'Blood, Blackbeard & Buccaneers' theatre walk by Show of Strength theatre company
Photo credit: Zuleika Henry

Local voices: Blood, Butchery & Buccaneers

Show of Strength's Sheila Hannon walks through the darker side of Bristol and Bath

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Sheila Hannon

Performer, writer, director and producer Sheila Hannon co-founded Show of Strength theatre company in 1986 and lives in Bristol.

March 11th, 2019

‘Blood & Butchery in Bedminster’ is just the latest in a series of very popular theatre walks in Bristol and Bath by your company. With the other shows ‘Frankenstein in Bath’ and ‘Blood, Blackbeard and Buccaneers’, there’s a rather macabre theme running through the repertoire - are your shows not for the faint hearted?

Most of our shows are based on remarkable true stories, nearly all long forgotten.  They’re fascinating and funny as much as they’re macabre, and we leave the gory stuff to your imagination.  We’ve had nobody pass out or come over queasy, so you can book your tickets fearless and unafraid.  And anyway, who’d want to describe themselves as ‘faint hearted’?

How do you combine theatre and walking?

Our tours involve a range of locations and most people who live in the area see something they’ve never seen before.  We walk between locations and pause at the next stop – and with our two Bristol tours this can be a pub. 

‘Blood & Butchery In Bedminster’ includes several places with fascinating pasts – one doubled as a magistrate’s court where a lion mauled a man to death in the yard in 1827. 

‘Blood, Blackbeard and Buccaneers’ visits several iconic dockside hostelries, again with fascinating histories.  ‘Frankenstein in Bath’ takes you where Mary Shelley wrote her masterpiece, as well as locations associated with the many dark secrets the Shelleys were desperate to hide. 

Annette Chown as Mary Shelley in 'Frankenstein in Bath' outside  Bath Abbey Photo credit: Zuleika Henry
Annette Chown as Mary Shelley in 'Frankenstein in Bath'

You can talk as you walk, catch up with friends, maybe even make new ones.  Life’s so fast and furious that people really enjoy the social aspects.

‘Blood & Butchery In Bedminster’ has been described as ‘a gripping jaunt through the Bedminster underworld’ – tell us what’s so special about Bedminster?

Bedminster’s said to be even older than Bristol – and until relatively recently was part of Somerset.  The industrial revolution meant thousands of people left the countryside to find work in the towns.  When you came up from Somerset you reached Bedminster before Bristol and in the early 1800s it must have been like a Wild West frontier town.  The population exploded, you’d find coal mines and tanneries with fields and farms still alongside them.  All human life was here, some living in appalling conditions and struggling for survival.

What are the other stories about Bristol and Bath you want to tell?

A few years ago we did a show that included another great Bedminster character – daredevil barber Charlie Stevens, who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel.  Charlie will be returning shortly - with his long suffering wife Annie, who was known to jump out of hot air balloons with him.

We’re looking at several new Bath stories – I was fascinated to be told by a historian that in the late 18th century one woman in eight who lived in Bath was a prostitute.  There’s always a story that hasn’t been told…

Show of Strength's production of  ‘Sarah Guppy, The Bridge, The Bed, The Truth’ Photo Credit: Zuleika Henry
‘Sarah Guppy, The Bridge, The Bed, The Truth’ by Show of Strength

What’s Bristol best kept secret?

Sarah Guppy – the first woman in the world to patent a bridge, in Bristol in 1811.  Watch out for our show about her, ‘Sarah Guppy, The Bridge, The Bed, The Truth’, back in the autumn.

For details about all Show of Strength events click here.

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