Commissioned by the City of London for Bartholomew Fair 2023, our latest video-mapping installation Follow Me Into is an extraordinary journey through the forgotten streets and hidden squares of one of the capital city’s most popular areas.
Located in multiple sites, our magical story sees a child embark on a quest across the City of London at night, encountering figures from its past – each with a story to tell, each with a talent to pass on.
Here is a short backstory about the characters our story’s young heroine – and our audiences, of course – will meet along the way, and what connects them to the City of London.
“Plato is my friend, Aristotle is my friend, but my greatest friend is truth.”
Born in 1643 Newton becomes one of the world’s leading scientists. He is best known for his theories of gravity and laws of motion.
Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion:
(1) Every object moves in a straight line unless acted upon by a force. (2) The acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the net force exerted and inversely proportional to the object’s mass. (3) For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Newton moves to the City of London in 1696 and resides in Haydon Square, close to The Tower of London. He is made Warden, and later Master, of the Royal Mint, where he leads the fight against counterfeiting and improves the quality and purity of coinage. In 1703 he becames president of The Royal Society of London. He dies in 1727 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.
Book to read: Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton, by Richard S. Westfall, Cambridge University Press, 1983.
Born in 1564.
Moves to the City of London in 1592.
Lives in the parish of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate between 1593 to 1596.
During this period, he writes ‘Henry VI, Part 1’, ‘The Comedy of Errors’, ‘Titus Andronicus’, ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’, ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘Richard 11’, and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.
In 1596 he moves to Southwark but moves back to the City of London in 1604 residing in Silver Street Close to St Paul’s Cathedral. Between 1604 to 1610 he writes ‘Measure for Measure’, ‘Othello’, ‘King Lear’, ‘Macbeth’, ‘Anthony and Cleopatra’, ‘Coriolanus’, ‘Timon of Athens’, ‘Pericles’, ‘Cymbeline’, ‘The Winter’s Tale’, and ‘The Tempest’.
By 1613 Shakespeare has moved back to Stratford-upon-Avon
He dies in 1616.
Book to Read: Living with Shakespeare: Saint Helen’s Parish, London, 1593-1598, by Geoffrey Marsh, Edinburgh University Press, 2021.
Suffragettes in the City of London
Wilhelmina Hay Abbott is born in Dundee in 1884 and is educated at the City of London School for Girls when her family moves to London. A leading suffragette and feminist, she is an officer of The International Woman Suffrage Alliance and editor of its journal, ‘Jus Suffragii’.
On March 1st, 1912, The Mansion House, home of the Lord Mayor of London, is attacked by four suffragettes, Dorothea and Madeleine Rock, Grace Chappelow, and Fanny Pease. They are tried the next day and sentenced to two months hard labour in Holloway Prison.
In 1920, Sylvia Pankhurst is prosecuted at The Mansion House Justice Room for publishing a newspaper in the City of London that advocates disloyalty and refusal to obey orders in the Navy and looting the docks in London. She was sentenced to six months in Holloway Prison.
Book to read: Rise Up Women!: The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes, by Diane Atkinson, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018
Born 1742 into slavery on a Jamaican plantation.
1752-1784 he resides in 17 Gough Square, close to Fleet Street, and becomes a key member of Samuel Johnson’s household.
During this period Barber works with Johnson on the ‘Dictionary of the English Language’ and other writings. Barber also assists in providing material of James Boswell’s the ‘Life of Samuel Johnson’, published in 1791.
In 1755 Barber is granted his freedom and on his death Johnson leaves Barber all his household goods and £70 per year for life.
Barber dies in 1801 after moving to the Midlands and becoming a headmaster of a local school.
Book to Read: The Fortunes of Francis Barber: The Story of the Enslaved Jamaican Who Became Samuel Johnson’s Heir, by Michael Bundock, Yale University Press, 2021.
Mary Frith (alias Moll Cutpurse)
Born at Barbican on Aldersgate Street in 1584.
Her life is the basis of two major plays of the Seventeenth Century: “The Madde Pranckes of Mery Mall of Bankside” by John Day in 1610 and “The Roaring Girl by Middleton and Dekker in 1611. She attends both productions which were highly popular with London audiences.
Gaining notoriety as a pickpocket and cross dresser Frith has many confrontations with the law and she ends up in prison on at least four occasions.
Towards the end of her life, she is committed to Bethlem Hospital and she dies in 1659. She is buried in St Brides’ churchyard, just off Fleet Street.
Reading: ‘Mary Frith, Moll Cutpurse, and the Development of an Early Modern Criminal Celebrity’, by Lauren Liebe, Journal of Early Modern Studies, 2021.