The Finns are Coming - Paddock Productions

One hundred and fifty three years ago, a bunch of unsuspecting Finnish sailors and their wives were hanging out at the Bomarsund Fortress on Aland - an island halfway between Sweden and Finland - just minding their own business, when Victoria’s British Navy turned up, stormed the fort, and took every last man and girl back to Old Blighty as their prisoners. “There’s more where that came from!” the British admirals were heard to shout, waving their fists in the direction of Russia and upping the ante of the already burgeoning Crimean War. It took a few months to get back to England, but when they did, where were 150 of the prisoners deposited? Right here, in good old Lewes.

This summer, Paddock Productions is once again inviting Finnish prisoners to Lewes, but this time it’s the singing kind. In 2006, we commissioned a new opera for Lewes from the composer Orlando Gough and the librettist Stephen Plaice about this episode in our local history. Orlando - the son of the late Peter Gough, a well-loved Lewes resident - is a composer much in demand for his theatre, dance, and especially vocal music, often written for the choir, The Shout, of which he is the Artistic Director. Stephen Plaice, ironically enough, was once a Writer in Residence at Lewes Prison, and has more recently written librettos for Glyndebourne as well as a hit West-End musical.

   


170 prisoners were imprisoned in Lewes for two years: though
they were treated fairly well, 27 died in England