Doncaster premiere for South Yorkshire choreographer Gary Clarke’s dance show Wasteland

South Yorkshire choreographer Gary Clarke has created a new dance show that forms the second part to his love letter to his pit village home.

By julia.armstrong1
Wednesday, 8th May 2019, 4:26 pm
South Yorkshire choreographer Gary Clarke's new dance show Wasteland, looking at 1990s rave culture

Wasteland, which premieres in Doncaster, is the follow-up to Coal, the hit show that he wrote to mark the 25th anniversary of the miners’ strike. Gary is from Grimethorpe, a village that was at the centre of the bitter year-long dispute, where he still lives.

The action in Wasteland moves on 10 years to look at the aftermath of pit closures, including rave culture and the Government’s clampdown with the introduction of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.

Like much of Gary’s work, it reflects parts of his own life and he found he had to take a break from creating the show after trying out an initial version to an invited audience at Cast in Doncaster last year.

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“It’s hard when you’re dealing with autobiographical work. I had to go into the studio and start again. The creative process takes time.

“I’m constantly trying to reshuffle and reshape. I never get to the point where I go, ‘this is it’.”

Gary described the show: “I’m looking at the death of industrial Britain and the rise of UK rave culture. They are completely parallel to one another.

“Britain became this wasteland with these abandoned workplaces. At that time the sound of rave had come over from America.

“That connected with what was happening socially and there was a sub-culture growing. There was a whole generation of teenagers and young people without prospects of work or future.

“Illegal rave culture gave these young people a way of trying to rebuild that community and togetherness, done through music and dance.”

Abandoned industrial workplaces became ideal venues for raves.

The Tories, alarmed by these mass gatherings and their accompanying drug culture, clamped down on gatherings of more than 100 to listen to music with repetitive beats.

Young people fought back against the criminalisation of their lifestyles.

Gary said: “The whole show acts as a vehicle for entertainment. People should be entertained and educated about the history of this country.

“With Coal, it was great for young people. They could learn about an industry that is no longer around. You bring them to the theatre to see it and they’re asking questions and engaging in a different way.”

He said that one aim of Wasteland is to do the same for a short-lived moment of social history.

Gary grew up during the 1984-5 strike and, although he was too young to take part in rave culture, watched his older brother go off to raves.

Meanwhile, the older generation back home whose livelihoods had been taken away, often turned to drink to cope with how their lives had been ripped apart, something that Wasteland also shows.

“What I’m trying to get is two generations, coal miners and children, and how each coped.”

Gary explained how he became a dancer: “Dance was a coping mechanism, it wasn’t a luxury. You don’t go and do ballet if you’re a boy.

“I didn’t want to be a drug addict or a criminal.

“I needed an alternative new avenue and I found music as a form of expression.”

The Gary Clarke Company perform Wasteland at Cast in Doncaster on May 15 and 16. Tickets:

The show then goes on national tourm, including to The Civic in Barnsley on June 6 to 8. Tour website: