Tragic tale of WWI’s Barnbow Lasses to become a stage show

Leeds, probably First World War

Barnbow Munitions Factory, Crossgates.

Scene of a catastrophic explosion during the First World War which killed 35 women and girls.
Leeds, probably First World War Barnbow Munitions Factory, Crossgates. Scene of a catastrophic explosion during the First World War which killed 35 women and girls.
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WOMEN in Leeds can take centre stage in a new play telling the story of the brave ‘Barnbow lasses’.

Running at West Yorkshire Playhouse from June 15 to July 9, Barnbow Canaries has been commissioned to mark the 100th anniversary of the single largest loss of life in the city’s history.

The drama has been inspired by real women who worked – and, in some cases, died – at the Barnbow munitions factory in Cross Gates during the First World War.

Scripted by acclaimed writer Alice Nutter, it will be a professional production but will also feature a 60-strong supporting community cast of women who will act, sing and dance in scenes throughout the show.

Auditions for places in the community cast will be held over the next few weeks and are open to all.

Director Kate Wasserberg said: “This is a play about the people of Leeds and so it felt really important to us that local women be part of the show.

“We are looking for women of all ages to recreate the Barnbow factory in all its noisy, dirty, dangerous glory and to join us in telling this important and beautiful story.

“No previous experience is needed, just enthusiasm for the project and a willingness to learn.” Auditions for the community cast will take the form of a fun workshop process.

The first audition is being held on Wednesday, April 20, at the Ukrainian Community Centre on Newton Grove, off Chapeltown Road.

Two more follow at John Smeaton School on April 27 and David Young Academy on April 28.

All the auditions run from 6pm to 7.30pm. To book a place, ring 0113 213 7700.

Thirty five women died in an explosion at the Barnbow factory on December 5, 1916.

The site had opened the previous year and, as increasing numbers of men were called up to fight in the war, women – affectionately known as the Barnbow lasses – eventually comprised the vast majority of its workforce.

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