It’s our 5th Birthday!

We’re 5 years old! On 22nd December 2014 we nervously registered Baseless Fabric as an official company and set up a meeting with a business bank account manager. It was all a bit scarily official. So how do we do this then?! Run a company, make work in public spaces, engage with our local community…

It’s been a quite mental 5 years and we have learned such a lot both creatively and practically in working out how to make it all happen. We couldn’t have done it without your support.

A First Class Death (2015)

A First Class Death at VAULT Festival, A Secret Life with Theatre 503, Reunion & Dark Pony in South London libraries, street operas Drifting Dragons, Cosi Fan Tutte and Die Fledermaus, Mitcham Library drama workshops, countless Opera Taster Workshops for local schools & sessions with elderly groups, and recently also 2 parallel productions for schools offering young people a chance to engage, explore and be imaginative with opera over a 7 month project. Not to mention becoming a charity 4 years ago!

Cosi Fan Tutte (2017) at Gorringe Park Pub Tooting

2019 certainly has been our most crazily ambitious year yet. Who stages 4 productions at once?! We do apparently! With our Die Fledermaus professional production for the high street, adaptation for the Grimeborn Opera Festival at the Arcola Theatre plus our parallel productions with St John Bosco College and Cranmer Primary School in association with Jigsaw4u all happening at the same time, end of July was a bit busy to say the least with several rehearsal rooms running at once! Plus of course being a working mum is never easy, but Artistic Director Jo had a particularly interesting time when OperaBaby chose that exact time to get a bad chest infection and they spent several nights in hospital! Babies have such an amazing sense of timing!

Die Fledermaus Arcola Theatre

Die Fledermaus (2019)

But OperaBaby quickly got better and the shows were a great success! We had 4 star reviews in The Guardian and The Stage for the first time, fantastic audience feedback for both the sell-out shows at the Arcola and for our 12 street performances. This year we performed in a variety of locations across both our home borough of Merton and neighbouring Wandsworth taking us, for the first time, to Roehampton, Tooting, Wandsworth Town and Battersea. Audience comments included:

‘Amazing! Never been to an opera before! So good! Will try to go see one soon. Such loud clear voices. Brilliant work! Thank you!’

Baseless Fabric Theatre workshop with Cranmer primary school parallel production

Meanwhile, our wonderful groups at St John Bosco and Cranmer Primary performed the most imaginative spin-off productions of Die Fledermaus thrilling their workshop leaders, parents and the professional opera singers with their performances. Who knew that Eisenstein had an evil brother Osenstein? Or that the Eastenders theme tune would meld so perfectly with Strauss? We were super proud of both groups and all that they achieved over the 7 month project with their fantastic workshop leaders Elliott, Natalie, Elen and James – thank you all for your hard work!

And though, yes, Die Fledermaus with all its different elements took up most of our time and energy in 2019, we also found time over the Easter holidays to have fun with 70 brilliant young people in Mitcham Library discovering the skills of beatboxing, stage combat, puppetry and theatre design!

Beatboxing Workshop at Mitcham Library

We’ve had the busiest year to end our first 5 and are now busy planning what happens in the next 5. If you’d like to get involved in some way please drop us a message, we’d love to hear from you. Or if you’d like to help ensure our work is able to continue, why not consider becoming a Friend, whilst getting further insights into how our work is created? We have rather a lot of money to raise, contacts to make and plans to develop to make the next 5 years happen so if you’d like to be involved in the next stage of our future we’d love to hear from you!

Elderly session at Merton and Morden Guild

Yet we couldn’t have made the first 5 happen without you so thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all that you’ve enabled us to achieve so far –

Joanna, Mark, Francis, Rachel, Arnold and Sophie
(though in 2019 5 actually became 6!)

Do you want to experience a Death Cafe?

After an amazing sell-out week at the VAULT Festival we’re holding a Death Cafe next week!

