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Slavery Remembrance Day: Bill Richmond - Britain's Forgotten Pugilist

Past event archive
23 August 2019, 19:00-20:00

Room 20

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Bill Richmond ('A striking view of Richmond')
by and published by Robert Dighton
published March 1810
NPG D10726

Is this the way things have to be?

If oceans rise
If mountains fall
If heaven rages at it all –
Why not let one man wander free?

One man who owns the life he leads.

Bill Richmond was born into slavery in America, probably in 1763. During the American Revolution he came to the attention of Lord Percy, the Duke of Northumberland, who brought him back to England in 1777, where he was given his freedom, an education and, later, an apprenticeship as a carpenter. But Richmond had his own ideas about the direction his life should take. He would go on to become England’s first nationally famous black sports star, a bare-knuckle boxer who associated with Lord Byron, R.B. Sheridan and the Prince Regent, at whose coronation as King George IV he served as an usher. His rise to celebrity was against the backdrop of a country bitterly divided over whether black people should continue to be used as slaves, and his achievements, both in and outside the ring, made him a living, breathing, refutation of the prevailing belief in white superiority.

To mark Slavery Remembrance Day, join us for a journey through Richmond’s life, featuring readings from The Ballad of Bill Richmond, a new narrative poem by Adam Marchan, who will then be in discussion with artist educator Jean Campbell, around the largely unrecognised presence of black people in early 19th century England – many of them, like Richmond, newly arrived ex-enslaved Americans – and the part they played in influencing the national debate about the abolition of slavery.

Adam Marchan studied Film Making at the London College of Communication, and has directed plays on the London Fringe, at venues including The Etcetera Theatre, The Hen and Chickens, The Lost Theatre and Theatro Technis. He has taught Scriptwriting at Westminster Adult Education Institute, and run Drama and Acting workshops in corporate settings. His current work focusses on the Black British experience from a historical perspective, and he is currently developing a stage play about the life of Bill Richmond.

A recent MA graduate in Narrative Environments from UAL, St Martin’s, artist educator Jean Campbell uses her training as an art and history teacher, over 25 years’ practice as an Art Therapist and her own arts practice to inform her work in the cultural sector. She is passionate about cultural learning and exchange and has worked in museums and galleries nationally for many years on the design and delivery of education workshops and projects that link audience to exhibitions and core collections. She specialises in arts-based training for museum staff and community events on Britain’s enslavement history and its legacies.

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