Dr Shirley J Thompson, Composer and Reader in Composition and Performance at the University of Westminster’s School of Media, Arts and Design, has been interviewed on Jumoke Fashola’s programme on BBC Radio London where she presented her new act opera ‘The Woman Who Refused to Dance’.

Dr Thompson was invited to talk about her new act opera entitled ‘The Woman Who Refused to Dance’ which is part of Dr Thompson’s ground-breaking series of operas ‘Heroines of Opera’ uncovering the submerged narratives of overshadowed women in history.

The opera’s tale recalls the true story of an unknown woman beaten for refusing to dance on a boat of trafficked people travelling from Calabar, in West Africa, to Grenada in 1792. She was beaten and hung by her ankles until she died after refusing to dance for the ship’s captain. Her refusal was read as an act of insubordination and her punishment was meant as an example to the other enslaved people on board.

The 50-minute opera will be performed at the V&A Museum on Friday 1 December as part of a V&A special event entitled ‘Spotlight Noir – Other Opera Chronicles’.

Talking about how she came across this story, Dr Thompson said: “I was invited 10 years ago to commemorate the 1807 abolition act of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and I was asked by the Parliamentary state to commemorate and celebrate the two-hundred-year anniversary of this act. I built up a sort of body of work looking at stories that were not told during that period of enslavement and came across this story.

“This also became the catalyst for William Wilberforce to look into the Trans- Atlantic Trade Slavery and this case was used to negotiate for the act in Parliament”, she added.

Listen to the full interview from 02:45:18 to 02:56:23 on BBC Radio London iPlayer.

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