Celebrate William Wilberforce’s 258th birthday at Hull Minster

Published: Thursday 24th August 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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Tonight, the Priory Park Singers bring a beautiful and thought-provoking concert to Hull Minster.

The recital marks the 258th birthday of the Hull-born MP William Wilberforce. The activist was an influential leader of the movement to stop the slave trade during the early nineteenth century. He spent much of his political career at the forefront of the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade and has left a lasting legacy of freedom in the city.

We spoke to Chairman of the Priory Park Singers, Tony Wilson, to find out more about what is included in the programme.

“I came up with the idea of the Wilberforce Anti-Slavery Concert as I thought it would be fantastic to coincide with the Hull UK City of Culture year,” explains Tony. “I approached the curator and assistant curator at Wilberforce House and they practically snapped my hand off.”

The stunning venue of Hull Minster is also highly appropriate, as it was the place where Wilberforce was baptised. He was born just around the corner from the church in a Georgian townhouse. Visitors can now look around the premises and discover more about his personal and political life.

“We have a full programme of music on the night that fit with the anti-slavery story,” Tony tells us. “You will hear an array of pieces, including the Abolitionist Hymn, Deep River, Amazing Grace, Chariots Coming and four plantation songs.”

The concert will start with a welcoming speech from the Bishop of Hull, Rt. Reverend Canon Alison White. After this, the powerful music and singing will commence.

“In-between the songs, the words of Wilberforce will be spoken by The Right Honourable Alan Johnson,” Tony enthuses. “He will be in full costume and speak the exact words that Wilberforce delivered to the Houses of Parliament regarding the subject of slavery.”

When Tony first planned this concert, Alan Johnson was still serving as Member of Parliament for Hull West and Hessle. The long-serving Labour Party MP had a successful career, filling a wide variety of cabinet positions in the Blair and Brown governments. He was both Health and Education Secretary during the 00s.

“I asked Alan if he wanted to speak the words of Wilberforce and he was astounded, replying ‘What an honour that would be!’,” Tony recalls.

In response to Wilberforce, Steve Alymer, a local producer, is going to speak the words of John Newton: “Newton is, of course, the writer of the Amazing Grace hymn.”

The second part of the concert will be a similar structure, with a plethora of songs and speeches: “We’re going to be performing the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves. The concert will draw to a close around 10pm with a special rendition of When the Saints Go Marching In.”

The spectacular evening takes place at Hull Minster tonight from 7:30pm. Tickets are £7 and can be purchased by ringing Chris Litten on 01482 649484.

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Published: Thursday 24th August 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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