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She's Fired recalls the Seaham Colliery disaster at the Sage Gateshead

A show called She's Fired was intended as a one-off but has been acclaimed around the region and is bound for the Sage

The final scene of She's Fired
The final scene of She's Fired

The 1880 Seaham Colliery disaster in County Durham, in which 164 men and boys lost their lives, will be recalled in a dramatic musical performance at Sage Gateshead.

She’s Fired has a script by ex-miner Bob Lowery, who also plays the main character, and music and songs by John Wrightson, who worked for many years as a colliery electrician and is a familiar figure on the North East folk scene.

Joan Edmundson, from Sedgefield, who plays keyboard in John’s band and co-organises the annual Sedgefield Folk Festival, says She’s Fired was conceived as a special attraction for the festival in 2012.

“There are a lot of connections with the pits around Sedgefield and we wanted to put something different on for them,” she recalls.

“It was intended as a ‘one-off’, but it was so successful that a lot of people asked if we’d be interested in putting it on in various places and we’ve done about 11 performances over the past two years.

“We’ve been to the Georgian Theatre in Richmond, to Houghton Feast, Seaham and West Rainton, among other places.”

Now the team behind She’s Fired – the title recalling the cry that went up when people realised the pit was ablaze – are bringing the show to Sage Gateshead’s Hall Two on March 14.

Toby Hodgson and Bob Lowery in She's Fired
Toby Hodgson and Bob Lowery in She's Fired

The way the show tells it, pit owner the Marquis of Londonderry took the decision with his managers to seal up a blazing shaft to save coal, thereby condemning the trapped mineworkers – and more than 80 pit ponies – to an agonising death.

It is a story that has touched a lot of people. Joan, one of the 12 amateur performers, said one woman made a long journey to Richmond to see the show because her great great great grandfather had been one of the victims.

Joan says she was moved when she saw messages to loved ones, scratched and scrawled by the doomed miners on pieces of wood, displayed in Seaham.

The show begins, she says, when 10-year-old Billy, played by Toby Hodgson, sings a song called I Can See a Bright Light Shining in the Dark.

The best known of the songs in the show is Diary of a Northumberland Miner which has been recorded by Vin Garbutt, Marie Little and others.

Joan says there is some light relief in the show, mostly supplied by Bertie Draycott, an ex-miner in his 80s who is a dab hand with the spoons.

Tickets for She’s Fired can be bought at the Sage box office: www.sagegateshead.com or 0191 443 4661.

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