CORNISH CONSPIRACIES – by Carl Grose

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I thought I’d hand this blog over to the Carl Grose, the writer of our latest Drum Theatre production Horse Piss for Blood, who explains a little more about his play, and the spooky inspirations behind it.

I love a good conspiracy theory. I believe they are the grand narratives of our time. They entice us with alternate realities of how the world might really work. They spark our imaginations, let us in on “The Truth”, and fuel our human need for stories. But if there’s one thing I love more than a conspiracy theory, it’s a Cornish conspiracy theory.

Chemical Defense Establishment Nancekuke was (as you are about to find out) a secret chemical weapons factory situated on the north Cornish coast between the beaches of Portreath and Porthowan. Through the 50s, 60s and early 70s, the Ministry of Defense manufactured such lethal delights as Agent Orange and Sarin nerve gas. There were reports of illegal testing on soldiers, of severe respiratory illness in its local workforce, and darker whispers still of widespread pollution. In 1976, the plant was closed down. It was ordered that waste materials from the plant be dumped down a nearby mineshaft – it probably all sits there to this day.

1976 was also the time of The Owlman – a seemingly supernatural entity that had been seen in the woods of Mawnan (a village on Cornwall’s south coast). Indeed, there were many strange things that occurred that year in Cornwall. There were also copious UFO and fairy sightings, evidence of a spate of black magic rituals, and reports of the legendary Mawgawr (the sea serpent of Falmouth Bay) making a return appearance. This all happened over the summer, a sweltering one, by all accounts, that became known in certain circles as The Summer Of Weirdness. The stories of this surreal time still endure, still exist in the memories of some, still hold true.

For me, Cornwall is as riddled with secrets and strangeness as it is with disused mineshafts. It is a somewhat less friendly place than Caroline Quentin’s current ITV tourist-baiting programme would have us believe. Hers is not a Cornwall I recognize. Perhaps her version of reality is the one true conspiracy…

The action of the play takes place in Cornwall, in 1976 and The Present. Nancekuke is a village on the North Cornish coast (rocky, wind-swept, sheer). Mawnan Woods is on the South (wooded, eerie, estuarine). In the play, it may appear as if they are in close proximity to one another. In reality, however, they are not. Apart from this one glaring fabrication, everything else is real. And if you don’t believe me, you can Google it. And if you still don’t believe me, go visit Nancekuke or Mawnan church yard, alone, at dusk, and tell me you don’t feel like someone, or something, is watching you…

Enjoy.

Carl Grose

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