The project

‘Together To The Workhouse Door’ was a creative partnership project inspired by Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse and in particular by the wide array of rich stories of the inmates at Gressenhall. Combining a new commission from composer James Redwood and writer Lucy Sheerman with newly-created performances by students from Foulsham and Cawston Primary Schools and the Gressenhall Community Choir, this was an immersive performance set in the grounds of one of Britain’s most iconic historical sites.

Thank you once again for the amazing experience Foulsham Primary School had last week, I think they are all still coming down!   Emma Bourner - Foulsham Primary School 

The process

The participants from Cawston Primary School and Foulsham Primary School and the Gressenhall Community Choir visited Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse Museum in March 2017, for a day exploring the site and its stories; from this visit, they took inspiration for the creative sessions which followed.

Each of the groups worked with writer Lucy Sheerman to create new song lyrics, forming part of the story for Together to the Workhouse Door. They then worked with composer James Redwood, and Viva musicians Dave Ayre (double bass) and Christina Marroni (bassoon), to turn their words into songs.

Cawston Primary wrote a song about the horrors of being in the refractory – it is dark, gothic and intimidating;

“Dirty water leaking, it’s pitch black! A fat rat squeaking, scratch, scratch scratch!”

The image of the fat rat squeaking, came directly from the Gressenhall inspiration day. Inmate Harriet Kettle talked to the young people about ways of passing time in the refractory, including squeezing a rat to make it sing - this really captured their imaginations.


Foulsham Primary wrote a song about being in the playground and how good that would feel - they wrote this whilst thinking about families separated by a wall, and about a child’s wish to run free and feel the sun on their face.

“I step outside the workhouse door, now who could ever ask for more. I’m in a different place, my heart begins to race.”


Gressenhall Community Choir have written a song about the Visiting Committee, who made decisions about how the workhouse was run;

“Efficient and decisive; when we say jump, you leap!"


As well as writing songs, the participants have also been working with conductor David Lawrence and pianist Charlie Penn to learn the songs which Lucy and James have written for them. The two primary groups worked with director Hazel Gould to create a site-specific theatre piece, which they will perform in the museum during the first half of the performance. Alongside this, year 7 students from Eagles class at Aylsham High School worked with costume designer Emma Belli to create design ideas for the costumes Mary and the Workhouse Master will wear, and for the T-shirts which the choir will be wearing. The full ensemble has come together with the orchestra and soloists Claire Surman & Robert Gildon for rehearsals this week, and we are hugely excited to share the world premiere performance of Together to the Workhouse Door on site at Gressenhall Workhouse.



James Redwood


Lucy Sheerman


David Lawrence

Costume Designer 

Emma Beli


Hazel Gould


Claire Surman (Soprano)

Workhouse Master

Robert Gildon (Baritone)