At Death Cafes people drink tea, eat cake and discuss death. The aim is to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives. You can find out more information at http://deathcafe.com/

It will take place on Monday 16th February at EV Deli near Waterloo from 7pm. You will be able to purchase your own food & drinks from the Deli Counter. Later on we will move to the EV Bar (2 doors down) and enter the Afterlife part of the evening, celebrating the show and the themes that emerged. There may even be a bit of cake to take home!

Registration is on a first come first served basis. If you do want to attend please click the link below to sign up so we can get an idea of numbers.

REGISTER FOR THE DEATH CAFE

Steam Train

Did you know Waterloo used to transport dead bodies by train?

The First London Necropolis terminus

The First London Necropolis terminus

The London Necropolis Railway existed from 1854 to 1941 to transport London’s dead and their mourners from Waterloo to Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey. It opened in response to severe overcrowding in London’s existing cemeteries. The newly built Brookwood Cemetery was intended to home the entirety of London’s dead for at least the next 150 years. Most of the route of the London Necropolis Railway ran on the existing London and South Western Railway (LSWR).

The first station was completed in 1854, at a total construction cost of around £1.9 million today. It was specifically designed for the use of mourners, so had many private waiting rooms, which could be used to hold funeral services, and a hydraulic lift to raise coffins to platform level. Existing railway arches (now the Leake Street Vaults) were used for the storage of bodies.

In 1899, the London Necropolis Railway station was blocking the expansion of Waterloo station so, in return for the existing site, the LSWR supplied them with a new station on Westminster Bridge Road. This new building was designed to contrast with other funeral directors’ premises by being as attractive as possible.

London Necropolis Railway and boundaries

London Necropolis Railway and boundaries

Why did they need a Necropolis Railway?
In 1801, the population of London was a little under a million people, but within fifty years the population quickly expanded to 2.5 million. There was a crisis in London concerning its dead. With limited space for burials in the city’s graveyards, it wasn’t just the old graves that were exhumed to free space for new burials. Grave diggers reported having to cut up recently buried bodies; paupers’ coffins remained unburied in church crypts; and there are records of ‘mingled dirt and human remains’ being thrown into the Thames from Waterloo Bridge. Decaying corpses contaminated the water supply, and the city suffered regular epidemics of cholera, smallpox, measles and typhoid, which resulted in more deaths and more bodies. After a cholera epidemic in 1849 killed near 15,000 people, something had to be done to cope with London’s dead.

London Necropolis Coffin Ticket

London Necropolis Coffin Ticket

What class are you?

The London Necropolis Company offered three classes of funerals. First Class allowed complete choice of gravesite within Brookwood cemetery, and a permanent memorial. Costs began at £2 (about £205 in 2015) for a basic 9-by-4-foot plot with no special coffin specifications.

Second Class cost £1 (about £82 in 2015) and allowed some choice of burial location. A permanent memorial would cost an additional 10 shillings (about £41 today), and if a permanent memorial was not erected the LNC reserved the right to re-use the grave in future.

Read more

Introducing our fantastic ‘A First Class Death’ cast

A First Class Death Rehearsal Wall

Rehearsals for A First Class Death are in full swing! So far, we’ve been discussing our own memories of funerals, researching about the history of the Lower Marsh area, and creating the characters to populate our play.

It’s been a busy couple of days, but we thought we should tell you a bit about our acting company who will be guiding you through your journey with the London Necropolis Railway. By way of introduction, we asked them to share with you the song that they would like played at their funerals.

So what song would you like people to remember you by?

Julian Pindar
Hope There’s Someone
(Antony and the Johnsons) Listen on Spotify

Marie Blount

Marie Blount
Here, There and Everywhere
(The Beatles)
Listen on Spotify

Sui-See Hung

Siu-See Hung
We’ll Meet Again
(Johnny Cash)
Listen on Spotify

 

Barry McStay

Barry McStay
I’m Going To Go Back There Some Day
(The Muppets)
Listen on YouTube

Chandni Mistry

Chandni Mistry
Out of the Blue
(Electric Light Orchestra)
Listen on Spotify

Rajneet Sidhu

Rajneet Sidhu
Walking on the Moon
(The Dream)
Listen on Spotify

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more

Get involved with our production!

