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Food for Thought: Newcastle Corn Riots

Shoe Tree Arts in partnership with Heaton History Group was funded during 2021-22 to commemorate the events of 1740 when, following an exceptionally hard winter, hungry Heaton miners, their families and others protested against the high price and shortage of food, especially corn.

The project began with a Zoom talk about the events of 1739/40 by Heaton History Group’s Peter Sagar. You can refresh your memory about the corn riots here.


Three local primary schools, Chillingham Road, Cragside and Hotspur took part in the project. Children learnt about what life was like in their own neighbourhood nearly 300 years ago and what led to a shortage of food and eventually to anger and protests. They learnt what food people ate at that time and even cooked some for themselves. And they interpreted the events for themselves via art, music and drama.


No Corn, No Coal , a short film about life in 18C Heaton and along the Ouseburn and the events of 1739/40, in particular, was made primarily for use by the schools by Heaton History Group’s Tessa Green and Peter Dillon. It it is now freely available to view.

Testimonies, the end of project film, brings together some of the historical research, writing, music and artwork that was carried out during the project. It was again made by Tessa Green and Peter Dillon but see the credits at the end of the film for a full list of people who contributed.

A special showing of the film took place at the Magic Hat cafe on 30 November 2022. Please contact chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org for details.

General Jane

Two socially distanced outdoor performances of ‘General Jane’, specially written for the project by Ellen Phethean and performed by a mix of professionals and amateurs from the local community, took place at King John’s Palace in Heaton Park. The production focussed on a real life leader of the protesters, Jane Bogie, also known as General Jane.

‘General Jane’ flyer
‘General Jane’ banner by Tessa Green
Scene from ‘General Jane’
Musicians and performers – ‘General Jane’
Havemaypolewilltravel dancers
The audience was socially distanced and the numbers allowed to attend limited…
…but it felt like a real treat to be enjoying a live performance in the sunshine.

There have also been writing and animation workshops and a series of talks.

The project was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Joicey Trust and Newcastle City Council.



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