In September of 1665, the 'plague year', the plague-bacillus Yersinia pestis came from London to the Derbyshire hill-village of Eyam in a consignment of recent-fashion garments. Within three days, the tailor's apprentice is dead of bubonic plague. Next dies a baby, Edward Cooper, three days old; next, a 'Peter Hawksworth senior, lead miner... And so the toll begins. In a startling act of civic self-sacrifice, at the urging of their young Anglican rector and his former Puritan adversary, the villagers consent to isolate and quarantine themselves, to contain the infection and prevent it from reaching communities around them. But for their heroism, the entire region and arguably the larger towns of Chesterfield, Sheffield and Manchester would have fallen to the plague..
Here We Stay is the ninth in my audio-sequence of Ten PlacePrints, 'journeys into haunted landscapes for voices and sound', and originally designed strictly on the principle of the museum audio-guide: the museum is the village itself, with fifteen stations, fifteen audio-tracks. But it can deliver a powerful charge when given simply, in public physical presentation -- as demonstrated by Nottingham's New Perspectives Theatre Company in July 2015 in the parish church of Eyam itself. Integral to the text is the recital of the name of each villager listed by the Rector as dying of the plague. Surnames from the death-register are still seen on family shop-fronts in the village street. There will have been such surnames among the audience too, that summer evening.
The production was directed by New Perspectives' then Artistic Director, Jack McNamara, with scrupulous moral intelligence and an appropriate Puritan severity. (A fuller account of the mise-en-scene is given in a Postscript to the PlacePrints listing, under Radio.) In 2015, the question that echoed from it most was, Could an Eyam happen now? Six years on, after and still amid our own pandemic, Covid 19, in dismal abundance we have our answer.
page under construction