WILLIAM'S CASTLE
BBC RADIO 4 - 2:15PM, MONDAY 1ST APRIL 2024
A SISTER SOUNDS PRODUCTION FOR BBC RADIO 4

Illustration by Jacob Goff


WRITER & PRODUCER: JAY SYKES
HISTORICAL RESEARCH & ACCURACY: LILY DANIELS
DIRECTOR: POLLY THOMAS
PRODUCTION MANAGER: DARREN SPRUCE
STUDIO MANAGER: ANDY BELL
MASTERING: LUCINDA MASON BROWN
MUSIC: HOLLY REES & PAIGE TEMPERLEY
EXEC. PRODUCERS: ELIOSE WHITMORE & CHANTAL HERBERT
Inspired by true events; a letter discovered written by a young choir boy in 1897, written on the back of an order of service, and hidden between the wooden panels of a pew in an old church.

Folded in the faded browned paper was a handwritten letter by 13-year old William Elliott, who lived at the Sunderland Orphanage Asylum, a home dedicated to educating boys whose fathers died at sea. William wrote of being concerned that he, like his father who was washed overboard on the merchant vessel Skyros, would be drafted to the waves.​​​​​​
Written overleaf and around the text of the order of service, William's writing reads: "Sunderland Orphan Asylum, August 11th 1897. Dear friend, whoever finds this paper think of William Elliott who had 2 months and 2 weeks and 4 days on the 11 of August 1987. Whoever you are that finds this paper don't tear it up or throw it away but keep it in remembrance of me, W. Elliott. I was the leading boy of this choir. I love you if you love me."
This unearthed treasure ignited the imaginations of visitors to the former church in Sunderland's East End - what happened to William, and to his plea to be remembered? A search began, eagerly pursued by various volunteers in the local community united by the quest; they engaged in extensive research, scoured the records, and eventually uncovered William's story.

Supported by historical research from the church's Lily Daniels, 'William's Castle' jumps forwards and backwards through time exploring the imagined journeys of William's life, recreated from this gathered historical research. This is a drama with elements of documentary, dovetailing and interweaving imagined past with present, and interview recordings with people who were inspired to research the story behind William's letter.
Our sound design leans heavily into a musicality, which unites both present and past; recreating a modern take on boys' choral singing in 1897, and scored with original music from North East singer / songwriters Paige Temperley and Holly Rees, who were inspired to commit William's journey to music.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
Songs "William's Castle" by Holly Rees and "Remember Me" by Paige Temperley were created as part of WE MAKE CULTURE'S SONGS OF THE STREET PROJECT, which was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund."
William's Castle is a story of the universal will to be remembered, to leave a mark on the world. As childhood William in 1897, aching to leave memories of himself behind, and musing on the dangers of the epic voyage ahead - which we'll hear in vivid narrator-driven sound design. And as the fictional Paige, who finds William's letter today whilst cleaning the church and is inspired, we'll embark on a voyage around the church's community to find more fragments of William's journey, and keep his memory alive.
Meet the Cast
Becky Lindsay is an actor/fight performer from Sunderland. Winner of the 2023 best female actor award at Wolverhampton and Romford Film Festival 2023. Credits include feature film Blue Jean, BBC Waterloo Road.​​​​​​​
"Anyone who knows me knows how proud I am to be from Sunderland. To be able to tell the true story of William through Jay’s delicate and beautiful writing is a privilege. And all set in my hometown… It can’t get any better!"

