Explore life on the front line of austerity at Doncopolitan HQ

Words: Vicky Prior

Photography: Jim Mortram


You couldn’t have a Doncopolitan Crawl without a big event at Doncopolitan HQ. Happily, the team has pulled out all the stops and created a stunning photography exhibition entitled On Earth To Make The Numbers Up. The exhibition features work from Jim Mortram and Broth Tarn, with 13 Women providing live music.

The exhibition title comes from a book by Evelyn Haythorne about her life in Doncaster in the 1940s and 50s. Haythorne’s book gave a unique insight into working-class life, something which both Broth Tarn and Jim Mortram have continued in their photography work. 

Jim Mortram has built a national profile on his photographs of everyday life for people living in poverty brought about by the Government’s austerity measures. I asked him about his inspiration and he told me;

‘Honestly, two things inspire me, Austerity and the repercussions of such a brutal, chosen policy, from day one has been the singular causation for my picking up a camera, an audio recorder and getting out into my community to document their testimony and experiences and two, those in my community (Just you any other community around the UK) that have been hardest hit, their endurance OF Austerity. 

I feel honoured to be a conduit for these stories, to take them to any town, city within the UK, Doncaster is no exception, I’ve found that the North of the UK to have been much more receptive to these stories.’

Putting his money where his mouth is, Mortram will be selling limited edition signed prints of his photographs, but rather than collecting the profits himself, all proceeds are going to Doncaster Food Bank.

Barnsley based Broth Tarn takes his photos using a 35mm camera. His brooding shots of the female figures in his life brought him media attention and we are delighted to be hosting an exhibition of his work in Doncaster.

Rounding off the night will be music by 13 Women (who are actually three blokes). They informed me ‘Our music is red with purple flashes. We want to play the Crawl because we know a good thing when we see it. We like folk art and this Crawl is very that.’ Check out their YouTube video below to find out what they sound like.

This exhibition is free to enter and takes place on Tuesday 23rd of July, from 5pm, as part of the Doncopolitan Crawl.

Gallop down to The Jam Horse for a night of horsing around.

Words: Vicky Prior

Photography: The Jam Horse & Madame Zucchini

Since opening last year, The Jam Horse has become a Scot Lane institution. I’m often to be found in there having a coffee or just generally skiving off my work for Doncopolitan! On Tuesday 23rd of July, as part of Doncopolitan Crawl, The Jam Horse is staying open late to host an art exhibition by Cara McHugh, with entertainment from Madame Zucchini.

Cara McHugh is a local Doncaster artist who is holding her first major exhibition. Her comical horse illustrations are sure to delight Jam Horse customers. I spoke to Cara how to find out what inspires her and how she got started in illustration.

‘What inspired me to do these horses was my mum. I was ill and was bed bound and feeling very low. My mum suggested to do some drawings and get creative to help. She suggested I draw something to do with Doncaster. I thought about it and as I live near the racecourse I thought of drawing a horse race. But I also liked the idea of none of the horses racing. I wanted to have them all racing differently. I started having fun with the drawing. This helped me feel a lot better being stuck in my bed. The drawings are not perfect, but I don’t want to change them as it reminds me of a time when being creative helped me through feeling low. After doing the race I started adding a ladies day of things I have seen at the race course.’

Sheffield based cabaret act Madame Zucchini will be putting on a show for children outside the shop. She performs with a variety of vegetable based characters, including Beyonce Butternut and Darth Tater. Apart from making sure none of her cast end up in a Jam Horse chutney, Madame Zucchini will be offering a variety of children’s activities. She says ‘Vegetables had always been a part of my life, as my father was a fruit and veg merchant in the fens, and my mother loved glamour & the quirky.

Doncaster is always great to visit, and Doncopolitan are right up my street; as they are all about what’s local, sustainable, creative and joyous.’

Rachel Whittaker, proprietor of The Jam Horse who adores anything horsey, is very excited to be hosting Cara McHugh’s exhibition. She says ‘Doncaster’s cultural offerings are increasing by the day. We want to support this movement as much as we can. It showcases what Doncaster businesses have to offer and gives an opportunity to residents to join in cultural and artistic activities.’

These events form part of Doncopolitan Crawl, a series of cultural experiences taking place in Doncaster town centre on Tuesday 23rd of July between 5pm and 9pm.

Sand House: a Doncaster Legend Unearthed

Words: Emma Gullon

Doncaster is a hidden gem for local culture; with so many events along with pre-existing history finally being recognised by the public, things are set to make the town a great place for more tourists to come. And now The Sand House Charity have brought to life a Doncaster treasure, long long forgotten. Sand House is the story of a ten bedroom house made entirely out of sandstone, now tragically buried under the Balby Bridge flats.

The story starts back to the 1800’s where Henry Senior is constructing the house and it’s many wondrous sculptures, his eccentricity and imagination beautifully coming together. We then move forward to World War II times where two children, Jim and Alice, are exploring the now decaying caverns, in awe of the spectacle that’s right on their doorstep. The third act moves forward to the 80’s, where the dreaded council meeting the to have the house filled in is taking place, and a now grown up Jim and Alice do whatever it takes to save it.
This is quite possibly the best piece of theatre I have ever seen in CAST’s Second Space!

