The Cotton Mill: A Children’s Opera




“May the children lead you into paradise: Lead you to our city Utopia”


Following nine months of original work, as well as been seen over 80 students, The Cotton Mill: A Children’s Opera has been created, developed and showcased on 7th July 2017.

The idea for the production came out of Lewis’ (Director of Music for GST) desire to create work that would bring the schools, Willow Brook, Perry Wood, Riverley and Stantonbury Campus together during GAF. Not wanting to do things by half, it was decided very early on that the cast would create their very own children’s opera.

Taking the Trust’s Utopian anthem ‘Jerusalem’, the aim was to set out to explore and tell the story of the lives of the people who lived in these ‘dark satanic mills’. What follows is a story of two people who unexpectedly become friends and are faced with the hard truths of life in a Victorian cotton mill.

The story begins with a modern day child called Danielle, who has all of the privileges that are often taken for granted: a warm home, food on the table, and education. Whilst reading a book about the lives of children who worked in cotton mills, she finds that the words come to life and is transported into a fantasy world where she faces harsh realities of life in an actual Victoria cotton mill – a very different world to the one she’s been living in. When experiencing the tragic events first hand, and realising the hardships these children went through, she is brought back to earth with a deeper understanding of her own life and a determination to create a better life for herself.

We were incredibly lucky to have Helen Sherman, a professional singer join the children in the opera as the character Bessie. Sherman has appeared in a variety of performances at Wigmore Hall, Bridgewater Hall and at the City of London festival. She was also the first student to receive the International Artist’s Diploma in Opera and has won countless awards during her singing career.

With thanks to:

Lucy Cuthbertson and Philip Parkin for their creative input and vast knowledge and historical research of the cotton industry. Natasha Sandison for her support with providing musicians from Stantonbury Campus. Thank you also to Reverend Christine Rablen for kindly allowing us to use St. Mary’s Parish Church for the performance venue.