Birmingham City Council

A Shared History, A Shared Future: Ships, Songs, Slaves

Shared History Shared Future
A Shared History, A Shared Futurecelebrates 200 years since the abolition of the slave trade.
Community based groups have been exploring the ways in which slavery in all its forms throughout history has operated, and how it relates to our lives in Birmingham.

Ships, Songs, Slaves

A project with Billesley out-of-school club


On March 30, 2001 the MV Etireno set sail from Benin for Gabon, recorded as having 139 passengers.

The Nigerian-registered ship was transporting children from Benin destined to be used as slave labour.



For a time the sensational story of MV Etireno, and the children rescued from it, gripped the world. The shocking truth is slave ships still exist, and human trafficking is a worldwide issue involving millions of adults and children.



Billesley out-of-school club explored Human Trafficking and Slavery now and in the past.

We made a ship and talked about slave ships from the past and the present, wrote poetry and examined how people might become slaves.

We sang songs, with Marcella Erskine, from around the world relating to slavery.

And we created our own story, with music, to examine why people might travel:

A small boy worked in the palace in a country not so far away. He worked, scrubbing the floor and steps of the palace all day long. One day the Queen noticed him. She was not very happy, and shouted at the boy, Work Harder! The Queen had a daughter, a beautiful princess, and seeing the boy work so hard, she felt sorry for the boy, and got down on her knees and helped him. This made the queen even angrier, and she went to the King.

The King was very busy, but as the Queen was so angry, he decided to see what was wrong. When he found his daughter and the boy, they were working together and singing. He wasn't angry at all, and seeing what the boy had to do, and watching his daughter made him feel guilty about what the boy had to do. He started to sing and clean with his daughter and the boy.

Eventually the Queen realised how much better it would be if we all did our own share of work. She joined in too. The boy and the Princess married and lived happily ever after.


Find out more about the other projects under the A Shared History, A Shared Future banner.


A Shared History, A Shared Future
Breaking the Chains 2007