Unsung: forgotten hero brought to life in new play at Liverpool Everyman

Posted on 23 December 2015
By Khyle Deen
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The fascinating story of one of Liverpool’s forgotten heroes is finally set to be told in a new play at the Everyman.

Unsung is a production created by Turf Love and DaDaFest telling the turbulent and uplifting story of Edward Rushton (1756 – 1814), Liverpool’s most implacable anti-slavery abolitionist, human rights activist and pioneer for disability rights. Taking place at the award-winning Liverpool Everyman, the production will utilise poetry, projected imagery, darkness and sound montage to provide a passionate and accessible theatre experience.

The production is part funded via crowdfunding website IndieGoGo, enabling the people of Liverpool and all those who identify with the story of Rushton to help bring his tale to the stage. Unsung was also generously supported by Liverpool City Council, Arts Council England, The Granada Foundation and Unison.

Weaving together the contemporary and classical in an inspirational tale with resonance for our times – the ordinary person challenging the corrupt practice of unethical business – Unsung uses a dynamic and lyrical theatrical style, re-imagining some of Rushton’s extraordinary life in 18th century Liverpool, set against the rising arc of the abolition movement.

Described by Unsung writer, John Graham Davies, as “a glaring example of a heroic figure who was written out of history”, Rushton was apprenticed to the shipping industry as a child and quickly became an experienced seaman. When he was saved from drowning by Kwamina, a freed slave, who died in the act,– Rushton made a decision that would change his life forever.

By his late teens, Rushton was aboard his first slave ship as Second Mate. He became blind while assisting captured Africans in the ship’s hold and returned to Liverpool where he became a diligent opponent of slavery and impressment; and a champion for human rights. He went on to establish what is now the Royal School for the Blind which was second only in the world to a school built in Paris.

It seemed that Rushton’s story was to remain untold to the wider public, until it was picked up by writers John Graham Davies (Beating Berlusconi!) and James Quinn who brought it to the attention of DaDaFest’s Artistic Director Ruth Gould. The internationally renowned Chuck Mike was chosen to direct the play and following three public readings and a series of events celebrating Rushton’slife at DaDaFest International 2014, his story is set for its debut on stage.

Commenting on the production, Ruth Gould, DaDaFest’s Artistic Director said: “The Play brings together so different issues, slavery, disability, access and the need to speak out when others keep silent. We feel honoured to have a role in bringing this story to the stage and thank all the many people we have met throughout the journey, especially John, James and the Everyman Theatre.”

Gemma Bodinetz, Artistic Director of Everyman & Playhouse, said: “We are delighted to be supporting this moving project about an inspirational man. Edward Rushton’s life touched on so many issues, which still remain to this day, and it is fitting that the always wonderful DaDaFest, John Graham Davies and James Quinn are bringing his story to the stage.”

Chris Honer, Freelance Theatre Director added: “Unsung tells the true (and shamefully little-known) story of Liverpool anti-slavery campaigner Edward Rushton. It’s ambitious, passionate, and uses great theatricality to tell a story of personal struggle, love, and how the world can be changed.”

Assistant Mayor and Cabinet Member for Culture, Tourism and Events, Councillor Wendy Simon, said: “Unsung is set to be a compelling production and we are very pleased to be able to support it. To explore and celebrate someone who made such an incredible difference to the lives of others will be fascinating, and I hope many people take the opportunity to visit the Everyman and see what is set to be a thought-provoking piece of theatre.”

Listings Information:


Wednesday 9 March 2016: 7:30pm
Thursday 10 March 2016: 1:30pm & 7:30pm
Friday 11 March 2016: 7:30pm
Saturday 12 March: 2pm & 7:30pm

Liverpool Everyman

Tickets: £12 to £18 (plus £2 Transaction Fee if booked online)
Access: All performances captioned. Audio Description: Friday & Saturday Matinee.
BSL Interpretation at certain performances.

Book online at: www.everymanplayhouse.com/whats-on/unsung or telephone: 0151 709 4776.