Well we promised some big announcements from Bring Out Your Dead HQ over the coming weeks, and this one is our biggest one yet….

We are over the moon to be able to reveal that the wonderful Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded us a grant of £48,500 to fund our latest project…

This exciting community heritage project will explore the history of the East Anglian Witch Trials and the life of the notorious Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins.

The project will start with research workshops in local schools and the establishment of a weekly community research group open to anyone to join. Then we’ll take all the research that these groups bring together and turn it into a brand new play that will be performed at Moyse’s Hall Museum this October/November. Finally a documentary about the history and the project will be made by media production students from West Suffolk College and released online as a free learning resource for anyone to access any time.

There’ll also be some witch trial themed community activities over the course of the next year including a Witchfinder Walk which will take you through the towns and villages that the Matthew Hopkins would have visited during the witch hunts.

Greg Hanson, one of our Artistic Directors and our Business Manager, said of the news: “We’re thrilled that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this grant to make ‘Witches of West Suffolk’ a reality. When we look at our local history there’s a tendency to focus only on the bits we can take pride in, and shy away from having honest conversations about the more dubious actions of our ancestors. This project will get the community exploring a dark, more challenging part of our collective history in a fun and accessible way.”

We’re also very proud to be working with Malcolm Gaskill, Professor of Early Modern History at the University of East Anglia, and author of ‘Witchfinders: A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy’. Malcolm is working as a historical consultant on the project and said: “The historical memory of Matthew Hopkins, like that of the people who accused their neighbours of witchcraft, has been distorted. Hopkins is viewed today as a wicked bogeyman, and those he encouraged as ignorant, spiteful, even hysterical. But there’s more to it than that. The true story will be reanimated in this fantastic project which will see the people of Suffolk come together to set the historical record straight.”

Robert Llewllyn, Head of HLF East of England, said: “The 17th century witch hunts are an intriguing part of Suffolk’s heritage, and this project will explore the gap between popular perception and the historical facts of the Trials. I am delighted that money raised by National Lottery players can help Bring Out Your Dead Productions to share this fascinating history.”

There be lots more info about the project and how you can be a part of it very soon. In the meantime check out the dedicated ‘Witches of West Suffolk’ page on our website.

The project also has a dedicated Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram.

Watch this space!