Jillian backs plans for Sheffield musical!

Date Published: 19/08/2020 15:35

Jillian Thomas is urging businesses in Sheffield to get behind plans for a musical based in the city, which features music by a founding member of Simply Red. Here she explains why: 

The Canary Girls, co-written by former police detective Tim Nye, is inspired by Sheffield’s famous ‘Women of Steel’ who worked in the steel industry during the Second World War.

The name Canary Girls comes from the fact that women who worked in steel and munitions factories often turned a shade of yellow due to the chemicals used in the processes.

Tim is collaborating with Tim Kellett, formerly of Simply Red, and singer-songwriter Rosie Doonan on the musical, which has already been nearly eight years in production.

Tim Nye, who owns Marmadukes Café Deli on Norfolk Row in Sheffield, says: “Apparently the average musical takes ten to 12 years to bring to the stage; so I don’t think we are doing too badly!

“But these are obviously really difficult times for performing arts and musical theatre is no exception. So, any help we can get from local businesses would be fantastic.”

My mum worked in a munitions factory in Lancashire and I also met several of the Women of Steel when I was president of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce. And my absolute passion is musical theatre.

So, when I was introduced to Tim it was a great combination. I can advise on the business side and I also hope I can help with my connections in the city.

The Canary Girls follows the lives of three young women who work in munitions factories and sing to keep their spirits up.

“Canaries sing and they are yellow. So, I thought this needs to be a musical, not a play. I’ve never written a musical before, even though I have been writing for about 12 years,” says Tim.

“I managed to persuade Tim Kellett and Rosie Doonan as professional song-writers to come on  board and they are only involved because they believe this could be a fantastic show that could one day end up in the West End. Our ambitions are very high, even though my starting place was very low.”

After leaving Simply Red Tim Kellett formed Olive and co-wrote their song ‘You’re not alone’ which was a number one hit and is currently the theme to a national bank’s TV advertisement. Rosie Doonan is from Wakefield and has toured with artists such as Peter Gabriel and Birdy, and performed alongside Chris Martin at the Brit Awards.

The musical has already got the backing of Sheffield City Council, the Sheffield Star and Sheffield Theatres, with plans for a ‘sharing’ performance for industry insiders at the theatres before the end of the year. And Tim is keen for one person in particular to be in the audience

“I really want to put a performance on in Sheffield so that Kathleen Roberts, one of the Women of Steel I have met, can be there,” says Tim.

“She is an incredible lady with amazing stories to tell, some of which have made it into the musical. But some of the expletives they used we have had to leave out!”

I think it’s really important that the story is told of these heroic women. And it would be great to show a positive story to the world in the midst of all that is going on at the moment. My appeal is to the rest of the business community in Sheffield to really get behind this.

When you travel around the world and say you are from Sheffield, people remember the steel, and remember the Full Monty. Wouldn’t it be great if they also remembered the Canary Girls?”

For more information go to http://www.thecanarygirls.com/ or take a look at the interview we did with Tim: https://youtu.be/BzgTNghWOyo 


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