A NEW piece of promenade theatre performance has debuted at Killhope Lead Mining Museum as part of the visitor attraction’s programme of summer events.

Written and directed by David Napthine and performed by Shelley O’Brien, the specially commissioned play called I’m not one to gossip was a huge hit with visitors, during its premier performance on Wednesday.

Taking the audience on a wander around Killhope, visitors meet the character of Jane Peart – the woman who cleans the Mine Agent’s office and knows everything about everyone and anyone. As the play unfolds across different scenes set in various locations around the museum, Jane’s character invites the audience to join her for a gossip, as she shares the lives of Upper Weardale folk during the Victorian era.

The Northern Echo:

Specially commissioned for the museum, I’m not one to gossip was funded as part of the Covid Recovery Project and the wider Killhope arts engagement programme. David, the writer and director, was tasked with researching the myths, legends and people of Weardale, in particular those who had close links with Killhope. As a result, the heroine of the play was based on Jane Peart, an actual resident of the area who did indeed look after the mine office.

Shelley, the actress who assumes the role of Jane Peart, spent a day with the team at Killhope, exploring the landscape, exhibitions and specifically the Victorian costumes, to help connect with what life would have been like for Jane during that time, bringing a depth to the character which is palpable in Shelley’s performance.

The Northern Echo:

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “County Durham has a rich and diverse heritage and boasts an amazing cultural offer. Vibrant festivals, stunning landscapes and fantastic cultural venues such as Killhope are all part of what make our county so great as we bid for UK City of Culture 2025.

“It’s therefore wonderful that Killhope Museum is helping to bring a part of the area’s past back to life in such an innovative way through this new and exciting play. Getting to meet the character of Jane and learning about her life in this art form is a brilliant way to explore the history of our region in creative ways.”

Having made its debut earlier this week, I’m not one to gossip will run at Killhope Lead Mining Museum throughout the summer, with performances at 11.30am and 2pm on Wednesday (August 4), August 11 and August 18. Suitable for all ages and mobilities, the performance takes place on the flat accessible areas of the site and is Covid-safe, as scenes are performed outside in the open air.

Entry into the museum is free of charge during the summer and visitors are welcome to attend a performance of I’m not one to gossip when visiting Killhope – advanced booking and tickets are not required.

As well as the summer programme at Killhope, County Durham offers a rich and diverse programme of events and activities and, last week, launched a bid to build on its reputation as a centre for culture by becoming UK City of Culture 2025. The bid, which has been submitted by Durham County Council on behalf of Culture Durham, aims to secure the title for both the city and county of Durham. It is hoped that success would benefit the whole north east region, with more events and activities taking place, increased visitors and the opportunity to attract additional investment.

For more information about the production and the wider summer programme at Killhope Lead Mining Museum visit: www.killhope.org.uk/events.