Firstly, I would like to thank Enter CIC for giving me yet another phenomenal opportunity. The When Yesterday Was Young project opened my eyes to view the depth of the community life of the village more closely (in which I have lived my whole life) and delve into the struggles that families faced during the strikes and The Great War.
I was so happy that I could be part of the research team that went out to various places and gathered the facts and true stories that has built up this show. I heard stories from ex miners that are going to stick with me for a very long time if not the rest of my life. Visiting the National Coal Mining Museum for England was one of the main research visits that I went on and it was a real eye opener. Going down the mine gave me a real life perspective of the conditions that men, women and children had to put up with, for up to 18 hours a shift. The 2 miners that we spoke to that day told us many stories about their time in the mines and the struggles that not only them but there marras fought through and help each other along in. The one main thing that has really stuck with me is that no matter what they witnessed or went through down the mines, they would go straight back down there again if the mines re-opened.
Another visit which I went on was to Beamish Open Air Museum. I have visited Beamish many times before this, on school trips and with my family, but with this project it has really helped me understand some of the things which I have heard in the past. I took part in a workshop that gave us an insight to the conditions that families went through in the workhouses. This workshop really make me think twice about complaining about things I had to do at home because the people that worked in these conditions had no choice and did their job whether they liked it or not. We also got to try some gruel and I couldn’t believe that these people had to live there life with only that in their stomach. As a group we all learned a traditional folk song called ‘Farewell Johnny Miner’ which got transformed and put into our show.
I found the rehearsal process really fun as it was two intense, full weeks. It was really phenomenal seeing and hearing some of the brand new scripts and ideas that were put into the performance. One of the major things that we had to think about was how to utilise the space as there was an amazing set that we got for this performance. When I entered the centre for the last two days of rehearsal, I was breath taken at how many hours and much effort the team at Enter had put into making the set and performance as amazing as it could possibly be.
The week of shows was really tough and tiring but there was no better feeling than seeing how much we touched the hearts of the people in our community and hearing the brilliant feedback from all of their experiences of being in a mining based family. It was also very special for me to see my Nan and Grandad watch me on stage for the first time since I was 5 and bring them to tears with their pride for their community and heritage.
I don’t think it can really be put into words how thankful I am that Enter CIC offered me this phenomenal opportunity.