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WE ARE THE LIONS, MR MANAGER! By Neil Gore, will premiere at The Witham on 29th November.

On the 20th August 1976 a group of workers in a film processing factory in Willesden walked out in protest at their unfair working conditions, low pay and the 'bullying tactics' used by management.

Led by mostly East African Asian women, the Grunwick strike became one of the longest and most important industrial disputes in British history, and changed the way trade unions thought about race and new immigrant communities coming to Britain in the 1970s.

The women became known as the “strikers in saris” and their fight for fair treatment was supported by thousands of trade unionists and campaigners, as more than 20,000 people joined them at the picket lines on one of the mass pickets.

But the story of the Grunwick dispute is not just a story about ground-breaking solidarity. It is also the story of a remarkable woman, Jayaben Desai.

The four foot ten inches tall, mother-of-two defiantly led the first walk-out in protest against the humiliation she and other women employees felt at the Grunwick factory.
As she left, the manager shouted at Jayaben and her colleagues to “stop chattering like monkeys in a zoo", and Jayaben replied: "What you are running here is not a factory, it is a zoo. But in a zoo there are many types of animals. Some are monkeys who dance on your finger-tips, others are lions who can bite your head off. We are the lions, Mr. Manager!”

Jayaben became the leader of the Grunwick Strike and not only stood up for workers’ rights with selfless dedication, but with her steadfast resolve, she turned the dispute into a national movement for human rights, inspiring future generations and challenging the way people perceived Asian women.

Now, Jayaben's story is being brought to life for the very first time by Townsend Theatre Productions seeking to relive the strikers' inspirational fight for freedom, equality and human dignity.
Written by Neil Gore, the play will tell the story of the Grunwick dispute through a mixture of stirring song, poetry, movement and dance, and the play will utilise Townsend Production's trademark cast of two characters playing multiple roles.
 “In our work we aim to focus on the lives and contributions of inspirational and vital figures from our social history, often forgotten, who campaigned vigorously to improve the quality of life for everyone. Jayaben Desai is one such figure. She tirelessly fought on behalf of immigrant workers against exploitative employment practice; fearlessly faced all the elements of establishment authority; alerted many in the trade union movement to the issues of vulnerability of immigrant workers; and highlighted the fight to maintain basic trade union rights. Her resolve and courage should be remembered and celebrated. Also, Grunwick raised many wide-ranging questions about trade unionism, rights in the workplace and dignity at work, themes that still resonate and are relevant today.”  Neil Gore

We Are The Lions Mr Manager is directed by Louise Townsend & Musical Director John Kirkpatrick and will feature in it’s cast Medhavi Patel and Neil Gore.

We Are Lions, Mr Manager! is supported by Arts Council England and Unite the Union.
Tickets for We Are The Lions Mr Manager are priced at £10 (£8 Concs) and you can buy them here.


Notice of Annual General Meeting

Barnard Castle Mechanics' Institute and & Witham Hall Community Association - 6pm, Wed 27th September 2017.

The Witham Hall Ltd. Wednesday 27th September 2017 at 6.15pm.

Both AGMs will take place at The Witham, 3 Horsemarket, Barnard Casstle, DL12 8LY 

To find out more information, visit The Witham between 10am and 4pm, Tuesday to Saturday, book online: or call 01833 631107.


On Wednesday Thursday 28 Sept at 7.30pm, the north-east’s premier chamber music ensemble, Royal Northern Sinfonia of Sage Gateshead will be on tour to The Witham, Barnard Castle’s vibrant art centre.


Bringing a wonderful programme of chamber music for strings, the orchestra’s repertoire will include a fantastic feast of Borodin, Shostakovich and Scherzo as well as Mendelssohn Octet in E flat.


Royal Northern Sinfonia has built a world-wide reputation for the quality of its music making and the immediacy of the connections the musicians make with the audiences. Sarah Gent, Marketing and Communications Manager at The Witham says: ‘It’s always a treat to have the orchestra come and perform in Barnard Castle. It really is an opportunity to witness the finest musicianship with such a beautiful set of pieces on offer. It’s true that the orchestra are always so amiable and entertaining- it creates such a personal experience in listening to classical music’.


Another offering of first-class performance is a live broadcast from the Royal Opera House of La Bohème on Tuesday 3rd October at 7.15pm.  This will be a unique viewing to see Puccini’s famous opera directed by Richard Jones in a close-up and high-definition experience.


