Wimbledon campaigner steps up for modern slavery survivors

published on 27 Oct 2023

A passionate anti-slavery campaigner from Wimbledon led a Wilberforce Walk in London to raise funds for The Salvation Army’s modern slavery work.

Richard Smart started the series with a walk from Wimbledon to Westminster on Anti-Slavery Day - 18 October - passing locations in Wimbledon Village, Putney along the Thames to Westminster that are relevant to different historical figures such as William Wilberforce, Granville Sharp, the Clapham Sect, Thomas Buxton and Josephine Butler. The walk took place on Anti-Slavery Day and during the third week of October to coincide with Black History Month and was supported by Merton and Wimbledon Historical Society as well as local councillors.

Mr Smart said: “While marking the bicentenary of the Anti-Slavery Society, the walk aimed to educate all of us that modern slavery still exists both in the UK and worldwide. 

“I raised money for The Salvation Army because it provides invaluable support for survivors of modern slavery in England and Wales to help them rebuild their lives after exploitation and move to living independently and in freedom. I feel passionately about this because it is a problem that occurs everywhere in the UK regardless of race, religion or gender.”

“I hope that people from London and beyond will be able to donate what they can afford to this incredibly important cause.”

Attendees of the Wilberforce walk stand beside each other in front of a church whilst holding a banner that says 'Wilber Force Walk' on it
Some attendees of the walk

The first walk started from Wimbledon, where William Wilberforce was first introduced to evangelical faith, and ending at Westminster, where Thomas Buxton introduced many motions to Commons for the gradual abolition of slavery; the walk passed through Putney, and alongside Fulham and Clapham all of which have links to historic anti-slavery sights. The walk also explored the unique Salvation Army story of supporter William Stead whose work with Bramwell Booth, son of Salvation Army founder William Booth, and his wife Josephine Butler, published an exposé which resulted in the legal change of the age of consent to protect women and girls. Booth and Stead achieved this feat by raising awareness of the illegal trade in women and girls for sexual exploitation in 1880’s London. It is now referenced as the “Maiden Tribute”.

The route was approximately 12 miles and 25 walkers took part for some or all of the route, started at 10am on 18 October, concluding with a specially arranged visit to Wilberforce's burial place and memorial in Westminster Abbey.

The Salvation Army have celebrated Anti-Slavery Day with moving music performed by a singing group made up survivors of modern slavery and supported by The Salvation Army through its London Outreach service. Read more about the event here: Survivor choir celebrates Anti-Slavery Day with moving music | The Salvation Army.  

A Salvation Army volunteer brings an elderly gentleman a care package.

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