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Hidden Stories - a creative arts and music project uncovering and exploring stories of Seventeen Nineteen and Old Sunderland

Songs of the Streets - 10 community songs inspired by Sunderland's East Enders and the stories within

Dear Friend: A Letter to William - responses to the found letter of William Elliott
William's Castle - a docu-drama inpired by the found letter of William Elliott

Terry Deary Sunderland Horrible History Stories -
(coming soon)

Theatre Space East End Stories -
(coming soon)

A Spyglass Through Time deirables wordcloud:

Week 3 - fragments, the safe, artifacts and more...

We began this session by discussing two inspirational videos:


Only Breath, site-specific sculpture at Science Museum, London (

 ‘Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View‘, Cornelia Parker CBE RA, 1991 | Tate


We noted how fragments are suggestive of something bigger – parts of one whole – and the reflections and refractions can look different depending on the angle you looks at it.  We also noted that suspending something in time and space give it an intriguing quality - posing questions as the how and why it got there, and what may happen next.


We then went on to write down sensorial elements – sights, sound, even smells! – that we can imagine in the show.  We did this as individuals, and then took time to find parallels between people’s thinking. These included:

  • Sound - music, group singing, loud/quiet, surround sound, efffects

  • Light - fragments, breaking, reforming, refracting and reflecting

  • Immersion, projection,  

Ideas seemed to consolidate somewhart around an artifact broken into fragments through which we see episodic glimpses from the history of said item.


During the break we gained access to the safe, which holds artifacts from the building’s history.



After the break we spilt into two groups, one of which was tasked with thinking about which fragments of history we might see in the middle section of the performance.


4 prominent episodes centred around:
Jack Crawford (library/accessible alternative?)– heroism and subsequent life
William Elliott (main space) – choir boy and writer of the intriguing letter found during restoration
Robert Gray (foyer) – pastor and carer for the community during cholera
Graverobbers (vestry) – crime and punishments highlighting use as small court/prison


There was also a suggestion of using several related artifacts that are disturbed, rather than a single artifact that breaks.


This led to the idea of a safe, holding related items – a collection plate, a jug, coins – that is disturbed by a group of contemporary youths who have perhaps gained unauthorised access to Seventeen Nineteen one evening as a dare.


We mentioned the audience entering in the position of characters (as part of the group), being told to sneak/be quiet etc as multi-sensory experiences unfold around them – sounds, torchlight.  The idea of the safe being on a raised platform in the middle of the space under spotlight was mentioned.


Another thought: upon disturbing the contents of the safe there is a crash followed by silence, then the singing of a choir boy from the whispering chamber…Willaim.  Building, glimpses of history begin to appears via projection and around the room.  The stories and artifacts begin to spread to different parts of the building, where members of the company urge audience members to follow.


How do audience know who to follow?  Different coloured tickets that correspond to a coloured torchlight, costumed character etc…?


Upon splitting, each group would be led to a room where they would see an episode of the history of the artifacts in the safe.  In total, all four groups would see all four episodes on rotation before heading back to the main space where items will be replaced in the safe and preserved for the future…or perhaps another conclusion.


The other group was tasked with exploring ideas about what the object might be that travels through time and tells our story.

We wanted the object to be:

  • Made of glass (or partly made of glass) so that it could be shattered and broken

  • Available in the early 18th century so that it could feasibly have been around when Holy Trinity Church was consecrated in 1719

  • Connected to our local heritage (bottles from the bottleworks along the river, Sunderland-made glass, an object connected to shipbuilding…)

We first brainstormed lots of ideas, which included:

  • Bottles

  • Marbles

  • Seaglass

  • Hourglasses

  • Pocket watch

  • Glass floats

  • Clock faces

  • Reflecting circle (a navigational tool that uses two mirrors to measure an angle between two fixed points)

  • A spyglass!

We talked about the ‘shattering’ event, thinking about the glass windows in the church being blown out during bombing in the area. We suggested that perhaps there are a number of shattering events – from positive (like a bottle of champagne launching a boat?) to scary (like the glass windows smashing)


We discussed the different timepieces we had thought about made out of glass, and we liked the idea of different timepieces (sandtimers, pocket watches, grandfather clocks, apple watches?!) being used throughout the different scenarios in the performance to indicate the changing of time. We suggested the story could begin with a clock repair up in the belltower, with the clock starting and stopping throughout and taking us forwards and backwards in time.


We liked the idea of the object being a Spyglass which is connected to the nautical heritage of the area – we talked about the glass cracking and splintering to reveal an image that turns kaleidoscopic and transforms the view through the lens into something unexpected.

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