London, Sugar and Slavery

Client: Museum of London Docklands

West India Dock, where this exhibition is housed, was built in 1802 and paid for by sugar merchants, plantation owners and slave traders. The story of the building is the story of the slave trade itself. Through 140 objects, community art pieces, film, exhibition graphics and interactive screens visitors are left in no doubt of the economic importance of sugar and the slave trade to London, once the fourth largest slaving port in the world.

For this project we set out to create a new kind of inclusive, social space. The surroundings, the look and feel of the physical and virtual experiences, all contribute to the idea of a safe, supported place where visitors feel secure enough to explore sometimes difficult questions. The tone is authoritative not authoritarian. It offers different perspectives and commentaries. An immersive sound and light experience, encourages visitors to consider the meaning of enslavement and freedom both in terms of the transatlantic slave trade and for us all today, whilst spaces in the gallery are given over to community projects especially designed to involve Londoners of all ages and backgrounds in a story that binds us all.