Ghosts of

Characters & Research


Udham Singh

Voiced by Aaron Neil

Udham Singh was an Indian revolutionary from the Punjab who – after returning from fighting for the British in World War One – witnessed the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar, 1919. British troops fired indiscriminately on a crowd of thousands in the name of maintaining law and order. Hundreds were murdered and many more injured.

Singh became involved in revolutionary politics against colonial rule and moved to England – where he eventually assassinated Michael O’Dwyer, the Lieutenant Governor at the time of the massacre in Amritsar. He was hanged in Pentonville Prison (London), after making a speech at his trial which was censored by the judge. The Indian Workers Association of Great Britain campaigned for the text to be released to the public, and this finally happened in 1996.

Olaudah Equiano

Voiced by Abraham Popoola

Kidnapped and sold into slavery when he was 7 years old in (approximately) 1752 – eventually, Olaudah was able to buy his freedom. Following decades of adventure, in 1781 he learned of the Zong massacre. To enable the captain to claim compensation for the loss on the ship Zong’s insurance, 130 African enslaved people were thrown overboard. Outraged and horrified, Equiano brought news of this to the abolitionist campaigner Granville Sharp and got much more involved in the movement to fight the trade of enslaved people.

In 1789, he published his autobiography ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano’. It is one of the earliest-known examples of writing by an African writer published in the UK, detailing his early life and many adventures. It was a crucial counter narrative to commonly-held and prejudiced English beliefs about African people and their lives, became a bestseller and was an important tool for the abolitionist movement.

Josie McGowan

Voiced by Imogen Doel

Josephine ‘Josie’ McGowan was the first Cumann na mBan (Women’s Council) member to be killed during the Irish Revolution. At a protest against British rule, she was beaten up by a member of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. She died a few days later on 29 September 1918. The death certificate stated that she died of pneumonia, but her family and community maintained that her death was a result of the beating at the protest.

Living Voices

Edward Daffarn

Edward Daffarn was a survivor of the Grenfell Tower fire and before the fire was co-author of the Grenfell Action Blog documenting how residents on the Lancaster West Estate were being treated. He joined Grenfell United, a campaign group set up by survivors and bereaved families to campaign for justice and change to ensure a fire like Grenfell can never happen again. The group has led campaigns to make homes across the country safer and to put more power in the hands of social housing residents.

Navern De La Kruz

Navern Antonio de la Kruz got into activism after he was wrongfully detained in his garden by a swarm of policemen who were claiming he had been seen carrying a knife – even though he had not left his house that day. With Bhatt Murphy solicitors, he successfully sued the police and won his case.

Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt

Andria Mordaunt was an original member of ACT UP in the 1980s, and has been a long time political activist, both grassroots and at the UN, where she lobbied to decriminalise drug use, in order to prevent HIV spreading among injection drug users, and other vulnerable citizens. She continues her activism with Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil.

Dan Glass

Dan Glass is an AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP) healthcare and human rights activist, performer, presenter and writer. Dan has been recognised as ‘Activist of the Year’ with the Sexual Freedom Awards and was announced a ‘BBC Greater Londoner’ for founding Queer Tours of London – A Mince Through Time.


The process of deciding on who would be haunting the spaces on the journey from Trafalgar Square to Big Ben took a long time and involved a lot of experiments and rumination.

Initially, research focused on some of the statues themselves – James II, for example, who stands right outside the front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. King for just two years – James II spent most of his life as Lord Admiral of the Navy. At the age of 27, his brother (James I) appointed him as the head of a new organisation called the Royal African Company – with exclusive rights to operate in West Africa. They built forts, they killed local kings, they searched for gold and, most importantly, they built up and monopolised the British trade in enslaved human beings. Within a few years, they were transporting 5,000 enslaved people every year to markets in the Caribbean, and they did so for decades. James was the Duke of York – and many of the people bought and sold by the Royal African Company were branded with the letters “DoY”. Colston was a senior executive of the RAC but, as a result of his leadership of the Royal Navy, it was James who was in charge. There is no mention of his involvement in the slave trade anywhere near his statue.

Despite the gravity of this backstory – as the project progressed it became clear that, even if we told the real stories behind these men up on their plinths, we would still be repeating the practice of only looking in one direction, at the powerful white men.

If you only tell stories about powerful white men – it’s easy to forget that “history” is made by multitudes, and change is often forced through by those who are oppressed rather than gifted by those in power. Inspired by Priyamvada Gopal and her rigorous dissection of how independence from Britain was gained from below, not from above – we shifted gaze to the ghosts who might haunt these spaces that celebrate British history and patriotism.

We set the walking route – and co-writer Sonali Bhattacharyya sought out characters whose stories felt resonant with the places of the route.

For Trafalgar Square, where all the statues are of men from the Navy and that – as a space – tells a story of pomp and grandeur about Great Britain, Olaudah Equiano and his own decision to challenge the dominant narrative felt appropriate.

For Horse Guards Parade – dominated by the army and often full of soldiers, the story of an ex-British army Indian dissident creates a golden thread from the sensation of standing on gravel in contemporary London to his memories of a massacre in another square, elsewhere.

While initial research focused on potential Irish characters who were working against British army occupation, constantly walking past the back end of Downing Street during the development process – and seeing men with machine guns from the London Metropolitan Police (home to recent rapists and murderers Wayne Couzens and David Carrick) – persuaded us to shift focus to Josie McGowan. The Dublin Metropolitan Police were set up by British politician Robert Peel when Ireland was a colony under British rule- and went on to found the London Metropolitan Police. The first woman to be killed by police as part of the Irish War of Independence, Josie creates a sense of chilling echoes resounding across time.