Chesterfield: Hidden Strangers

With initial support from the Derbyshire Lives Through the First World War project, and with the help of Hidden Histories and Nottingham Trent University, Derbyshire playwright Louise Page her play Hidden Strangers.  Louise had developed a keen interest in the effect that the First World War and the spread of anti-German feeling, had on the German community at the time living in Britain. She was particularly interested in personal stories such as the sensitivity that people felt about their German names, and on the continuity of such attitudes towards other people today.Writing for and working with Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Youth Theatre, Louise explored this area of our hidden history and how people who had built a life for themselves in Britain suddenly became the enemy.

Hidden Strangers looked at the lives of those German, Hungarian and Austrian families, who lived in and around Chesterfield and were judged, condemned and vilified during the First World War. In Hasland there were riots against local pork butchers. At Buxton the subscription band who had played for bank holiday makers on August 3rd, immediately became enemies on the declaration of war the next day and were put into police cells.

But the play also showed the better side of human nature. A young Englishwoman defied her mother to volunteer as part of Violet Markham’s relief organisation which clothed those in need and Quakers helped to ensure the wellbeing of German children.

The play was premiered at Chesterfield’s Rose Theatre, on 2nd and 3rd July 2016 earning critical acclaim for the eighteen strong cast.  It was repeated on July 15th at Lincoln as part of the Green Fields Beyond event, for which Louise also wrote the script.