In 2008 Arts Council England invited eleven leading poets from the UK to commemorate the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act by writing a poem on the theme of enslavement. The twelfth poem was chosen from a competition open to the public.

Click on the links in the left hand sidebar to read all twelve commissioned poems.

The transatlantic trade in peoples from Africa was widespread lasting over several hundred years with conservative estimates placing the number of people enslaved as being five million. 

Alongside our poetry competition, through our Grants for the arts programme, Arts Council England supported a wide range of artists and arts organisations whose work is connected to the themes and issues raised by this important historical occasion. Across the country, artists from the visual arts, dance, theatre, music and literature commemorated the bicentenary, telling the many hidden historical stories of those individuals affected directly and indirectly by the transatlantic slave trade, whilst also exploring the stories and experiences of those who continue to be affected by its legacy and those who are among the many still enslaved across the world today.