Frederick Douglass was a towering figure of the nineteenth century. Vitally involved in every major struggle for social change in the United States, from the abolition of slavery to the campaign for women’s suffrage, he gave his life to the cause of making the world a better place. In his mid-twenties he wrote the first version of his autobiography, describing his life as a slave and his escape. He journeyed to Britain, to argue the case for a global campaign against slavery and to escape the manhunters who were searching for ‘their master’s property’. He arrived just as one of the great disasters of the century, the famine in Ireland, was starting and at a moment when the Chartist movement was active.
Riversmeet imagines Frederick Douglass’ reactions to these events, and sets his story alongside that of an Irish man caught in the horrors of the famine. As their paths cross and separate the two of them try to decide how to try to change the world. They meet again as a political solution is springing into life.
Riversmeet was reviewed in Wasafiri issue 64 by David Johnson
175 x 110 mm
Richard Bradbury has been a university teacher since 1980s, including a stint for the British Council in Poland - teaching American cultural studies, literature, film and theatre. In 1998 he was diagnosed as suffering from a severe case of sarcoidosis, leaving him with serious and chronic health problems. The enforced stillness made him re-consider what it was he wanted to really do. Riversmeet was a product of that, and he is grateful to Maureen Casey and Deirdre Rogers for supporting the writing, to Ruth Boswell for editing, and to Jan Woolf for championing it and commissioning the play Become a Man, about Frederick Douglass’ visit to Britain in the 1840s, performed at London’s City Hall and the Hackney Empire as part of the commemorations for the bi-centenary of the abolition of the slave trade in 2007. Richard has since written two more plays; Claude, about the poet Claude McKay, and Leaving, about contemporary British rural life and he is at present working on a new play Blood Meadow about the Western Rebellion of 1549. He is also completing a companion volume to Riversmeet, set in the same period, and another novel set in the South West of England. He continues to teach literature and film for the Open University and the Workers Educational Association, and is chair of Kaleido, an arts and disability charity based in the South West.