The former French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault is visiting Liverpool to see how the city commemorates the slave trade and celebrates Black history.
Monsieur Ayrault, who was PM of the country from 2012-2014, is chair of a new French foundation for the memory of slavery – ‘Fondation pour la memoire de l’esclavage’ – and has been invited to Liverpool by Mayor Joe Anderson. For 23 years, he was Mayor of Nantes, during which time he commissioned a slavery exhibit in the city.
His visit, which starts on Monday 8 July, comes almost 20 years since Liverpool became the first UK city to express its “shame and remorse for the city’s role in this trade in human misery” and make an unreserved apology.
In 2007, National Museums Liverpool opened an International Slavery Museum at the Albert Dock, highlighting the international and historical significance of the transatlantic slave trade. In the same year the Government expressed deep remorse for Britain’s role in the trade. Monsieur Ayrault will visit the museum on Monday.
On Tuesday 9 July, he will spend time at Princes Park to look at where a permanent memorial to Nelson Mandela will stand. The memorial will also include a new ‘Freedom Bridge’, pavilion and 32 cylindrical stoneworks inscribed with inspirational Mandela quotes. The pedestals represent the oil drums Mandela used to grow an allotment on the rooftop of Pollsmoor Prison.
The work at Princes Park reflects upon Mandela’s love of gardens and horticulture along with his struggle for freedom, equality and humanity, and the spaces will be used for future activity in the park, acting as a focal point and an area to visit, reflect and educate.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “The port cities of Nantes and Liverpool have much in common – whether it’s our people, our maritime history, our love of culture and way in which we have used it to regenerate our cities and, regrettably, our role in the slave trade.
“We already have close links with Nantes, thanks to our hugely successful partnership with Royal De Luxe which has brought the Giants to the city three times to tell important historical stories.
“The visit from Monsieur Ayrault is also a chance to explore further opportunities to benefit both of our cities.”
Laura Pye, Director, National Museums Liverpool said: “We are proud to confront Liverpool’s role in the transatlantic slave trade. We welcome the support of our local, community and international partners. Only by working together, can we communicate this period in history and make sure it is never repeated.
“It will be a pleasure to meet Monsieur Ayrault and I look forward to sharing our work with him. Such visits are critical because slavery is not a thing of the past – its legacy of racism and hate crime is all around us today. While modern slavery is a problem not only globally, but across the UK, including here in Liverpool and the North West, ongoing dialogue and action is crucial.”
Sonia Bassey, Chair and one of the founding members of Mandela8, said: “We are delighted to host Monsieur Ayrault and show him the exciting plans to remember Nelson Mandela.
“Our city has such a proud record of strong connection and history with the campaign to free Mandela, a campaign which brought community activists and trades unionists together with one voice.
“The Princes Park memorial will aim to break down barriers within local communities, promote social and racial understanding, tolerance and tackle issues around cultural diversity.”