IdeastapWe’ve set up a crowdfunding campaign to help support our show. We’ve got some fantastic rewards – you could have your photo in our prop ‘Book of Condolences’ used in the show, attend a rehearsal to get a sneak peak before anyone else, have a special pre-performance experience for you and a friend, or even dinner with the director and writer!

You can check out our cool video to give you an idea of the production:

‘A First Class Death’ on IdeasTap 

Thanks so much for your support!

A perfect funeral? Behind the scenes with a funeral director

Grave YardIt’s a cold December morning and I am giving a coffin a thorough inspection. “Do you see any dust there, Jason?” asks the man on the other side of the wooden box. “Because it has to look perfect.”

The man speaking to me is a funeral director (let’s call him Andy) and he is giving me a rare, behind-the-scenes look at a typical day at the office. And, as it quickly becomes clear, in Andy’s line of work perfection is the name of the game.

“On the day of the funeral, everything has to go right,” he tells me. “The family expect it. Which is why I do all of this preparation and checking now.”

And there is a lot of preparation and checking to do. Once a doctor has declared someone dead, the funeral director’s work begins. First, the body is transported – “removed” – to the funeral home so it can be stored and, if required, embalmed. Later it will be made to look as close to the family’s specifications as possible through the use of favorite clothes, a haircut and makeup. Then there are consultations with the family to agree on the date and details of the service, the type of coffin, the music, the readings, etc.

Read more

10% Off ‘A First Class Death’ and Q&A on Thursday 5th Feb

For a limited time only we have an early bird discount of 10% off all ‘A First Class Death’ Tickets.

Thursday 5th February Q&A Session
Immediately after the show on Thursday 5th February  we will be holding a Q&A session with the company in the Cavern space following the performance. Entry is free to same day ticket holders.

 

Make Space Studios next to the disused Necropolis track at Waterloo

Some rather unusual research at Waterloo Station….

The old Necropolis Railway Platform

The old Necropolis Railway Platform

Our research for A First Class Death for VAULT Festival 2015 is taking us in so many unusual yet wonderful directions! Playwright Jason Hall spent a day shadowing a funeral director (more info to follow) while I explored the old Necropolis platform now turned fantastic Make Space Studios (you can see the studios as you come into Waterloo Station). See Make Space Studios for a fantastic YouTube video about the Necropolis Railway. Anna (Assistant Director) and I also had a brilliantly inspiring evening at a Death Cafe (www.deathcafe.com) enjoying tea, cake and talking about death with some lovely people. Though we’ll admit to being slightly apprehensive beforehand we had such a fun, joyful and inspirational evening. Meanwhile, our R&D workshops with a fantastic bunch of actors led to sharing stories of sadness as well as much heart warming laughter. Read more

A FIRST CLASS DEATH VAULT FESTIVAL TICKETS ON SALE NOW!!

Tickets are now on sale for A First Class Death at VAULT Festival 2015!

Tickets are £9.50. For more information visit our upcoming productions.

You can buy tickets at the VAULT Festival website.

2-FOR-1 WEDNESDAYS
EARLY BIRD (until 31st Dec): 10% OFF
10% OFF THURS & SUN
10% OFF MATINEES

Weekend matinee tickets are already selling fast so do get buying your tickets – they’d make a great Christmas present!!

A First Class Death coming Feb at VAULT Festival

A First Class DeathBaseless Fabric are excited to be creating ‘A First Class Death’ for VAULT Festival 2015. Based on the London Necropolis Railway and the history of the Waterloo Vaults, this immersive theatre piece will question contemporary attitudes to death and mourning, taking the audience on a journey round the local area and culminating in the atmospheric Cavern space in the Vaults.

We’re working with a fantastic new team which includes –

Jason Hall – Playwright

Jordan Eaton – Associate Producer

Christianna Mason – Designer

Edward Lewis – Sound Designer

Avril Cook – Lighting Designer (Baseless Fabric Associate Artist)

Anna Marsland – Assistant Director

 

More details to follow!