Project chronicles the story of Sunderland Civil War veteran ‘Freeborn John’

John Lilburne
John Lilburne
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The story of a Sunderland-born Civil War veteran who dedicated his life to fighting for freedom will be told in a new theatre project.

The Canny Craic Theatre Company is teaming up with Sunderland Museum, Bede’s World and schools and groups across the region community to examine equality, free speech and democracy through the life of John Lilburne.

The project will not only explore an incredibly important part of history but also encourage debate and thought about themes which are just as relevant to us today.

Ivor Crowther

Born in Sunderland in 1615, “Freeborn John” was influenced by radicals, including Edmund Rosier and John Bastwick and became committed to the cause of denouncing corruption.

He fought alongside Cromwell, but also denounced the new government for its oppression, and was imprisoned in Dover Castle where he died in 1657.

Some of his writings, which influenced America’s Constitution, Bill of Rights and the British Common Law, are held at Sunderland Museum and will form the basis of research for the new project.

Workshops will be used to inspire creative writing pieces and a play, which will be performed in South Tyneside before going on tour around the region.

Ivor Crowther, head of Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: “We’re delighted to support this project which will bring to life the inspiring story of a local man who went on to make an international contribution to democracy and freedom.

“The project will not only explore an incredibly-important part of history, but also encourage debate and thought about themes which are just as relevant to us today.”

Public sessions will be held at Bede’s World on Saturday, October 24.