Virtual Wilberforce

The Challenge

2017 marked the 210th anniversary of the passing of the Slave Trade Act which abolished slavery in the British Empire. The act was hard fought for and a long time in the making. Hull-born William Wilberforce MP headed the parliamentary campaign against Britain’s involvement in the slave trade. The campaign took twenty years.

Our challenge was to do justice to this extraordinarily powerful story and to revive it for a 21st-century audience. The battle Wilberforce went through reveals much about the horrendous practice of slavery and why every one of us must play our part to eradicate it.




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

The approach

Our expertise in modern-day slavery joined forces with our computer science masterminds here at the University of Hull and those at the Glasgow School of Art to create life-sized CGI versions of Wilberforce.

The tech team used the same 3D wizardry found in blockbuster Hollywood films tocreate a ‘Virtual Wilberforce’.  Virtual Wilberforce was ‘played’ by one of our Drama students, Adan Osborne. The team used motion-capture technology and advanced 3D rendering to record Adan’s movements and turn them into a 3D digital Wilberforce.

Virtual Wilberforce ‘starred’ on life-sized interactive screens throughout Hull during its year as UK City of Culture, paying homage to Hull’s legacy of freedom. In a series of short animated videos, Virtual Wilberforce told his powerful life story and his fight for freedom, from his first speech against the African slave trade in the House of Commons in 1789 through to his death in 1833.

The impact

'Recreating’ Wilberforce in a modern, innovative way meant we could retell the story of his inspirational fight against slavery. Viewers learned of the obstacles he faced during his campaign and the great fortitude he displayed, often against great odds. It served as a timely reminder of the ongoing existence of slavery across the world today and encouraged people to take their own stand against it. We hope it will inspire others to continue the fight for freedom.

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