To book tickets and find out more information, visit The Witham between 10am and 4pm, Tuesday to Saturday, book online: or call 01833 631107.


Following the publication of The Witham's Autumn 2017 programme, it has come to our attention that there is an error in the Rotary Club of Barnard Castle's email address in their advert, due to an error.

Whole-hearted apologies to the Rotary Club of Barnard Castle for this mistake. We appreciate the support of all our advertisers and this does not reflect our usual high standards of service. The Rotary Club of Barnard Castle has been a loyal and generous supporter of The Witham over the years.

Please note that the correct email address for correspondence with the Rotary Club of Barnard Castle is as follows:

Thank you for your understanding in this matter.

With a little help of celebrated poet and wordsmith Ian McMillan, The Witham introduces our autumn programme packed with over 90 months of excellent arts and cultural events for all to enjoy from September to December 2017

Ian McMillan, the jovial friendly face and voice of British Poetry, played The Witham for the second time back in March and was so struck by the arts centre, he wrote a wonderful introduction to the autumn programme of events - as he comments, ‘The Witham is a perfect example of what an arts centre in a small town can be and what it can strive to become…. Long may The Witham continue to thrive: visit it regularly, cherish it, challenge it, enjoy it. And then have some more lovely cake.’

The Witham’s contemporary music gigs this autumn offer folk (including Three Cane Whale on 9th September, Lady Maisery on 10th November, Blazin’ Fiddles on 25th November) , jazz (Birkett and Fiske on 27 September) and excellent acoustic guitar (Adrian Nation on 16th September).

Following the wonderful fundraising concerts to help towards the purchase of a new piano at The Witham in 2018, autumn brings three wonderful evenings of classical music including Royal Northern Sinfonia String Octet (28th September) bringing Mendelsohn’s beloved Octet, Borodin’s evocative string Quintet and the stirring brilliance of Shoctakovich’s Octet.

Screenings continue to bring the world’s Operas and Ballets to Barnard Castle High Street live at the time they are occurring at the Royal Opera House with The Magic Flute (20 September) and La Bohème (3 October). Carmen on the Lake (14th September) is an encore screening of the performance on the floating stage at during the Bregenz Festival. Christopher Wheeldon’s exuberant ballet Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on 23 October offers an explosion of colour, stage magic and inventive choreography, while The Nutcracker on 5 December offers an enchanting start to the festive season.

The Spoken Word programme continues to expand at The Witham with a screening live from London’s Royal Festival with John Le Carre – An Evening with George Smiley (12A, 7 September) and evening presentations from both Dales vet Neville Turner (4 October) and Artist Illustrator Linda Birch (24 October), both of which are fundraisers for The Witham.

There is a wealth of theatre this season with six live performances including physical theatre exploring the stories of women workers in Britain’s munition factories, (Canary, 13 September), a funny and uplifting piece of dance theatre inspired by hair styles and a sizzling soundtrack of Ghanaian music (The Head Wrap Diaries, brought to The Witham thanks to the Highlights Rural Touring Scheme on 6 October). We are the Lions (29 November) tells the story of Jayaben Desai, the inspirational female leader of the 1976-78 Grunwick Factory Strike.

The Castle Players bring two shows this season – Peter Shaffer’s ingenious Black Comedy (27 & 28 October) and the festive classic A Christmas Carol (with a matinee performance at 3pm & 7.30pm 16 December).

For the very first time, you can watch theatre live from Shakespeare’s Globe in London at The Witham with King Lear (21 September) starring Kevin McNally. RSC and National Theatre Screenings continue to bring the very best theatre live to The Witham big screen with RSC Coriolanus (11 October), an encore screening of the National Theatre’s Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch, 1850 drama broadcast live from The Bridge Theatre in London called Young Marx (7 December) and Stephen Sondheim’s legendary musical Follies (9 December) starring Imelda Staunton.

Family highlights include Theatre Hullabaloo presents TakeOff Festival, England’s leading children’s theatre festival brings La Baracca - Testoni Ragazzi (Italy) presents Little Red Riding Hood on 19 October. Illustrator Korky Paul, the energetic, interactive illustrator is bringing the wonderful world of Winnie the Witch to The Witham on 14th November.

