Sunderland: Ship of Souls

A bronze ceramic plaque, detail from the hull, saying 'freedom’.
  Plank created by students at Red House Academy for the Ship of Souls. Courtesy of MBC Arts Wellbeing




Red House Academy, Sunderland

MBC Arts Wellbeing delivers arts education projects designed to boost self-esteem and confidence. To throw light on histories of Sunderland people’s fight for social justice and thanks to Arts Council England funding, MBC’s Emily Nolan created the Ship of Souls with students at Red House Academy.

She shared some of the less often told stories including Sunderland’s participation in the slave trade and abolition through its maritime links. Sunderland was once the international centre of shipbuilding.

Colour photograph of two adults and five school students standing beside a metallic bronze ceramic artwork in the shape of a ship’s hull, with an explanatory plaque.
Mark Burns Cassell, Executive Director, MBC Arts Wellbeing with Lindsey Mullan, JtoJ Sunderland coordinator, students and the Ship of Souls, at Red House Academy.
Courtesy of MBC Arts Wellbeing

The project has been brilliant for raising the students’ self-esteem. They were really pleased when they saw it installed and could identify which planks they’d done…We will move to Civil Rights next, so the project has really been the pivotal event of [year] 8.

Stephen Newman, Curriculum Leader for History, Red House Academy & Journey to Justice Sunderland steering group

Some of the group had never heard of the Atlantic slave trade and had no idea of the history of human suffering which was endured by so many. It was also the first time some of them learned of Sunderland’s maritime history.

The students studied archives from the time and mind-mapped words and sketched ideas in response to their new knowledge. They made individual engraved 3D ceramic planks based on their own interpretations of Sunderland’s links to the history.

After being mounted and painted a rich bronze colour, the Ship of Souls was delivered to Red House Academy. It takes pride of place just inside the main entrance to the school.

I am very proud of the work the students have done in creating a visual reminder about human dignity and justice … It will remain a constant reminder about the duty of all of us in safeguarding it and is as relevant today as it was then.

Dr Therese Quincey, Principal, Red House Academy

I’m proud that our work is on display for all to see.

Edward Brown

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