Impact of Barbados’ Oldest Sheet Music Project on Society

A project based in Gloucester has received funding from Arts Council England to delve into the history of slavery using a rare manuscript containing the oldest-surviving sheet music from Barbados. The project, titled Beating Back The Past, aims to shed light on the voices of enslaved individuals who worked in sugar plantations, exploring the traumas of the transatlantic slave trade.

Led by Gloucestershire musician Rider Shafique and renowned black British photographer Vanley Burke, the project seeks to bring attention to the hidden narratives of slavery that are often overlooked. Through a combination of textiles, photographs, and music, the exhibition will offer glimpses into the past while confronting the lingering impact of historical atrocities on present-day communities.

The involvement of Voices Gloucester and several stitching groups underscores the collaborative nature of the project, which will culminate in a display at Gloucester’s cathedral in September. The £29,750 in funding from the Arts Council reflects a commitment to preserving and showcasing cultural artefacts that challenge us to reflect on our shared history and envision a more equitable future.

By engaging with difficult histories and amplifying marginalized voices, the project encourages audiences to confront the enduring legacies of slavery and consider its reverberations in contemporary society. Through thoughtful curation and community engagement, the exhibition invites visitors to critically reflect on the past and present realities of systemic oppression, fostering dialogue and awareness surrounding issues of racial justice and equity.