Headshot Photography: The Headshot Box

Headshot image  © John Clarke

SHARON - CHRISTINA BERRIMAN DAWSON
"What a privilege it has been to be part of the team that has brought this story to life. Not only because it’s a story routed in Sunderland, but because William's story will resonate not only regionally but internationally. It’s an amazing example of how the arts can not only give a voice, but elevate a voice that was previously unheard."​​
Christina most recently was part of the RSC's 37 plays which was
presented at Northern Stage, she played Alwen in ‘The Odyssey’ -
(National Theatre / Fire Station), Heather ‘THE WASP’, and appeared as
‘Louise’ in ‘The Hunt for Raoul Moat’ (ITV). 
Her other credits include ‘Gaze’ (Northern Stage), ‘Art of Facing Fear’ (Theatre Os Satyros), ‘Credit’ (Cap-a-Pie), ‘Sugar’ (Open Clasp - BBCiPlayer), ‘Goldilocks & the Three Bears’, 'Cinderella & Pinocchio’ (Crossroads. Theatre Royal Newcastle),
‘Under Milk Wood’ (Northern Stage) ‘Rattlesnake’ (Open Clasp), 'Beyond
The End Of The Road' (November Club-Tour / SAGE), ‘Key Change’ (New
York Theatre workshop, Off Broadway and UK National Tour & Live filming
Space / BBC), Sugar (Open Clasp at Live Theatre), Dead Nobody (Customs House), ‘Clothes Swap Theatre Party’ (Forward Theatre & Derby Playhouse), ‘Dolly Mixtures' (Customs House), 'Make do and Mend' performed at European Parliament, 'From there to you, from here to me' (Odd Man Out), 'Turning Pages' (Live Theatre), Season Ticket R&D (Northern Stage), 'Prince', ‘Queen’ & ‘Dandini’ (Tyne Theatre), The Frights (Alphabetti Theatre & Theatre N16 London), Hull’s Angel (Ensemble 52), Gaslight On Grey Street (Theatre Royal Studio), 'Pied Piper Project' & 'Cautionary Tales From The Trenches' (November Club), 'Flock' (ZENDEH), Dick in 'Dick Whittington' & Aladdin in 'Aladdin' (Barnsley Lamproom Theatre), The Selkie (Sage Gateshead), The Bodies (Live Theatre), 'Nowt To Look At' (BBC Radio Drama), 'George Gently' (BBC), and feature film 'The Magdalene Sisters'.
Christina is represented by Janet Plater Management.
OLDER WILLIAM - LYNDAN TRENHOLM

Lyndan is a British actor from the North East of England. He graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland last July with a BA in Musical Theatre. He is also a singer-songwriter who plays the guitar. Currently, he is in the process of developing his circus skillset by learning fire performance (eating, breathing, contact, staff and poi). Lyndan can most recently be seen appearing in EE’s new advertising campaign.
"Being born and bred in Sunderland this amazing play effectively and emotionally brought to life the history of a place I was already familiar with. Working with such lovely, talented, mainly North East based cast and creatives was inspirational, exciting and thoroughly enjoyable. For me, working on this production was both a privilege and a fantastic learning experience."

Headshot Photography: Kim Hardy

INTERVIEWER / THOMAS - DANIEL JAMES​​​​​​​
GOVERNOR - KEN SMITHSON​​​​​​​
YOUNG WILLIAM - MIKKI HODGSON​​​​​​​
Meet the Production Team
JAY SYKES - WRITER / PRODUCER
William's Castle marks Jay's first time writing and producing for BBC Radio 4.
POLLY THOMAS - DIRECTOR
Polly Thomas is widely recognised as one of the UK’s leading audio producer-directors. Her award-winning work has explored the potential of the medium, including location-based recording, international co-production, community activism and simultaneous live relay. She works in live performance as writer, producer and director, most prominently with THOMAS CARTER PROJECTS, an international media and performance company which she co-founded.
LILY DANIELS - HISTORICAL RESEARCH AND ACCURACY
As Participation and Events Officer at SEVENTEEN NINETEEN, the redeveloped church-now-arts-centre at the heart of the narrative, Lily Daniels is involved in the scriptwriting and development process in ensuring the accuracy of real-like William Elliott's story and the locations' historical context are honoured.
Lily started her career as a volunteer facilitator in venues around the North East, helping people make things in museums, galleries and shopping centres, amassing a toolbox full of skills to get people engaged and inspired about the past. With a bachelors degree in Glass and Ceramics, and an MA in Inclusive Arts Practice, Lily has worked in 3D printing labs, heritage arts centres, and on railways, making sure that visitors learn something by having a go.
CHANTAL HERBERT - DIRECTOR OF SISTER SOUNDS
Chantal Herbert is the founder of production company SISTER SOUNDS, a Charles Parker Prize winner, and a keen advocate for the rights of women and non-binary People of Colour. Much of Chantal’s work, including her BBC Radio 4 documentary OUTSIDER SISTERS, centres around the amplification of marginalised voices.
Chantal graduated from the University of Sunderland with a master’s degree in Radio, and a from Northumbria University with a BA in Media Production (specialism in scriptwriting). She also regularly DJs, engages in public speaking, and organises events.
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