The Chelsea Belladonna 2012

Elizabeth Blackwell – born at the dawn of the eighteenth century – eloped with her reckless young husband and cousin Alexander from her home in Aberdeen to London. After attempting a range of bogus business ventures, Alexander – in no time at all – found himself in debtors’ prison. Elizabeth resolved to free her husband and, after much clever scheming and in a felicitous arrangement with Sir Hans Sloane of the Chelsea Physic Garden, she embarked upon the creation and illustration of ‘A Curious Herbal’. Upon publication, the Herbal both released Elizabeth’s husband and became a veritable apothecaries’ bible – both in Britain and abroad – rooting Elizabeth’s name firmly and for ever within British botanical history.

The Chelsea Belladonna follows Elizabeth and Alexander as they ‘flit’ from Aberdeen to London, and, after a string of misadventures, land securely – at least for Elizabeth – within the inspiring beauty of the Chelsea Physic Garden. Their marital history of chronic upset and scandal does not stop there, however.

The Chelsea Belladonna by Anna Carlisle
Cast: Irene Allan, Kenny Blyth Director: Wendy Seager


Woven in the Fabric 2010

Martha Crossley (b.1775) was the ‘mother’ of Dean Clough mills, and Lavena Saltonstall (b.1881) was first a weaver of Hebden Bridge and later a suffragette and writer of Halifax. During their own eras, Martha Crossley and Lavena Saltonstall operated powerfully and more or less unencumbered by traditional expectations: both women dedicated themselves passionately, in their different ways, to improved working and living conditions of their local working people.

Woven in the Fabric sees Martha and Lavena conjured back into life via the ‘medium’ of modern-day politician ‘Crystal Marriott, Independent candidate for Halifax’, and all three women measure and treasure – finally – each other’s contribution to the prosperity of the town they love: Halifax.

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Woven in the Fabric by Anna Carlisle
Cast: Shenagh Govan, Emma Kearney, Olwen May


An Eclipse of the Sun 2006

Lady Anne Neville, daughter to Richard, Earl of Warwick – the ‘kingmaker’ – lived at Middleham Castle alongside her cousin Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later to become Richard 111). Her father’s declining fortunes and her early marriage to Edward, Prince of Wales left her both cast adrift and widowed by the age of 16. She was rescued by Richard and brought back to Middleham to a decade or so of blissful married existence. The couple’s accession of the throne of England, the death of her 10-year-old son Edward, the implications of her husband in treasonous machinations and her own ill health saw her dead at Middleham by the age of 28, a tragically short and cheated young life.

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An Eclipse of the Sun by Anna Carlisle
Cast: Robert Garrett, Mike Hugo, Rayyah McCaul

A Pearl in the Sands 2008

Margaret Fell (1614- 1702) of Swarthmoor Hall in Furness, Cumbria came young in her married life to another ‘marriage’ – with early Quakerism, as expounded by the charismatic George Fox. Whilst her own husband Thomas Fell supported her almost from the outset, she struggled to persuade the authorities – and, most dismayingly, her own son – of the goodness of her new faith. She was imprisoned several times for long spells and she made endless petitions – to whichever new king would hear her – for the release of Quaker friends from prisons and for the freedom to worship in their own homes.

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A Pearl in the Sands by Anna Carlisle
Cast: Robert Garrett, Alexandra Mathie


Secretly Pleased 2006/7

Alice Longstaff BIPP (1907 – 1992) was a pioneer photographer from Hebden Bridge. Rare for her time, she was a craftswoman and an independent proprietor who forged a firm path through the man’s world of the early twentieth century. In an era when simply everyone had their photographs taken – which were often displayed ‘in t’ winder’ – Alice and her husband John became cherished fixtures of the town over many decades, keeping their studio as something of a social ‘salon’.

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Secretly Pleased by Anna Carlisle
Cast: Robert Garrett, Alexandra Mathie


An Owl in the Desert 2005/6

The feisty and glorious Lady Anne Clifford, Jacobean heroine of the North, who – with her entourage and enemies – comes to life before your eyes within the courtyards, corners and crannies of historic Skipton Castle and Brougham Castle, the inspiring ‘homes’ of Lady Anne and the illustrious Clifford dynasty.

Lady Anne Clifford was born in Skipton in 1590 and died at Brougham Castle in 1676. She struggled with her husband and her king to inherit her rightful estates: one hundred miles of them from Skipton to Carlisle. Succeeding finally at 59, she devoted the rest of her long life to rebuilding this heritage of lands, schools, hospitals, churches and chapels – overseen in her famous journeys across the hills on nothing more than a horse-litter but with an entourage of hundreds – guardian and landlord to estates older than the Conqueror.

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An Owl in the Desert by Anna Carlisle
Cast: Robert Garrett, Alexandra Mathie