Newcastle Castle - Museums Association

Newcastle Castle

Artists with learning disabilities or autism have produced and acted in films that focus on three historical figures associated with Newcastle Castle.

The project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Joyce Trust and Hadrian Trust and Beacon Hill Arts in Tyneside, tells the stories of William Heron (the widely feared Sheriff of Northumberland who was responsible for collecting taxes and enforcing the law of the land between 1246 and 1256), Mary Bruce (the younger sister of Scottish king and warrior Robert the Bruce) and Humphrey Lisle (who broke out of prison with his father Sir William Lisle of Felton and was later executed).

Rowan Simpson, a project member, said: “The Humphrey Lisle story is very
interesting, especially how the justice system worked in his case and
day. He was too young to be hung and I think the judge realised the
innocence of the boy.”

A soundtrack was also created for each of the films, which have been shown at more than 80 festival screenings, winning 14 awards.

Will Sadler, the development director and co-founder of Beacon Hill Arts, said: “Disabled and autistic people are often written out of history and so this project has been a brilliant opportunity for our talented artists to creatively regain some ownership of their city’s past, as well as develop ongoing skills and creativity. We are amazed at how the team have creatively interpreted the characters they have chosen – who are all played by actors with learning disabilities and autism.”

Ben Smith, the development manager at Newcastle Castle, said: “These young artists have been working with our learning officer to delve into the lives of characters from the castle’s past; using rare artefacts, costumes and historic materials from our archive. The stories they have focused on span the medieval history of Newscastle, and we are excited to share these little-known stories with our visitors.”