Dramatic new play to premiere on the site of Whittingham Asylum

Posted on - 21st October, 2018 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Arts, Grimsargh, Preston News, What's On in Preston
First World War soldiers in barracks Pic: Eric Northey
First World War soldiers in barracks Pic: Eric Northey

A play about the drama of life in Whittingham Asylum during the First World War will premiere on the old asylum site.


The opening night of Whittingham 1918 will take place at Whittingham and Goosnargh Sports and Social Club, before the play moves to St Peter’s Art Centre for a further three nights.

Written by Eric Northey, Whittingham 1918 is based on research into papers on Whittingham Asylum, held at Lancashire Archives. It examines the effect the First World War had on asylum life throughout Britain, with particular focus on the impact at Whittingham.

Eric Northey said: “Whittingham Asylum was in its day, one of the largest, leading asylums in Europe, catering for over 3,000 patients. It fed people, housed them and gave them meaningful work to do. But when the First World War came along, the entire asylum system was battered by this conflict. Whittingham had to deal with nearly 1,000 shell-shocked soldiers.

“War always has many victims, some far away from the battlefield, whose lives are changed forever. This included women, who had to keep the hospital going whilst the men were at the front, as well as feed their families when food was short.

“They were the key members of the National Asylum Workers Union (NAWU) who fought successfully, despite the war, for better wages and conditions for mental hospitals and their patients. It is these hidden dramatic stories, we are trying to tell.”

Whittingham ballroom
Whittingham ballroom

Whittingham 1918 is the latest in a series of events that form Whittingham Lives, a project exploring the 150-year history of the Asylum. The play has been created in partnership with Lancashire Archives, the University of Central Lancashire and UNISON.

Read more: Exhibition to explore hidden histories of Whittingham Asylum

Terence Mann, Course Leader of UCLan’s BA (Hons) Acting course and the play’s director, said: “This has been a fantastic opportunity for a cast of seven UCLan acting graduates and four current third year students to work on Eric Northey’s fascinating play.

“For some it’s their first paid acting job, for others it’s a chance to work with fellow graduates from the past and present. In working on the production, cast and creatives have immersed themselves in the incredible world of Whittingham Asylum.”

Read more: How you can be part of a heritage project celebrating health care in Lostock Hall

Performances of the play are free and will take place at Whittingham and Goosnargh Sports and Social Club on Wednesday 24 October, and at St Peter’s Art Centre, UCLan on Thursday 25, Friday 26 and Saturday 27 October. All performances start at 7.30pm, and tickets can be obtained by searching ‘Whittingham 1918’ on Eventbrite.

To get involved with the Whittingham Lives project, email or visit the Whittingham Lives website.

Will you be going to the play? Let us know in the comments below.

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