The recent exhibition on Modern Day Slavery deserved a “best ever” accolade for three good reasons. The first of these being that it was in was the right place. After all where else would you be, if you want to reach MPs to alert them to slavery in Britain, than the House where the slave trade was abolished in 1807?
However, permissions to this hallowed place are not easily come by and time to build comes a poor second to the demands of division bells. Tradition, winding corridors and impressive staircases combined with stringent security regulations present seemingly unsurmountable barriers. An irresistible “we shall overcome” approach of the head of the Human Trafficking Foundation, Anthony Steen, prevailed.
The next positive was the way the exhibition ‘commanded the space’ ( see previous post). In the vastness of the House of Commons, with its lofty ceilings and the ‘weight’ of history, most exhibitions are lost, diminished and apologetic. Not this one. An ambitious structure , designed cleverly to work in the venue of the Upper Waiting Hall stood out and demanded the attention of MPs, scurrying along endless corridors of power.
And to cap it all there was a singleminded idea, so often absent from pitches like this. Capturing the essence of the slavery problem, that it is invisible and secret with slaves fearful of talking, the theme, “The Hidden Agenda”, was compellingly brought to life.
Display panels with headlines like “Hide and Seek-for children this is not a game”, text reinfocing the hidden nature with curtains, crates and doors hiding the poignant stories. Together with actors role playing victims, the message to MPs was unmissable- there are slaves hidden in your constituencies .
The result? A positive reaction from the many MPs who had the chance to meet a number of former slaves (no longer hidden) and, most importantly, a ringing endorsement from David Cameron. He promised personal support to an initiative aiming to take slavery from hidden to exposed, moving it up the political agenda.
For more on slavery, www.humantraffickingfoundation.org