Horrors of Georgian public execution to be exposed at humanities festival

Issue date: 29 October 2019


Steve and Ralph

A method of execution used in Georgian Britain will be explained through an app and spoken word as part of Being Human, a nationwide festival in November that showcases research projects involved in the humanities. A series of four interactive performances called 'Romancing the Gibbet,' based on a collaboration between the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and immersive media specialists Satsymph, will take place in the south west and Worcestershire.

Gibbeting was the 18th century practice of exhibiting the bodies of hanged criminals in iron cages (or 'gibbets') at the scene of their crime so as to leave a permanent impression on towns and villages. These spectacular events were often staged in remote locations in front of large crowds.

As part of the festival's programme, on 14th (Nether Stowey), 15th (Avonmouth), 16th (Warminster), and 23rd November (Broadway, Worcestershire), UWE Bristol's Professor Steve Poole and Satsymph's Ralph Hoyte will bring to life this centuries-old practice during their performances. These take place as close to the original locations of each execution as possible.

During the performances, Professor Poole (who last month featured as an expert on the BBC's Who do You Think You Are programme) will first outline the facts and contexts of the case, followed by Ralph's poetic recital of work he composed himself.

Professor Poole said: "Our project asks the question: how strong are the shared community memories of these events today, handed down over the years in the places where they occurred? It also explores how much of what is locally known today has its roots in myths and legends and how much is historical fact - therefore how we know what we know."

At the end of these performances, the audience is invited to put on headphones and try out a light version of a specially created walking trail app, laid out around the event venue and containing samples from the full version of the GPS-triggered app, which was created by Satsymph.

The project already took part in Being Human's 2014 festival with two sell-our performances at Over-Stowey and Warminster. Since then, the project has developed and expanded.

Ralph Hoyte said: "We have researched and produced two new execution stories at Chipping Camden and Avonmouth and built immersive audio sound installations at all four. These can be downloaded as smartphone apps and will take the user on a poetic walk around the landscape of the original crime scene."

Being Human, now in its fifth year, is led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy. The four events are listed here in the Festival's programme.

Back to top