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Community who fought HS2 takes to the stage

Rail project opponents have 'this is what happened to us’ message

17 May, 2019 — By Tom Foot

MEMBERS of the “small but stubborn community” who stood up to High Speed 2 have appeared in a theatre show about the hated rail project.

Human Jam is being staged at Camden People’s Theatre, a fringe venue next to the main construction site in Hampstead Road, Euston.

It exposes how lies and spin have propped up HS2 and its “land grab” next to Euston station, while reincarnating some of the dead in 63,000 graves being exhumed from the now-bulldozed St James’s Gardens. Residents whose lives have been turned upside down by the construction work appear on stage talking about their experiences and perform­ing as a “community choir”.

Creator Brian Logan, the theatre’s artistic director, said: “The whole point of the show was to create a platform for them to say loud and clear this is what has happened to us. I think it’s powerful for the audience to see these people come on and claim the stage.”

Jo Hurford, who has chained herself to trees in protest against HS2, received spontaneous applause when she walked on stage announcing the production had been “hijacked”. She explains how she and many other Camden residents spent years objecting through official channels but were routinely ignored.

The New Journal appears during a section about the “emerging scandal” of a deal struck between HS2 Ltd and company Lendlease for the £6billion-valued land around Euston station.

Mr Logan, who is in the show, turned investigative journalist during his research when he signed up to work as a volunteer so he could find out what was really going on behind the hoardings at what has been described as Europe’s biggest-ever exhumation dig.

He recounts how, going undercover, he dusted off stones and foliage, employing a little theatrical licence, and recalls attending to the grave of Thomas Spence. Spence – a lost hero of the radical movement who has been described as the “poor man’s revolutionary” – is brought back to life in sensational style by actress Shamira Turner.

His beliefs about land ownership were outlawed by the government in the early 19th century. Specific legislation not only banned his work but also prevented societies being set up in his name after his death. The show ends with the audience singing along to a rousing song by Spence, “The Rights Of The People”. Mr Logan said: “The argument of the piece is that the community comprises its living and its dead people.”

Human Jam, which runs until May 25, gets its name from a line in a Thomas Hardy poem, Levelled Churchyard, which he wrote about his work building the railway into St Pancras. The poem calls on passengers on the railway, built in the 19th century, to remember how graves were all “mixed to human jam”.

* A HOUSE of Lords committee has called for HS2 work in Euston to be stopped. The Rethinking HS2 report, published today (Thursday) by the Eco­nomic Affairs Commit­tee, said “the redevelop­ment of Euston station should be removed from the scope of phase one of High Speed 2”.

The committee, on which former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling sits, believes the railway from Birming­ham should stop at Old Oak Common, in west London, to save on “expensive tunnelling” into Camden.

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