The Funny Way To Be Comedy Club continues to deliver fantastic quality laugher from the very best in the business, including Robin Ince (23 Sept), Matt Richardson (11 Nov) and legendary stand up Omid D Djalili (22nd November).

Exciting Visual Art exhibitions include Anne Mason bringing her bright and beautiful representations of flora and fauna in Nature Abstracted into the Dispensary Gallery from 17 August to 9th September, whilst Under Northern Skies, an exhibition of paintings by Hazel Smith and Jill Eagle. Highlights Rural Touring Craft Tour exhibition brings Luminosity.

The critically acclaimed Exhibitions on Screen continue with Canaletto and the Art of Venice (26 Sept), David Hockney at the Royal Academy of Arts (21 Nov), featuring intimate and in-depth insights into the exhibitions that are lighting up the visual arts world.

The Witham are offering an increased number of all day arts workshops for grown ups for £50 per person including the popular Cumbrian Printmakers with Monoprint (9 September), Carborundum (23 September) and Book making (7 October). Curiously Contrary returns with a mixed media workshop (21 October) and March Hare Fabric sculpting workshop (15 November). Designer maker Kathryn Guy brings a new day workshop of Christmas Decorations using upcycled materials (3 November).

There is also a new monthly creative evening workshop Make It Thursdays with artist Gemma McColl every second Thursday of the month starting on 14 September from 6.30 – 8.30pm, where each session gives you the opportunity to try a different creative technique. The Witham continues to have lots of weekly workshops for children and adults alike, including a new Hatha Yoga class on Tuesday evenings and the Arts and Crafts group with artist Jane Young on Friday mornings.

Film Thursdays continue at The Witham in 2017 including critically acclaimed Hidden Figures (12th October), Their Finest starting Gemma Arterton (19 October), Lady Macbeth (26 October) and The Sense of an Ending (2 November).

The Handcrafted Wedding Market offers the chance to collect alternative and creative ideas for your big events and showcases The Witham as a wedding venue, working with the Designer Makers Market and Vintage Essence. Designer Makers Market brings the very best of regional designers and craftspeople (18 & 19 November), Northern Craft Market (2 September, 7 & 21 October, 4 November and 2 December) and the Handcrafted Fair (30 September, 28 October, 25 November).

For the first time this year, you can celebrate with your work colleagues at The Witham’s Christmas Do (24 November and 1 December) with live comedy, food and live music. And for the second year running, The Witham are holding a New Year’s Eve Bash, with Ceilidh Hog Roast and Live Band.

Sarah Gent, Arts Marketing Manager at The Witham says ‘ We have created a season that truly holds something for everyone! From Neville Turner sharing his music, words and pictures and Korky Paul drawing Winnie the Witch to The Work Christmas Do with soul, come to one of over 90 events at The Witham and not only support Barnard Castle’s arts centre but also have a brilliant time while you’re here!

With so much going on, pop in and pick up your copy of the latest programme so you don’t miss out.’

On Saturday 26th August, from 12 noon until 4pm, The Witham Arts Centre in Barnard Castle are holding a Beer and Busk afternoon to celebrate live acoustic music and local ale.  A fundraisier for The Witham, local musicians are performing in the Café Bar to raise money to support the venue as a whole.

This is one of many initiatives The Witham are holding help raise much-needed funds for the arts centre, a place devoted to offering everyone access to the arts. As a venue with a love of folk and roots music, and with previous success of community music busking events, Beer and Busk afternoon offers an excellent chance to sit back and enjoy live music with the added attaction of ale sampling!

With musicians to include local youth folk ensemble, Cream Tees, much-loved open mic specialist Malcolm Elsbury and authentic trad-folk trio, Over the Yardam, visitors to the café can enjoy the acoustic music throughout the afternoon.

Supporting the event is Danny McColl, owner and brewer at Teesdale based, McColl’s Brewery. Danny will be bringing along a range of beers for sampling and tasting. The brewery is Upper Teesdales first brewery in a generation and produces quality beer with 100% British ingredients with a view to producing experimental, seasonal and alternative beers in the fuutre. Passionate about sharing techniques and product information, customers will most definiely appreciate hearing from Danny about the magic behind his products on the day.


