While embracing new projects and initiatives across the city is undoubtedly important in the run up to 2017, it is equally important for residents of Hull to embrace and celebrate the rich and complex history of Hull. An important figure in Hull’s history is the iconic abolitionist William Wilberforce, whose monument towers majestically over Queens Gardens in the city centre.
Earlier this week I spoke to Gifty Burrows, the founder and one of three trustees of The William Wilberforce Monument Fund (the others being Steve Davison and Julie Marsters). The fund, who’s patrons are the Lord Mayor of Hull, Lemn Sissay and William Wilberforce, was formed in November 2013 soon after Hull was awarded the status of City of Culture and aims to improve the cultural and historical awareness of Wilberforce and the other abolitionists.
The fund, who are working with the respected lighting artist Nayan Kulkarni, aims to light the Wilberforce Monument in time for 2017. This however is far more than a simple lighting project.
By raising awareness of Wilberforce and literally highlighting his monument they aim to raise public awareness of the estimated 35 million enslaved people around the world. The fund hopes to encourage open conversation and debate about freedom and slavery, both historic and modern. By engaging with schools they hope to spark discussions and get children thinking about what it means to be free. Along the way, the fund wants the people of Hull to show their pride in the Wilberforce connection and bring the monument itself into prominence as the eyes of the UK and others around the world focus on the city and all it has to offer.
William Wilberforce, along with the other abolitionists, represented something that should be obvious to anyone, that no one has the right to diminish another person or have the power to own another person. Hull through its connection with Wilberforce is in a privileged position to do something to acknowledge the contributions of the oppressed, to celebrate those who rebelled against a system and remember those who continue to suffer.
Some of the money needed for the project will come from other means such as lottery funding and support from businesses, but public donations will play a vital role in bringing this important project to life.
This weekend sees 23 runners taking part in another fantastic event, the Hull Marathon to raise much needed sponsorship money for the fund. Show your support to the runners and for a project that celebrates one of Hull’s most important sons.
You can find out more, as well as finding out how you can contribute to the fund at wilberforcefund.com