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Runaways

History, storytelling and escape from slavery in 17th and 18th Century London

Between the 1650s and 1770s many hundreds of enslaved people were brought to London. Most were African although a significant minority were South Asian. While in the capital some attempted to escape and, on occasions, those who pursued them placed advertisements in London newspapers seeking the capture and return of these freedom-seekers. The average age of the runaways was 16. 

These ‘runaway advertisements’ reveal the existence of enslaved people in London yet tell us very little about them, and all through the eyes of those who enslaved and pursued them. Taking the historical research of Professor Simon Newman and Dr Peggy Brunache as the starting point, Runaways’ lead artists – poets Momtaza Mehri and Gboyega Odubanjo and illustrator Olivia Twist – alongside Abena Essah, Memoona Zahid, Oluwaseun and Tasia Graham, poets and artists who were selected through an open call, will reimagine the stories of London’s runaway slaves, showing people of colour to have been present in London, and as having been actors of resistance and resilience. They will be able to claim and represent this history on their own terms.   

The creative work produced by the writers, poets and artists will be published in an anthology by Ink Sweat & Tears Press, edited by Fahad Al-Amoudi. The anthology will be launched at an event on 21 October 2021 at the Museum of London Docklands alongside a film of the commissioned work and the research and a resource pack for young people. The book, the film and the resource pack will be made available for free online.  

Runaways is managed by Spread the Word and the project publisher is Ink Sweat & Tears Press. The project partners are the Museum of London Docklands and the University of Glasgow. 

Runaways is supported and funded by: The British Association for American Studies/United States Embassy Small Grants Programme; Economic and Social Research Council, Impact Acceleration Award; University of Glasgow Knowledge Exchange (KE) Small Grants 2020/21; City of London Grants and through private donations. 

Artists, Academics, Publishers

Fahad Al-Amoudi 

Anthology editor


Dr Peggy Brunache 

Academic


Momtaza Mehri 

Artist


Professor Simon Newman  

Academic


Gboyega Odubanjo 

Artist


Olivia Twist 

Artist


Ink, Sweat and Tears


Memoona Zahid

Artist


Oluwaseun  

Artist


Tasia Graham

Artist


Abena Essah

Artist


Photo credits:
Dr Peggy Brunache by Kirsty Anderson
Olivia Twist by Abigail Holsborough