Heart of the Wood

Exploring the Past, Present and Future of Mining Communities

A teenage girl and her younger brother go on an epic and magical underground quest to fight for the life of their grandfather.

“Megan and Jake were expecting one of Granddad’s epic stories of his life underground as a miner. They didn’t expect that, this time, the adventure would be their own or that their Granddad’s life would depend on them battling mutant rats, duelling with dinosaurs, fighting the dark spirit of the pit and travelling back to the very dawn of time to search for The Heart of The Wood”.

The Heart of the Wood is about the Ancient Past,

The primordial forests that became the coal itself.

The Heart of the Wood is about the Historical Past,

The history of the mines and the mining communities.

The Heart of The Wood is about the Heart of Present-Day ex-coalminers,

The Hearts of their Families and Communities.

The Heart of the Wood is about Finding New Heart: Building a Bright Future, a sustainable and safe, environmentally protective and ecologically balanced way of living.

And, most importantly, The Heart of the Wood is about the Future of the Mining Communities, The Hopes and Dreams and practical aspirations of the children and grandchildren and great grandchildren of mining families and others growing up today in those communities.

The Big Reveal in conjunction with Barnsley Council, The Dearne Playhouse and the schools and community of the Dearne Valley created a spectacular of dance, music, song and drama. Culminating in three performances at the iconic Dearne Playhouse in December 2023, the project developed over the previous 19 months.

The performance and the accompanying book were created by:

  • Over 200 primary school children
  • Four newly created school choirs
  • One brass band
  • One male voice choir
  • One community ladies’ choir
  • Ten young contemporary dancers
  • Two local amateur actors
  • Two regional professional actors
  • Four local young actors

The production at The Dearne Playhouse starred four young actors from Goldthorpe – Joe Easton, Quinn Plews, Maisie Boyd and Kira Powell - in the leading roles of brother and sister Jake and Megan. The sell-out show saw Megan and Jake embarking on an adventure into the underground world where their grandad had been a miner.

Below you'll find ‘The Making of the Heart of the Wood’ documentary, which features behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with the production team and reaction from audience members. You can also see full-length recordings of the show and musical performances by Barnsley Metropolitan Band, Barnburgh Village Singers and Thurnscoe Male Voice Choir here: www.the-big-reveal.com/films

Meet our young stars

Quinn Plews

Kira Powell

Joe Easton

Maisie Boyd

"The Heart of the Wood is a continuous work in progress. It began in the Kent coalfields of Betteshanger and Snowdown, amidst the noise and laughter of the Miner’s Welfare Club, listening to tales from old miners and scribbling notes until the story emerged. Children from local schools inspired the rest, which is why it has dinosaurs and mutant rats.

This is a whole new version of the story, beautifully illustrated by pupils from local primary schools, Lacewood, Heather Garth, The Hill and Goldthorpe, who have also researched a new ending that looks into the future, not only with hope but with clear-eyed vision, imagination and compassion.

Many others have helped: young people from Goldthorpe Youth Club, who kept us up to date with what’s in and what’s out, and the men who told stories of their mining days and put me right about dialect."

- Martin Riley

Click the book cover to view and read the 'Heart of the Wood' book.

With inspiration and illustration from pupils of Lacewood Primary School, Heather Garth Primary Academy, The Hill Primary Academy and Goldthorpe Primary Academy. 

Based on the music theatre production directed by Matthew Sharp with music by David Burridge and book and lyrics by Martin Riley.

Book layout and design by John Coombes.

Watch the full performance below and discover more on The Big Reveal site www.the-big-reveal.com/films

Act one

Brass and Voices from the Heart of the Community

Barnsley Metropolitan Band conducter: Alex Francis

Punchinello William Rimmer

Deep Harmony Handel Parker

Highland Cathedral Korb, Roever arr. H Lorriman

Thurnscoe Harmonic Male Choir conducter: Anthony Jermy

Another Open', Another Show Cole Porter arr. Simmons

Take Me Home Edwards and Hand

Voice of the Child McNeill/Richards

Bring Him Home Schonberg arr. Leavitt

Christmas Sing Along with the audience

Act two

The Heart of the Wood

Narrator/Bonnie Hayley Mitchell

Narrator Alex Colley

Rabbit [Peter Warren] Jeff Riley

Woody [Harry Woodman] Tim Rutherford

Megan Kira Powell & Maisie Boyd

Jake Quinn Plews & Joe Easton

Barnburgh Village Singers conductor: Julia Bullars

Children's choir Lacewood, Heather Garth, The Hill and Goldthorpe primary schools

Kim Frost School of Dance Karys England, Lola March, Jessica McCaffrey, Isobel Wilkie, Amber Wollerton, Roisin Daly, Lydia Woodhouse, Connie Sharpe, Jasmine Saxon-Elliott, Jessica Batty, Rose Baker, Ruby Barker


Director Matthew Sharp

Writer & Producer Martin Riley

Musical Director David Burridge

Art Department John Coombes

Choreographer Hannah Jones

Lighting Karl Ridsdale

Sound Josh Haslam

Projected Drawings Rowan, Amelia, Olly, Cameron, Lucy, Ella, Heather, Harry, Jenson, Acacia


The Big Reveal would like to thank the staff and students of Lacewood Primary School, Heather Garth Primary Academy, The Hill Primary Academy and Goldthorpe Primary Academy for their contributions to the Heart of the Wood project.

They would like to thank Mya, Rosie, Lexi, Beau, Ted, Emily, Lacey, Olly, Marshall, Lucy, Samantha, Elissa, Rowan,
Cameron, Amelia, Olly, Maxwell, Lucy, Imogen, Tommy, Bobby, Mia, Miley, Amelia and Jacob for the illustrations in the book, and all the other local children - who made wonderful drawings for the project.

They would also like to thank Liane Holdsworth, Jade Beever, Darryl Hand, Will Cove, Mick Kirkby-Geddes, Tim Rutherford, Jeff Riley, Ian Chappell, Neal Sargeant, The Snap Tin Café, Barnsley Council’s Culture and Visitor Economy team, Economic Regeneration Team, Targeted Youth Support Service, Dearne Area Team, and The Goldthorpe Town Board, Julie Medlam and Karl Ridsdale of the Dearne Playhouse, Ruth Wood and Sara Mair of Fusion.

Terry the T-Rex and his mutant rats welcoming the audience to The Dearne Playhouse