performed in Hampstead, Soham, Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham – all throughout October’s Black History Month. 

In partnership with Collisions Theatre Company, the work of verbatim theatre is written and directed by Dr Holly Maples of the University of Essex and co-written with historian Dr Inge Dornan from Brunel, and complements a programme of events and an exhibition – ‘Unlocking the Secrets of Slavery and Abolition’, currently on display in Brunel’s Eastern Gateway Building – organised by Brunel for the Being Human Festival in 2019. The original cast includes William Witt, Cliona Malin and Franki Mangru, all of whom are Brunel students or alumni. 

Breaking the Silence is created with prestigious funding from Arts Council England and the Unity Theatre Trust, Brunel Research and Engagement and East 15 School of Acting, University of Essex Research. 

To book tickets, or find out more about the tour, visit Collisions Theatre Company’s Breaking the Silence tour site.

Reported by:

Joe Buchanunn, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268821