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Festival 2014's Empire Cafe looks to Scotland's past

Louise Welsh, Empire Café Co-Director and Author

Co-Director and Author, Louise Welsh, writes about the Empire Café project, part of Festival 2014 this summer in Glasgow.

The Empire Café is an exploration of Scotland’s relationship with the North Atlantic slave trade through coffee, sugar, tea, cotton, music, visual art, academic lectures, poetry, debate, workshops, historical walks, film and literature. The project forms part of the Festival 2014 programme and will be based in the Briggait (home of the Merchant’s Steeple) in Glasgow’s Merchant City from 24th July - 1st August.   Contributors to the programme include poets Jackie Kay, Millicent Graham, Alan Riach and Fred D’Aguiar; authors Andrea Stuart, James Robertson and Chris Dolan, internationally acclaimed artist Graham Fagan, Hip Hop band Stanley Odd, The Big Big Sing and Dr Richard Benjamin of the Liverpool Slavery Museum, plus many more.

The Empire Café has commissioned poems from eminent Scottish and Caribbean poets on Scotland and the North Atlantic slave trade which will be published in a print anthology which will be available free of charge. Poets contributing to the anthology include Kei Miller, John Burnside, Vicki Fever, Dorothea Smartt, Aonghas MacNeacail and others.

The Empire Café will also host a number of creative workshops and walking tours developed in partnership with Glasgow Women's Library, Historian Stephen Mullen and the Janey Buchan Political Song Archive.  A series of free-at-source exhibits will be available to view throughout the duration of the event. 'Sight Lines' presents a new film project involving the 3D ariel mapping of Kenya directed by Genevieve Bicknell with SDI Productions & RCAHMS.  'Letter to an Unknown Soldier' by Kate Pullinger and Neil Bartlett takes the form of a bespoke writing room where the public can go to be inspired and compose their own as part of 14 –18 NOW’s UK-wide participative project.  Visual artist Graham Fagen's new work  'War c/w I Murder Hate', commissioned by 14-18NOW, considers the stories of Jamaican soldiers during the First World War through a new piece of film.

The Empire Cafe is founded by co-directors Jude Barber of Collective Architecture and author Louise Welsh. ‘Merchant City Voices’, their collaborative series of sounds works exploring Glasgow’s relationship with the North Atlantic slave trade won a 2013 Scottish Design Award.

Read more about the full details of the programme