The Witham’s usual beer selection from Wylam Brewery and Allendale Brewery, plus tasty homemade fare in the café will be the icing on the cake for a perfect afternoon of local music making. Visitors can also take part in a raffle where prizes include the chance to win a package of quality beers thanks to McColl's Brewery, as well as tickets for folk gigs Lady Maisery and Blazin’ Fiddles in the autumn.

Find out more from The Witham’s website at,uk and find the event on Facebook.

Trailblazers of Celtic Dance Music Peatbog Faeries come to The Witham


Taking traditional Scottish music and bringing it fresh-faced and breathless into the 21st century.

"Welcome to the weird but undoubtedly wonderful world of The Peatbog Faeries, Skye's finest, where you should always expect the unexpected. Gloriously unpredictable, a band to treasure."    fRoots

Following the release of their latest album Blackhouse this legendary band will once more be back on the road in 2017 to delight audiences at The Witham in Barnard Castle on Thursday 10th August 2017.

Hailing from the Isle of Skye, the Peatbog Faeries are the figurehead trailblazers of the Celtic Dance Music renaissance. Drawing upon a dazzling myriad of influences from traditional jigs and reels through jazz, hip hop, reggae and more, they take traditional Scottish music and bring it fresh-faced and breathless into the 21st century. 

They are Peter Morrison (pipes and whistles), Ross Couper (fiddle), Tom Salter (guitar), Innes Hutton (bass, percussion) Graeme Stafford (keyboards) and Stuart Haikney (drums).

They have toured the world taking their inventive and unique brand of music and light show to audiences far and wide, never failing to fill the floor and delight the crowd.

This is high octane Celtic dance music as you’ve never heard it before.  Be prepared to dance!

“Nothing prepares you for the high octane music of the Peatbog Faeries. Powerful melodies are dextrously pumped out with a smart degree of techno attitude, while cross-rhythms ricochet over a heavy bass that hits you forcefully like a massive heart beat.”  The Scotsman

“Imagine The Orb meeting a ceilidh band in the mind of Irvine Welsh. This is it! Billy Nasty may have mixed pipes and dance on the decks but the Peatbog Faeries can play it live and it blew the audience away.”  Edinburgh Evening News

For tickets, head to, call The Witham Box Office on 01833 631107 or pop into the arts centre in Barnard Castle, open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm.

The Witham launches Magic of Illustration exhibition, bringing books to life, with characters and drawings by local and nationally celebrated artists and illustrators in the gallery from Thursday 20 July – Saturday 12 August 2017. 

With illustrations from 1970s to the current day, visitors can experience the journey of the illustrator when developing a children’s book, from the initial sketches and story boards to the completed published book. This exhibition will reveal all the hard work and creativity that is required to bring characters to life!

The exhibitions will showcase a range of inspirational works by six illustrators, all living in, or from the North. This includes original works by renowned children’s illustrator, Linda Birch, the illustrator of the much-loved Bagpuss series, as well as creator of the Simon and the Witch, Jackanory and more than 150 other books including Conker, by Warhorse author Michael Morpurgo, which won an award in Children’s Books of the Year, and Who Shot Queen Victoria? by Horrible Histories author Terry Deary.

Also exhibiting is Stuart Trotter, an experienced illustrator, author and designer who has worked on family favourites from classic titles to Disney characters, including Winnie the Pooh, Wallace and Gromit, Noddy, Thomas the Tank Engine, Topsy and Tim, Kipper, Postman Pat, and is now the author and illustrator of Rupert Bear for Egmont’s Rupert Bear Annual.

Also bringing his beautiful contemporary illustrations is Matthew Swan, a painter and cartoonist based in London having studied at Edinburgh College of Art. His comic 'Parsley Girl: Carrots' was nominated for the Young People's Comic Award 2016.

The Witham are delighted to welcome Sharron Bates, a freelance artist and illustrator who lives and works in County Durham. A recent graduate from Cleveland College of Art & Design, Sharron exhibits her work in both Britain and internationally and will be bringing her story boards and illustrations for her book, Where’s Brian? Sharron is also bringing a children’s illustration workshop to The Witham on Wednesday 9th August.

The Magic of Illustration also includes the illustrator, Liz Million, who is from Darlington and famed for her popular books Be Quiet Belinda and Not So Silly Sausage, and will be at Barnard Castle library for an Illustration workshop will be leading story and illustration events at libraries across County Durham next week.

