Swan Canaries

Image by Laura Ward

See a short trailer here:


On July 1st 1918, eight tonnes of TNT exploded at National Shell-Filling Factory Number 6, killing 139 people, 25 of whom were women workers, known as Canary Girls because the TNT gave their skin a yellow tint. The surviving workers behaved exactly as trained, returning to the site as soon as the initial blast was over, and tending to the dead and wounded, despite their own injuries. Most of the victims could not be identified. The survivors returned to work straight away, and increased their output over the next few weeks.

Despite their heroism and sacrifice their story was kept quiet to avoid the location of the factory becoming common knowledge. So we are telling it now. On June the 29th 2018 Arletty Theatre performed the award-winning play Swan Canaries at Chetwynd Barracks, the original site of Shell-Filling Factory Number 6, to mark the centenary of the Chilwell explosion.

The audience of over 300 and the company were taken back to life in the factory, almost one hundred years to the day after the tragic explosion. It was an extraordinary experience, which we found extremely moving. Here are a couple of images of the filled-shell store by Laura Ward.




  1. Hi, please can you tell me where I can buy tickets from for Attenborough village hall and Chilwell. Many thanks, Wendy

    • Hi Wendy, you can buy tickets on the door at most venues. We have had two sell-outs, so I can reserve tickets for you if you like? Let me know numbers, and whether they are standard or concessions, and I’ll put them in your name on the door.
      Best wishes,

  2. Hi…I would like to buy or reserve tickets for 6th September. How do I do this please and how much are the tickets? Kindest regards…Nicky

    • Hi Nicky,

      Apologies for the delay, its taken a while for the venue to get back to me. The good news it is free! That performance has been arranged with Erewash Borough Council to be a free event for the public.
      Best wishes,

  3. where can we buy tickets for the Newstead evening

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