The black box theatre was virtually unrecognisable with the sand covered, immersive staging and set design. I felt like I was there in the sand house with it’s many characters it had seen, and it’s journey into disrepair. Who knew it was possible to feel sorry for a building? The acting in this play was incredible too. Even though there was only three actors playing multiple roles, each character had its own distinctive personalities and each transition between the stories’ time zones was carried out effortlessly.

I will not give anything away, but the ending of Sandhouse had me fighting back tears; it was very bitter sweet and really gets you thinking about the future of Doncaster itself for past and  future generations.

I cannot recommend Sand House enough! The unearthing of this remarkable local Doncaster legend is an educational, emotional and spectacular piece of theatre that cannot be missed.

You can still catch tonights (9th June) and tomorrow’s shows and click HERE to book tickets. (Sunday 10th June 4pm show is SOLD OUT)

Photo Credits: Jim Varney/Abberation Film & Photography and Visit Doncaster.



 CAST opened its doors back in 2013, it’s mission has been to create equal and diverse opportunities for the people of Doncaster. Our town’s level of  work limiting illnesses is 23% higher than the rest of the UK, therefore this modern theatre has equally modern methods on how to make the arts accessible and enjoyable for everyone.
Cast 2. Credit Ben Harrison Photography UK
Last year, CAST received a lot really positive feedback for their panto Jack and the Beanstalk, the first fully BSL integrated panto in the U.K. This included two relaxed performances, fully accessible public spaces,captioning and audio description. As well as the traditional family orientated performance, there was never a moment where  a fully integrated character didn’t use sign language as well as perform alongside the rest of the cast.They will be returning with this groundbreaking performance style this year with Beauty and the Beast . Doncaster has the largest D/deaf community outside of London, and this unique project broke down the barriers for the audience so everyone was included in the experience.
Cast Jack and the Beanstalk 13
CAST is officially the only theatre in Yorkshire to have with a fully accessible Changing Places theatre toilet with a ceiling track hoist and height-adjustable adult sized changing bench. This theatre believes in giving all of their audience members the dignity and equal opportunities they deserve. CAST also take into consideration the costly element of having a disability; the theatre offers free carer tickets and discounts for disabled people on every ticket, meaning that everyone can enjoy a night out at an affordable price.
CAST’s motto is ‘Make Your Mark’, and it does more than that with their approach to people with disabilities. Theatre itself is about equality and an experience for anyone to enjoy, and Doncaster is being  recognised for the work this amazing theatre does to ensure that!   
Cast Circle Bar for Private Functions

The Last Seam – Creative Process written by Emma Gullon.

With Justice for Orgreave being dismissed by the government, the creative media has been using  the miners’ strike as a source for new material.  These new visions usually come from the perspective of those who witnessed and felt the full impact of what happened, making the audience empathise with the stories the actors’ are playing.
 For last few months, I have had the privilege to witness the creation of new play, The Last Seam; the true stories of how the closure Hatfield Main Colliery has affected the mining villages of Stainforth and Dunscroft, even today.  When you look at the headlines, from the devastating impact the miners’ strike remains in  these two mining communities. With the help of our very own Rachel Horne as co-researcher, scriptwriter Garry Lyons (Heartbeat, The Bill, The Worst Witch) has recognised this and written a powerful piece of theatre to emphasise the perspectives of the villagers themselves.
Last Seam 1
The Last Seam began with a series of interviews; Garry interviewed local people as a means of source material, listening to the stories of before, during, and after the strike. He had all together 40 hours worth of material. There was certainly a lot of opinions shared and tales that were told!
The next step in the process was narrowing down the stories. Through a long editing process, Garry used five interviews to create a full narrative. Instead of rewriting what people had said, he completely transcribed their words (Yorkshire dialect and all!) This added to the realism of the play, as well as kept the characterisation of the real people Garry spoke to.
Once the first act had been written, the first actor’s meeting was held at the Central Club, Stainforth. The actors had a few hours to read through the script before performing it to the people who essentially created the piece. The hour long act received a lot of positive feedback. From then on, it was all systems go for The Last Seam.
Last Seam 2
On Thursday 6th April, the first reading of The Last Seam as a full two act play made its debut at CAST Doncaster to a sold out crowd. One of the audience members was none other than former labour leader Ed Miliband, who has strongly made his support known to Garry! I could see the emotion of the play’s impact on the audience. There were moments of sadness, anger and pauses where I could catch my breath; a testimony to Garry work and the actors talent (some of the cast had only just picked the script the day before!)
The plan for The Last Seam for it to grow into a complete performance, and maybe a full tour, which is more than it deserves. The miners strike is a period of history that still dominates the headlines, but it’s definitely time for places affected by it like Stainforth Hatfield and Dunscroft to tell their side of what happened!
Follow the cast and crew’s process on twitter via @TheLastSeam