Following the entertaining Freetown Society Open Evening in Hull, I was honoured to represent the Society in Freetown to share in the week of events arranged by Simon Ingram-Hill, the Director of the British Council, Sierra Leone.

I was busy from the first morning, joining the Mayor and the Vice Chair of the Hull Society at the unveiling of the plaque to Thomas Perronet Thompson at the National Museum, it had been presented to the Mayor during his visit to Hull September.

From there I went to the Cotton Tree at Wilberforce village where I was honoured to unveil the new bust to William Wilberforce, a joyous occasion of speeches, prayers and song.

Later that day I was the UK representative on a distinguished panel looking at the benefits of the City of Culture and how this may be replicated in Freetown enabling them to engage in and celebrate their art and culture.

The International Pupil Council exhibition, 2778 Nautical Miles has pride of place in the National railway museum, it is housed in the Queen’s carriage. It was fun visiting it with some of the IPC pupils who had helped me with the original recordings back in February.

Saturday was a more sobering day as, accompanied by Hull Society member and friend Barmmy Boy, I visited the area devastated by the recent mudslide. The scale of the devastation is beyond belief, well-built 3 story homes, bridges, roads and a church all destroyed; over 1,000 lives lost in less than 30 minutes.

Tom Bellerby, director of the Grow programme at Hull truck, and three Hull Truck supported actors were in Freetown as part of the joint project which will hopefully see three actors from Freetown being able to visit Hull in 2018.  It was a treat watching Tom bring the essence of Hull Truck to the floor with the six actors working together to produce the first draft of what will be an amazing show.

On Sunday I attended the Thanksgiving Service at St Mark’s Church with Rev. Elkanah Thomas. It was fitting to share the prayers written by Rev. Bagshawe which had been read in churches across Hull the previous Sunday. At the Mayor’s request, a copy of the prayers will be displayed in the Mayor’s parlour.

I visited many new schools and the exciting project Home Leone which is looking at ways of creating affordable and sustainable homes for the poorest people of Freetown.

The IPC meeting was attended by pupils from over 34 primary and secondary schools; we had an interesting discussion about the Sustainable Development Goals and in particular no.11 Sustainable Cities and Communities.

My final official duty was to make a statement at the opening of the Modern Day Slavery exhibition which aims to open the discussion of this rapidly rising issue. I was delighted to talk about the work undertaken at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, WISE. A choir made up of pupils from our partner secondary schools sang two of the pieces from the Stolen Lives Project, it was wonderful to hear them being sung in the open air with a Freetown twist to the tune and words.

All together an amazing week of celebration and reinforced to me the importance at so many levels of the twinning between Hull and Freetown.