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Scotland marks Emancipation Day for the first time

RECOGNITION: Scotland has marked Emancipation Day for the first time

FOR THE first time ever, Scotland has marked Emancipation Day and celebrated the date with performing arts over the last week.

Emancipation Day has been celebrated on August 1 across the countries of the Caribbean since the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 ended slavery in the British Empire on August 1 1834.

Emancipation Acts is a series of site specific performances taking place in Glasgow’s Merchant City, during the Commonwealth Games. The shows explore Glasgow’s role in Caribbean slavery, its abolition and current calls for reparations on the 180th anniversary of the emancipation of slaves in the British West Indies.

Written and directed by Alan McKendrick and produced by Glasgow Life in association with African Caribbean Cultures Glasgow, the performance locations are based on some of those featured in the book It Wisnae Us: The Truth About Glasgow and Slavery, written by historian Stephen Mullen – who is also the historical advisor for the production.

A community cast of Scottish based musicians, dancers, actors and singers, many of whom have an African or Caribbean background, will join a professional cast - Ncuti Gatwa, Ashanti Harris, Ross Mann, Martin McBride, Joy Maria Onotu, Lou Prendergast and Paksie Vernon - for this inaugural Scottish celebration of Emancipation Day.

The community cast is currently participating in a series of workshops in African drumming, African dance, acting, carnival costume making, singing and photography. The photography students will document the final performances for an exhibition to be shown in October as part of Black History Month.

Alan McKendrick, writer and director of Emancipation Acts says: “Stephen Mullen's It Wisnae Us: The Truth About Glasgow And Slavery is a fascinating read, stuffed with information on a variety of often neglected aspects of the shabbier end of Glasgow's past."

Emancipation Acts is inspired by an original idea from Graham Campbell and Anne McLaughlin, co-directors of African Caribbean Cultures Glasgow.

Campbell, a Jamaican musician and community worker, has lived in Glasgow for the past 12 years, working with dozens of African and Caribbean community groups.

He believes 2014 is the ideal year to be joining Caribbean countries in marking Emancipation Day: “Half of the countries that make up the Commonwealth are either African or Caribbean and the city will be full of visitors from those countries.

He adds: “This is the opportunity to own up to Scotland’s participation in the slave trade. But it’s also about coming together with people from countries with a shared history and celebrating the fact that eventually, emancipation of slaves happened.”

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