Cumbrian artist Catherine Beaumont is the final illustrator with beautiful watercolours to adds an element of beautiful fantasy to the Magic of Illustration exhibition, inspired by Fairy tales, myths and legends.

Come to enjoy the Magic of Illustration Exhibition from 10am to 4pm, Tuesday to Saturday (free admission) or call on 01833 631107. You can also email for more information.


Cumbrian Printmakers, an exhibition which shows off a huge assortment of printmaking techniques is at The Witham from Thursday 22th June to Saturday 15 July 2017.

Open from 10 am - 4 pm Tuesdays to Saturdays, the Cumbrian Printmakers Exhibition will offer the opportunity to find out about the various processes behind the work of over 15 professional artists who make prints using techniques ranging from collagraph, lino, cyanotype, screen printing and etching as well as printing onto textiles and into ceramics.

Cumbria Printmakers is a charity working to champion printmaking through exhibitions and outreach activities to make printmaking accessible for the wider community.  The network of artists exhibits together a huge diversity of work and styles and promote an understanding of the different methods of printmaking through clearly explained written information, photographs and by displaying the tools and materials involved.

Professional artists involved include printmaker, Sarah Robley, who takes inspiration from the wildlife of the Lake District and Folk Art as well as her previous research into Medieval Studies to create minimalist work incorporating linocutting techniques.  Penny Hunt, a painter and printmaker will display her ceramics which capture the atmosphere and elements of our wild landscape, especially the Western Dales. Contemporary printmaker and landscape artist, Mark Pearce works from his home studio on the shores of the Ravenglass Estuary and will be displaying his striking and vibrant prints based on the stunning views of the surrounding Lake District fells and sea.

The Witham are working with Cumbria Printmakers to deliver a series of introductory printmaking workshops throughout the summer and autumn to include screen printing, monoprint, and bookmaking. Each day long workshop will involve working closely with the artists to produce individual finished pieces, learning about specific techniques along the way. Workshops cost £50 and all materials are included.  For more information about the series, visit the workshop and classes page on The Witham’s website.


Come to enjoy the Cumbria Printmakers Exhibition from 10am to 4pm, Tuesday to Saturday (free admission) or call on 01833 631107. You can also email for more information. For future exhibitions and more information on The Gallery at The Witham, please head to and select Opportunities. 

On Friday 16 June at 8pm, Nancy Kerr, one of the best-known and most experienced folk singers in the country will be performing at The Witham Arts Centre with multi-instrumentalist and session player in demand, James Fagan. Admired as one of the most professional and talented duos on the folk circuit, together they will bring their outstanding musicianship, a lifelong grounding in traditional singing and instrumental playing and acclaimed compositions to Barnard Castle’s much-loved folk venue.

Nancy and James are renowned for creating a visceral chemistry with their experienced partnership and have received many accolades throughout their career having won the inaugural Horizon Award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2000, including being the first ever recipients of the Best Duo Award, which they won in 2003, and again in 2011. Nancy also owns the 2015 Folk Singer of the Year Award, along with Best Group and best Album in 2014 with her work with respected band, The Full English.

Also on offer prior to the gig is The Witham’s intimate Supper Club experience – a delicious, homemade pasta bake, with a sweet treat and a glass of wine or juice in good company in the creative surroundings of the art centre . The Witham can easily cater for special dietary requests. For more information and tickets, visit the website: or call the box office on 01833 631107, 10am – 4pm, Tues – Sat. You can also call into The Witham at 3 Horse Market, Barnard Castle.

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Featured Event

  • New play based upon the Grunwick Strike and Jayaben Desai’s fight for Union recognition, freedom, equality & human dignity to premiere at The Witham +

    Read More
  • New Year's Eve 2017 +

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  • The Highlights Craft Tour 2017 - Luminosity training day +

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  • New play based upon the Grunwick Strike and Jayaben Desai’s fight for Union recognition, freedom, equality & human dignity to premiere at The Witham +

    WE ARE THE LIONS, MR MANAGER! By Neil Gore, will premiere at The Witham on 29th November. On the 20th Read More
  • The Witham's Annual General Meeting 2017 +

    Notice of Annual General Meeting Barnard Castle Mechanics' Institute and & Witham Hall Community Association - 6pm, Wed 27th September 2017. Read More
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