Socialist Worker

Ghosts—Glasgow’s hidden slave trade history revealed

by Mark Brown
Issue No. 2752

Ghosts director Adura Onashile

Ghosts director Adura Onashile


Take a walk westwards along Ingram Street in Glasgow city centre. Cut across Glassford Street and, via the famous Buchanan Street, down to Dunlop Street.

Almost every step you have taken has been on a street named reverentially after one of the city’s slave-owning “Tobacco Lords” of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Ghosts, written and directed by Adura Onashile, is the latest work by the National Theatre of Scotland. It uses a smartphone app to connect the audience member with this shameful history.

As the app directs us through the “Merchant City” we hear the story of a young African man, ripped from his mother as she is sold into slavery.

Transported to Glasgow, he becomes both an enslaved servant and an exhibited curio in the house of a rich merchant.

As we walk, ghosts of the city’s slave-owning past appear on our screen.

We hear both the agonies of the young man’s memories and the terrors of his bid for freedom

Powerfully written and performed, with excellent music and sound, this piece deserves to be adapted into a short film.

Access the app at nationaltheatrescotland.com until 9 May

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