Children from Coventry schools discuss legacy of the transatlantic slave trade at cathedral – Coventry City Council

400 school children gathered at Coventry Cathedral to explore the impact of the transatlantic slave trade.

The University of Warwick, in partnership with Cabinet member for Education Cllr Kindy Sandhu, hosted the one-day Coventry schools conference last week, to highlight the goals of the United Nations Outreach Programme on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery, with the UN’s programme manager, Brenden Varma, attending the event.

The Colonial Legacies and Reconciliation Conference was attended by pupils from 14 Coventry primary, secondary and community special schools on the day, with all 77 of the city’s schools taking part in the project. Conference-goers were welcomed by Cllr Kevin Maton, the Lord Mayor of Coventry, Cllr George Duggins, Leader of the Council, and the Very Reverend John Witcombe, the Dean of Coventry.

During the morning session primary school children displayed work that they discussed with City Councillors and Warwick academics. In the afternoon, secondary school children gave presentations and poems to share their learning and experiences. The audience heard from a number of guest speakers including two pupils from Lyng Hall who represented the UK at the UN’s annual student conference. They also heard from Coventry City Football Club, who have been working in partnership with the University of Warwick on an academic initiative to help young players in football academies act as ambassadors in their own schools, raising awareness of issues related to historical racial injustices.

The day culminated in the keynote speech from Brenden Varma, United Nations Outreach Programme Manager on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery. 

Coventry City Council Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, Cllr Kindy Sandhu, said: “As co-host of the first International All Schools conference in support of the United Nations Outreach Programme on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery, it was Coventry City’s school pupils who made this event a huge success. With over 400 pupils attending, we saw such inspiring and creative artwork, poems that linked their heritage with pride in Coventry, videos and speeches about the perils of racism and the tyranny of the transatlantic slave trade. It was very emotional and I feel so proud of our city’s school pupils.”

Keynote speaker, Brenden Varma, Programme Manager for the United Nations Outreach Programme on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery, said: “It was an honour to address the Colonial Legacies and Reconciliation Conference on the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans. Through their compelling presentations and artwork, students showed their commitment to learning about this shameful era in human history. And it was inspiring to see the good work being done in Coventry to address slavery’s enduring legacy of racism.”

Professor Matthew Clayton, Head of the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick, said: “I want to thank all the primary and secondary school students of Coventry who participated at the conference with the UN’s Outreach Programme on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery Programme. The event involved students educating each other through spoken reflections, art, music and poetry about past injustices and the continuing need for justice, peace and reconciliation. The University of Warwick was proud to host this event alongside Coventry City Council and Coventry Cathedral.”

The event was funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council.

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