Gas Girls: women workers in Avonmouth WW1 Mustard Gas factories: community theatre, film, booklet, exhibition

Gas Girls: women workers in Avonmouth WW1 Mustard Gas factories: community theatre, film, booklet, exhibition

Actors performing 'Gas Girls'

Heritage Grants

Bristol, South West
Acta
£25000
All workers in the factories had to sign the Official Secrets Act, so few of them had never talked about their experiences.
"When the cast stood staring at the end you could almost touch the sadness in the air for all that had happened."
Audience member
Inspired by the stories of women who worked in Mustard Gas factories in Bristol during the First World War, local people researched this hidden history and performed a play.

acta is an education charity which involves communities in arts projects, including projects delivered in partnership with heritage organisations. They worked with people from across the community to create a new play about the lives of women who worked in the Mustard Gas factories in and around Bristol. Participants included people with disabilities, people with diverse cultural backgrounds and people of all ages. 

The participants undertook research into the factories and their workers at local and national archives. This wasn’t easy as all workers had signed the Official Secrets Act, but the researchers found letters and reports detailing the horrific working conditions that women worked in. The participants drew on the material they found to develop a variety of characters, which were then used to write a play about the gas workers’ lives.

The play was performed to fully booked venues across the local area and was specifically targeted at working class and disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

The research and resulting play further inspired a book, film and exhibition. The process of developing the project was recorded on the acta website, and includes the final film.