During May we started the project entitled ‘When Yesterday Was Young’. We started the project by visiting local heritage sites to learn about our heritage and history. This then culminated in a performance being shown sixteen times over six days. We started off by visiting the Durham Mining Museum in Spennymoor. We spoke to Jack Inch (previously a pit master) about his understanding of mining and the local area as well as his experiences from working in the mining industry. He spoke with passion and heart about mining and what it means to him and his family. Jack had a lot of knowledge to offer from this visit to do with the maps and different stories from the mines. We then collated our research back at the centre then prepared for our next visit.
Next, we visited the National Coal Mining Museum for England in Wakefield. This trip involved us going 459 feet underground into an inactive mine. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the trip as it gave me a new perspective on a previous show we had done called “The Wind Road Boys” and a new perspective on what life was really like for miners working underground. We did other workshops whilst at Wakefield that involved seeing how the children and women worked down the mines but the trip down the mine stood out for me.
We had numerous visits from Beamish to teach us about life at home for the miners wives, life during the war, explosions in the mines and leisure activities that the miners and their families took part in. Bill Elliott (Community Learning Co-ordinator) also taught us a folk song that we used in the production.
We went into a week-long rehearsal to put the show together by collating the research we had, putting it into scenes and using some pre-existing material in a different context adjusting it to what we needed. We used many works from Sid Chaplin whilst also adapting them for theatre. We broke for a week whilst summer school ran then went into another week of rehearsals, tightening what we had so far and adding new material to finish the show. The cast then broke for a week whilst technical and staff transformed the performing space into a heritage museum. We also had external providers come in and build as well as a set designer making a coal face. Then we had 2 days to adapt to the space and set, re-blocking where needed to put cast on the scaffolding and change some formations. Then we were into show week where we did 15 shows Tuesday to Saturday doing 3 a day. We then performed once on the Sunday at Wakefield in the National Coal Mining Museum for England.
We received amazing feedback from everyone who came to see the performance and brought many to tears. I thoroughly enjoyed performing during the shows, it was something new when working with the scaffolding as a set, as we had to adapt to it quickly to put the show on its feet. 16 shows in 6 days was a challenge but I thought it was amazing practice and helped develop work ethic and endurance in the industry.
For me personally this was such a unique and a once in a lifetime kind of project to be apart of. Unlike some projects that have been carried out, we got a more in depth look into how the research is carried out and got to help with the research side and building the show ourselves. This has helped me with my studies as well at university as I head into my 3rd year I have to do a research article, so this will help me ensure that I look at it from every possible angle as information can be hidden anywhere. It is something valuable that I can put on my CV to say that I was a part of this project that I helped with the research and the performing of this project.
I really enjoyed this project as I come from a mining family, my great Granddad had worked down the mines and told his sons (my Granddad) that they could work anywhere but down the mines as there was no life for anyone down underground anymore. I wanted to look further into this to see what could have influenced my great Granddad to say this. I now understand why he said this, I understand the conditions they had to battle through each and every day. I am proud to come from a mining family knowing that we helped this country through some tough times.
All in all, this was an amazing project to be part of and I hope that it goes on to help many more people who don’t know about there heritage as much as it has helped me understand what my family had done for generations.