“People think this is a bad place to live. It’s not.”
Eldon and Dene Valley are two former mining villages, deemed as Category D and ‘non viable’ by the county council. This is an area of economic deprivation and parts of Eldon were demolished in the 1960s, leaving a semi-waste grassland known as ‘The Hollow’.
Artist and researcher Dr Stephen Pritchard has been working with people here since 2018, creating with them a range of activities and change that they themselves want - from art works, to a film about their local history, to food growing projects and reclamation of derelict land.
Watch Stephen's film about the area: More Than Viable.
Read Dr Stephen Pritchard's Report More Than Viable, 2019
Other artists have been deeply affected by the stories of the Category D villages. Writer Christina Castling and Director Jonluke McKie, for example, have created an incredibly moving play about the fight to save villages that policy makers declared should be demolished. They were called Category D villages...
After numerous interviews and workshopping with local community contributors, Christina created a powerful script and conducted two weeks of rehearsal. Supported by Northern Heartlands, The Witham and Gala Theatre, Durham. This culminated in two rehearsed readings and audience feedback.
‘I thoroughly enjoy the play reading – even though I sobbed my heart out. … I loved the humour and the very truthful characters and the reality of the piece, very evocative.’ (Shelley O’Brien, Mad Alice Theatre Company)
‘We thoroughly enjoyed the reading it was such a powerful and emotional subject that we were transported to a different time.’ (Pam Hymas, Community Member)
A new play
A Way Home is a new play rooted in the stories and memories of the very people who called those D villages home. A County-wide fight lasting over 25 years becomes a 12-month journey at Bet’s kitchen table as she confronts what loss really looks like.
With humour, tenderness and not a small amount of grit, A Way Home speaks of fighting to be heard when no one’s listening, telling a story just as significant today as it was 70 years ago.
Christina's emotive new play has a creative team in place and, although halted by the COVID-19 crisis, is now ready to tour the North East in 2021.
Northern Heartlands will be sure to support and encourage Christina's team. Stay tuned for more updates soon.