Witchfinder Day at Christchurch Mansion

“The flow of the piece carried me through the mansion, which wrapped the sound into another time. At times I found my feet dancing, tapping, sidestepping and twirling.”

Audio performance audience member

Witchfinder Day, 19th August 2021, was a bit of an experiment. Ipswich Museum had kindly given Cohere Arts access to the wonderful Christchurch Mansion in Ipswich, for the entire day. The idea was to allow audiences to experience our new immersive audio recording of music theatre piece Witchfinder, whilst wandering through the atmospheric setting of a Tudor mansion.

“It was brilliant going through the house and seeing all the history, and having the audio happening as well – I think it was really well put together. Lovely.”

Audio performance audience member

Every 15 minutes throughout the day, we welcomed a group of audience and equipped them with ‘silent disco’ headphones to listen to the show as they navigated the different rooms of the mansion. Some preferred to sit and listen.

Visitors were in for a treat if they reached the Mansion’s kitchen, where museum volunteer Audrey Woodhouse and local historian Danny Buck were on hand to talk about all things Witchfinder and also present some rarely seen artefacts from the Museum’s collection.

Outside on the mansion’s lawn, local art club Rock Paper Scissors ran workshops for children and their families, creating witch’s familiars (or companion animals) in various media. We’re not quite sure who had more fun, the children or their grown ups!

In the evening we closed our doors and welcomed an invited audience to Witchfinder After Dark, an opportunity to hear a talk on Ipswich’s witchfinding history by Danny Buck. Danny fascinated horrified audiences with details of Mary Lakeland, a barber’s wife found guilty of witchcraft and burned to death on Ipswich’s Cornhill in 1645. Audience members then had the chance to listen to the audio performance.

“I knew about witch finders before, but not in Suffolk. The audio performance was great – I felt like I could see it in my head, it felt like they were talking to you.”

Audio performance audience member

“Matthew Hopkins is one of my favourite historical characters as a lot of the witches he accused were from the village I grew up in. I would have loved to see a fully live performance of this.”

Audio performance audience member

We talked to as many visitors as we could to gather feedback on their experiences – some loved the audio & the immersion of this approach, some found the combination of audio and historical setting a little overwhelming, and some would have liked to see the story played out as a fully live performance. Some left their feedback through the medium of visual art!

Throughout the day a truly diverse audience of over 200 people interacted with our take on the Witchfinder story. We are grateful to Ipswich Museum staff who were simply amazing, and to Heritage Lottery Fund and National Lottery players for making this free event possible.