William Wilberforce
Completed Project

Virtual Wilberforce

Bringing William Wilberforce to life for a 21st-century audience, using CGI and animated video.

Project summary

The Challenge

We wanted to make William Wilberforce, and his fight to abolish slavery, relevant for a modern-day audience.

The Approach

Virtual Wilberforce ‘starred’ on life-sized interactive screens throughout Hull, paying homage to Hull’s legacy of freedom.

The Outcome

The project served as a timely reminder of the ongoing existence of slavery across the world and encouraged people to make a stand against it.

The Challenge

William Wilberforce, an MP from Hull, led the legislative effort to end Britain's participation in the slave trade. The battle lasted twenty years and culminated in the Slave Trade Act, which finally ended slavery in the British Empire.  

To celebrate the anniversary of the Slave Trade Act, the Wilberforce Institute worked to resurrect this incredibly potent tale for a 21st-century audience while doing homage to it.  The conflict Wilberforce faced shows a lot about the abhorrent practice of slavery and the reason why each of us must do our part to stop it.

You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know

William Wilberforce, MP

The Approach

Our knowledge of contemporary slavery was combined with expertise from the Glasgow School of Art and the University of Hull's computer science geniuses to produce life-sized CGI representations of William Wilberforce.

The team created a "Virtual Wilberforce" using the same 3D magic used in popular Hollywood movies. One of our drama students "played" the role of virtual Wilberforce.  His movements were captured and transformed into a 3D digital Wilberforce by the team using motion-capture technology and sophisticated 3D rendering.

During Hull's year as the UK City of Culture, a virtual Wilberforce "starred" on life-size interactive screens all across the city, paying respect to Hull's tradition of freedom. Virtual Wilberforce conveyed the inspiring tale of his life and his struggle for freedom, from his 1789 House of Commons address speaking out against the slave trade in Africa until his passing in 1833, in a series of brief animated movies.

Virtual Wilberforce

The Impact

By "recreating" Wilberforce in a cutting-edge, contemporary manner, we were able to tell the inspiring tale of his struggle against slavery once again. The difficulties he encountered during his campaign were revealed to the audience, as well as his incredible perseverance in the face of several challenges. It inspired people to take a stand against slavery and served as a timely reminder that it still exists today in many parts of the world. We hope that it will motivate others to carry on the struggle for freedom.

Virtual Wilberforce