The Spirit Child

Episodes

First
Broadcast
Comments
20141027

A radio poem inspired by the story of Alice Glaston, who at eleven years old, is the youngest person ever hung in England. Alice Glaston was hung from the gallows tree in Much Wenlock in Shropshire in 1545. When writer Paul Evans who was born here, later returned to live here and discovered the story of Alice Glaston from a passing reference in a local history book, he was both shocked and intrigued. The more he thought about the story, and walked the same places Alice walked; the more he stood in the spot where the gallows tree once grew, the more he felt a responsibility to tell the story. This poem links Alice with the landscape, which in some sense still contains her, and back to the memory of the people.

This ghostly tale spans almost five centuries (from the dissolution of the monasteries to the present day). Alice is a benign presence; through her we see the landscape in a different way. Her story elicits compassion and stimulates the imagination. Beautiful landscapes have dark histories. Some events are so powerful they leave a trace of themselves as a memory in the place where they occurred. Like mud in a pond stirred up by someone poking around, these memories are recovered from the place and take on a life of their own. Alice became part of the landscape but a forgotten ghost. For Paul, this telling is a way to free Alice's ghost; she should not be brushed out of history because she represents an uncomfortable truth; she should not be forgotten. With the passage of time and the seasons, her story does not die, but is relived and retold.

It is the landscape and its stories which have inspired this poem, and this landscape is powerfully evoked through sound recordings by Chris Watson. Alice is played by Bettrys Jones.

Producer: Sarah Blunt.