Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
Hi, my name is Linda Wilkinson and for the purposes of Totally Thames I guess it may be of interest that I can trace my family roots back to 1640 with a shipwright on the Thames called John Homan. So in many ways it’s fitting that I have written this piece about the first steam powered power mill which was on the Thames at Blackfriars.
What happens at your organisation?
It’s really just me, as the playwright and my colleague the artist Adrian Chappell who has done the imagery which will be featured in the play. I have been writing for the theatre since the 1990’s so when Adrian came up with the possibility that we might get funding for a piece about the Albion Mill it seemed right that I write a drama for the stage.
Tell us about your personal relationship with the Thames River.
It’s been a part of my life for as long as I can recall. I was born in Bethnal Green, but my family are great walkers and on hot summer nights we’d walk to the river to catch the breeze. The view of St Pauls Cathedral from Southwark is one of my earliest memories. It’s the place I go to when I need to think. The opening of the Thames path has been a wonderful resource to Londoners and visitors alike. There’s nothing quite like the unexpected smell of salt at the tide rushes in from the sea.
What’s your project for Totally Thames?
It’s a work not only about the construction of the mill, which was revolutionary, but also its destruction during times of great tension in the country. The American colonies had been lost and the French Revolution was taking place and there was a lot of unease in England about the industrialisation of traditional work, like milling.
What particularly inspired your project for this year’s festival?
Things tend to come together and I have always been interested in William Blake, the great poet and artist, who lived not far from the mill. Dr Johnson had been a habitual visitor to his friend, and so-called muse, the diarist Hester Thrale who lived on the river nearby. I’d just finished researching Hester’s life for another project and somehow things just joined up in my head.
Summarise your artistic work this year in 5 words.
Fulfilling, exciting, optimistic, challenging and painful – I wrote the play whilst in plaster from a broken wrist.
What do you hope the impact of this project will be?
To inform people about a little-known slice of history, and entertain and amuse.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in getting involved in this art form?
It’s tough, you’ll be lucky to make enough money to live on. If you have the bug though, you just better get on and write.
Where can people find out more about your organisation and your event?
Here’s a good start: https://totallythames.org/event/albion-in-flames-a-play-about-love-lust-and-flour