Hilda and the Northern Powerhouse

This ongoing project is a theatrical exploration of modern questions about power and influence in modern Britain, told through the story of Hilda of Whitby – a 7th Century Saxon Abbess, and a woman of great strength and influence, especially in North and East England.

Hilda, the founder of a monastery for both monks and nuns, presided over the first ‘referendum’ on connection with Europe when the church voted to join Europe in 664AD. In the era of Brexit, this project seeks to explore what light Hilda’s story can shine on our own times.

According to the first English historian, Venerable Bede recounts how Hilda’s mother Breguswith, while pregnant with Hilda, dreamed she found a brilliant necklace under her gown, which Bede relates as a prophecy for the way Hilda illuminated her world.

This Our Big Picture collaboration supported by the Arts Council England, is a brilliant necklace of ideas conceived by the Hilda & The Northern Powerhouse creative team, stringing together scripts, community inputs, historical connections, and expert advice.Please feel free to join our process – and get in touch below.

Hilda and the Northern Powerhouse



“Collaborate with our online community on specific projects”

What’s it all about?


In early December 2021, observing COVID safe rules, the team used the Our Big Picture market stall to consult with shoppers on some key questions:

  • What’s your favourite part of Grimsby/Cleethorpes
  • Where do you feel most welcome?
  • If you were to rebuild – what re the bits you would keep?
  • How would you introduce Grimsby/Cleethorpes to a stranger?

We dressed the stall with information and maps – and over the course of the two days, built a picture of where stories were located, and tagged those with luggage labels.

Sharing old postcards, maps, and pictures from the project prompted chats and meant we had dozens of great conversations. A summary (anonymised) is attached here.

Everyone sharing a story or a conversation with us received a sticker, a chocolate and a pencil.


Two schools worked with the team to build insight into the project.

Cleeve Primary School, Wawne Road Hull HU7 4JH

Ormiston South Parade Academy, South Parade, Grimsby DN31 1TX

A summary overview of the engagement activity/material is here.

Script (Draft 1):

First draft script was written by cowriters Kate Hainsworth and Camille Hainsworth-Staples.

They wanted to tell the story of Hilda, a powerful charismatic Saxon woman largely forgotten by history. There were other stories captured by the Venerable Bede woven into the text. They reflected on her influence in light of modern issues, and let local people celebrate her legacy. A professional cast of three – Oyin Orija as Patience, Sarah Naughton playing Hilda and Alice Palmer as Lucy – led a fantastic community cast. Directed in promenade around Grimsby Minster by Amanda Huxtable.

Accompanying theatre, movement and visual art workshops with schools and community groups in Grimsby Minster in April 2019.

The sharing took place on Saturday 21st September 2019 in Grimsby Minster.

R&D outcomes available here.

Here are some quotes from the cast:

“The experience of the Hilda project has really opened my eyes to the opportunities that are out there for young mixed-race actors. Moreover, it has really pushed me to go forward in what I want to do with my life and career.”

“I would love to see how everyone’s journeys touch and mingle. Also, how the women realise their connection to each other and how they can develop and grow together. A very worthwhile project that has a lot to offer to those involved, and a wonderful story to tell the world.” 

“It was a real privilege to be involved with this project, I am so proud of what was created. It was fantastic to work with a mixture of community and professional actors.”

Script (Draft 2):

With a new co-writer, Helen Meller, the script has moved again – it is now a full-length two-act play and has changed its contemporary protagonist to become Patti… but some of the characters from the earlier script continue.

This draft has more digital content, more input from the engagement work, and more focus on the present than the past characters.

However, we’ve kept the connection between a Saxon saint and the struggles of a contemporary single mum.

This was a result of intense input and support from dramaturg Zodwa Nyoni and theatre practitioner Alexander Kelly.

“As a dramaturg there’s joy in discovering new stories, but also in supporting writers to find ways of telling  stories and connecting to audiences. It’s been a pleasure to work with Kate and Helen on the HILDA project. Through this,  I’ve learnt about Hilda’s life story and watched  Kate and Helen bring her to the forefront of history.  There’s been a genuine commitment to developing a show that sits within a wider project which speaks to the communities and schools in and  surrounding Grimsby. I look forward to seeing how audiences interact with the material and histories.”
Zodwa Nyoni

“I had a very rewarding time mentoring HILDA & The Northern Powerhouse. It is an ambitious project drawing on documentary, historical sources, and contemporary research with local participants about how they see their area, its history and its future. 

It has the potential to be an engaging and galvanising performance, that really speaks with its audience, and shares the stories of the north east, and asks important questions about the role of faith and community in the 21st century.

The artists involved are clearly committed to pushing themselves, facilitating the participation of local communities, and telling a great story in a distinctive way.
Alexander Kelly

What next?

We would love to know what you think of the material here – and your thoughts on the characters, the ideas, the outreach and the engagement.
Let us know where you would like this to go next – would you be interested in performing one of the scripts? Would your school enjoy a similar outreach activity?

Our contact details are linked above – please do get in touch.


Hilda & The Northern Powerhouse: Outreach Session April 2019


This project has been funded twice by Arts Council England in 2019 and in 2021

Led by writer/producer Kate Hainsworth in partnership with

Dick Bonham
Natalie Diddams
Camille Hainsworth-Staples
Amanda Huxtable
Alex Kelly
Nick Lane
Mary Mead
Helen Meller
Zodwa Nyoni

and supported by Grimsby Minster, Hull Truck Theatre,

Our Big Picture, Cleve School Hull, Ormiston South Parade Academy, and Third Angel.

Our Big Picture

Here are some other projects and events from Our Big Picture.

Our Haven Find Out More

Art in the Minster Find Out More

Freddie Frinton Find Out More

Be part of Our Big Picture.