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Digital media students help create film inspired by Dagenham’s links to slave trade abolitionists

Digital media students from the East London Institute of Technology at Barking & Dagenham College (@BarkingCollege) have helped shoot a film inspired by Dagenham’s links to the abolition of the slave trade. 

Young people from Robert Clack School star in ‘When Wilberforce Came to Tea.’  It is a drama performance of an original screen play devised by Simone Panayi of BEFirst and is all filmed by the College’s digital media students. 

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The idea behind the piece was to create a film for Black History Month that could then be used as a future educational resource.  The play combines local history with world heritage and universal themes. 

The story focuses on eighteenth century residents of Valence House, who were related to William Wilberforce.  Wilberforce famously argued for the abolition of the slave trade.  He was a cousin of Henry Mertyins Bird, who lived in Valence House from 1778 to 1803. His wife Eliza Bird was from St Kitts in the Caribbean, where her family-owned plantations profited from slave labour.  Henry’s brother-in-law William Manning was an MP who was part of the West India Committee opposing Wilberforce. So Henry found himself stuck in the middle. 

Robert Clack student Ryanna Williams, 17, from Romford, recorded her voice-over in the Shaun Escoffery Sound Studio at the East London Institute of Technology.  She said:

“This was an amazing opportunity. I was honoured to give a voice to those that did not have a voice at the time. The experience gave me a different insight into slavery and how it ties to Dagenham.” 

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