Bonfire of Flowers: a staged reading of a new play by Emma Whipday, inspired by the true story of the ‘Belvoir witches’, at 5.30pm on Wednesday 17 July, at the Anatomy Museum, King’s College London.

 Two sons – both died in infancy by wicked practice and sorcery

Monument to Henry and Francis Manners, St Mary the Virgin’s Church, Bottesford

It’s 1619. Joan Flower and her daughters Phil and Meg are poor, illegitimate, and ostracised. But when King James visits the Earl and Countess of Rutland, even the unruly Flower family are invited to help out at Belvoir Castle. All goes well until Meg grows too close to the Countess, Phil falls in love with farmer’s son Tom, and the villagers begin to close ranks. Then the children at the castle fall sick, and witchcraft is suspected – are the Flower women to blame?

Inspired by the true story of the ‘witches’ executed for the Belvoir deaths, Whipday’s new play reimagines the tragedy of the Flower women to speak to the anxieties of contemporary Britain: the audibility of women’s voices; the condemnation of female sexuality; and the demonisation of the choices of the poor and dispossessed. In exploring today’s prejudices in relation to the true story of three condemned women, Bonfire of Flowers confronts their potentially catastrophic consequences.

The reading will be followed by a drinks reception. Tickets are free but places are limited and must be reserved in advance; please email emma.whipday@ncl.ac.uk to reserve a ticket.