History roars at Summerlee
Actors tell the story of region’s working life
A total of 800 people packed Summerlee museum over the Easter weekend for four dazzling performances of industrial heritage production Shift.
Delighted audiences watched a professional cast led by Airdrie actor Daniel Cahill and a community ensemble of more than 60 Monklands and North Lanarkshire residents tell the stories of the area’s workplaces and heritage.
Extra tickets were released as additional capacity was created at the Coatbridge outdoor set to meet demand from visitors clamouring to see the culmination of the landmark sixmonth project.
Run by the National Theatre of Scotland (NTS) and Culture NL, it has seen residents and workers share their workplace stories from across the decades, with those contributions and original songs and writing from local people being combined into the spectacular finale show.
Daniel told the Advertiser:“It was incredible to see all the shows filled to capacity – on stage you can look everybody in the eyes and to see all the faces of people whose stories we were telling lighting up was fantastic.
“I got to speak to the audience afterwards and they were blown away and so impressed to see all these stories and that shared history, which nobody was really talking about before, being displayed.
“They really enjoyed themselves; and the community cast became this incredibly professional cast of
actors who were fantastic. There were nerves on the first night but once they realised all the hard work was paying off, they relaxed into it.
“On the second day, everyone was buzzing from the night before and couldn’t wait to do it again, and were sad in the end that there were only four performances.
“They really took ownership as the show was by them, for them and about them; they were telling the stories of local people and the audiences were immediately part of sharing these stories and memories.”
Shift’s performances, written and directed by Simon Sharkey of NTS, followed months of gathering the tales of North Lanarkshire’s industrial history at special events and workshops across the area.
Youth theatre groups also took part in related workshops entitled “Future Forecasts”, while behind- the-scenes moments and all the build-up and reaction were captured in online film series Shift Transmission, made by students at New College Lanarkshire.
Community cast members rehearsed at Whifflet community centre to bring together the outdoor performance at the industrial heritage site, to tell“the stories of the many‘shifts’put in by the workers who built the world and created our future”.
Daniel, 26, is a former pupil of St Margaret’s High and trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
He added:“I’ve been all round the world with NTS and have some incredible memories, but to come back to my hometown and do a project so close to my family, upbringing and heritage has to be one of the best things I’ve ever done.
“Not many people get the opportunity to learn about where they’re from in such a unique way; hearing the really harrowing song about Garrion Gill mine and the appalling conditions in the industrial revoltion was incredible.
“When everyone was on stage together for the final section on the last night, I remember seeing the looks on everyone’s faces – the cast were really proud of their accomplishments and the audience were proud of their area and of their brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, cousins all telling these incredible stories.
“It was fantastic seeing everyone walking off and into the arms of their loved ones, and was really touching and a highlight for me.
“The whole thing was lovely – being from Airdrie and feeling that shared pride and excitement about where we’re from and what we do was fantastic.”
Pictures by Drew Farrell.
Dramatic spectacular Shift was performed in an outdoor setting at Summerlee industrial heritage museum
Memorable event Audiences totalling 800 people were wowed by the Shift performances over four nights at the Coatbridge venue
Work of art Shift told the stories of North Lanarkshire’s workers, compiled during six months of workshops and special events
Leading man Airdrie actor Daniel Cahill (second left) with fellow cast members (from left) Stephen Clyde, Fletcher Mathers and Katie Barnett
Stage stars More than 60 local residents joined the community cast to bring Shift to life