Slaley welcomes new comedy – Newcastle Journal

A Carry on play is being performed at Slaley this weekend, with ore mining the unlikely subject

The cast of Carry on Mining Ore

You’ve probably heard of Carry on Up The Khyber and Carry On Follow That Camel, but you definitely won’t have heard of Carry on Mining…Ore.

That’s because it’s the name of a new comedy play which has its premiere in Northumberland this weekend.

The play is based on based on research done by the Dukesfield Smelters and Carriers Project, a two year community project, led by The Friends of the North Pennines, celebrating and discovering the heritage of the Dukesfield Arches and lead carriers’ routes between Blaydon and the lead mines of Allendale and Weardale via the 18th century smelting mill near Slaley.

Carry on Mining…Ore has been devised and produced by local farmer David Nixon of the Whitley Chapel based On the Move Theatre.

The play covers the lead industry and people from the North Pennines to Blaydon.

The era is the early 1800s and the play’s narrator is Bugmug, a long-suffering carrier’s pony.

The play takes the audience into the lives of the owners, the agent and the workers involved in the lead industry of the time through a series of comic sketches.

The characters are based on real people and the script on research completed by the project’s Reading the Past archive work. The approach is light hearted with poetic license taken to add a comic twist.

Diana Beaumont, the owner of the hugely productive Dukesfield Smelt Mill for example, becomes Diana ‘Weaumont’, and Erasmus ‘Rackett’ (a twist on the well known local Blackett family) appears as her agent.

The production has a true local and authentic feel to it in line with everything about the Dukesfield project, which is its sponsor.

Ellie Cousins and Molly Walker who star in Carry on Minining Ore
Ellie Cousins and Molly Walker who star in Carry on Minining Ore

The cast of nine includes local actors and six youngsters from Newcastle College and Queen Elizabeth High School in Hexham. The youngest is 14.

The costumes are by Vicky Pepys, costume expert from Beamish Museum.

David said: ‘I was asked to write and produce a play about the lead industry involving the community.

“I did some research, helped by Greg Finch and others from the project.

“It has been quite a challenge but the result promises to be a comical, entertaining and educational look at life at the turn of the nineteenth century. It has also been a great opportunity to allow young people to perform.”

Ore’Some ale, the beer brewed especially for the Dukesfield project by the Hexhamshire Brewery, will be on sale on the night.

Pat Wilson, of the Dukesfield project steering group and Slaley Parish Council, said: “The evening promises good laughs, good food and good beer as well as finding out a bit more about local lead mining life.

“It’s been great to work with David and the project on this.”

Tickets for the performance at Slaley Commemoration Hall at 7pm are available from Pat Wilson on 01434 673388 at £8.50 for adults and £5.50 for children.

David and Elizabeth Nixon who star in Carry on Minining Ore
David and Elizabeth Nixon who star in Carry on Minining Ore

It includes a three course meal. Proceeds will go towards the hall.

More performances of ‘Carry on Mining…Ore’ are planned.

A series of sketches from the show will be performed at Pathhead Mill, Blaydon on Saturday, December 7 between 12pm and 3pm.

There will also be a craft fair on that day at the historic mill.

A performance at Allendale is also likely. For more information or e-mail

Mandy Roberts, volunteer co-ordinator for the Dukesfield project, said: “Carry on Mining packs in so many fun facts about the lead industry and is a fabulous opportunity to find out more.

“The play is a series of sketches, verses and songs that can be adapted to any venue, any level of interest, for any length of time.

“We already have a performance planned in Blaydon.

“If there is anyone out there who is interested in hosting the play, do contact me via the project.”

The Dukesfield Smelters and Carriers Project aimed to celebrate and discover the heritage of the Dukesfield Arches & lead carriers' routes between Blaydon and the lead mines of Allendale and Weardale. A two year community project, it was led by the Friends of the North Pennines in partnership with Hexhamshire and Slaley Parish Councils and the active support of Allendale Estates. It was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the generous support of other sponsors. Friends of the North Pennines: Charity No:1137467