The Ballad of St John’s Car Park


22 June 2022

Icon Theatre announces second large-scale participatory production for 2022

The Ballad of St John’s Car Park

Wednesday 5th – Saturday 8th October 2022
Press Night: Wednesday 5th October 2022
The St. George Hotel, 7-8 New Rd Ave, Chatham

An Icon Theatre Production co-commissioned by Creative Estuary and Medway Council supported by Arts Council England.

The Ballad of St John’s Car Park celebrates the positive power of community activism in Medway, from the protested closure of Chatham’s Dockyard in 1984 to the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. This important immersive and site-specific theatre production, by renowned Icon Theatre, brings a professional creative team, a community ensemble of over 200 people and Icon’s award-winning young people’s programme Theatre31 into collaboration.

Taking inspiration from the true stories of activism in Medway, The Ballad of St John’s Car Park explores how they have shaped the identities of individuals and the community, including the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020; the protested closure of Chatham’s Dockyard in 1984; Trans and LGBTQI+ activism that led to the establishment of Medway’s First Pride March in 2019; and local young people who took part in the Greta Thunberg climate protests in 2018. The stories are interspersed with spectacular projection, joyous dance and uplifting karaoke song, bringing these poignant stories to life in vivid ways. After the show, the bar and karaoke will stay open for an inclusive community party like no other where the audience can perform their own karaoke songs.

The production has been created by a professional and community ensemble, directed by Icon Theatre’s Artistic Director Nancy Hirst. The Ballad of St John’s Car Park was initially inspired by a small group of local residents who successfully campaigned to rename a local car park during the Black Lives Matter movement that previously commemorated the name of a slave trader. The production is an Icon Theatre production and has been co-commissioned by Medway Council and Creative Estuary’s Co-commission programme – the initiative which aims to showcase 60 miles of the North Kent and South Essex region as one of the UK’s most dynamic and creative areas in the whole of the UK.

Icon Theatre’s Artistic Director, Nancy Hirst commented, Since our production of If Not Now in February 2022, we’ve been looking forward to bringing professional theatre-makers and our local community together again to create another large-scale community production. Right now, we are at an important moment in our national history where our right to protest has been significantly restricted by recent legislation. This show looks at moments in Medway’s history where protest has had profound and positive change for both individuals and society. Medway will again become Icon’s stage; we will be transforming Chatham’s iconic The St George Hotel into a Karaoke bar like no other.

Creative Estuary’s Director, Emma Wilcox says This project exemplifies our vision for the Creative Estuary Co-commissioning programme, to enable bold, ambitious work to be made with and for the communities of the estuary. It showcases the huge talent we have within our creative organisations and tells the stories of our inspiring places.

The Ballad of St John’s Car Park follows Icon Theatre’s If Not Now (February 2022), a mass-movement production exploring poverty, prejudice, and the climate crisis performed at Rochester Castle as part of Medway’s Light Nights.

Note to Editors
For individuals of all ages, Medway-based schools (year 9 upwards) and groups who wish to take part in The Ballad of St John’s Car Park either as performers or backstage please email: or call 01634 813179 to find out more.

Cast and Creative Team
Director Nancy Hirst and the community ensemble
Composer & Sound Design Jonathan Vincent
Set & Costume Design Sarah Booth
Theatre31 Young Cast Director Lilly Vincent-Frankland
Lighting Designer Dan Terry
Music Director Tania Holland Williams
Costume Supervisor Evelien Coleman
Cast: PK Taylor and David King-Yombo.

The script was devised through collaboration with the ensemble, with research and development support from Tabby Lamb, Harveen Mann ARAM and Ravneet Sehra.

Further cast and creative team to be announced.

Dates and Times
Wednesday 5th October, 7.30pm
Thursday 6th October, 7.30pm
Friday 7th October, 7.30pm
Saturday 8th October, 2.30pm and 7.30pm

Running Time 90 minutes (including an interval), the bar and karaoke will stay open after the show.

The St. George Hotel, 7-8 New Rd Ave, Chatham

How to Get There The nearest station is Chatham and the venue is a 5 minute walk away. The entrance to the show is at the rear of the hotel in Gundulph Road. BSL-Interpreted Performances, Saturday 8 October, 2.30pm & 7.30pm. Touch Tour – Saturday 8 October, 1.30pm (free). To book the Touch Tour please email: or call 01634 813179

Standard tickets range from £5 to £10 with no booking fees and unreserved seating. As part of Icon Theatre’s commitment to making theatre accessible to everybody, a limited number of £5 tickets are available for each performance on a first-come, first-serve basis. Purchase is available online at

The venue is fully accessible. Wheelchair users and people with restricted mobility are requested to enter via the main reception of the hotel.

The Ballad of St John’s Car Park is an Icon Theatre production co-commissioned by Creative Estuary and Medway Council and supported by Arts Council England. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport funds the Cultural Development Fund which is administered by Arts Council England.

Icon Theatre’s young people’s programme Theatre31 is funded by Arts Council England in partnership with Medway Council, Kent County Council
& ROH Bridge, with support from the Medway and Sheppey LCEPs (Local Cultural Education Partnerships).

Twitter @IconTheatreUK
Instagram @Icon.Theatre
Facebook @IconTheatreMedway

Photo credit © Manuel Vason

Icon Theatre

Icon Theatre brings together local communities and professional artists to push the boundaries of where theatre happens, who it is for and how it can help people and places to grow.

Co-creation is at the heart of everything Icon Theatre does, be that making large-scale immersive productions with theatre-makers and our community; running Theatre31, one of five Arts Council-funded Youth Performance Partnerships; our ongoing participatory theatre projects in schools, drop-in centres, and criminal justice settings; or professional development opportunities for teachers and artists. Icon Theatre aims to reach those who face significant socio-economic deprivation and exclusion.

Each Christmas, Icon Theatre is co-commissioned with other locally-based arts companies to create an interactive Christmas show for early years children that is performed at The Brook Theatre in Chatham.

Icon Theatre is led by artistic director and founder, Nancy Hirst, is a Medway-based company, and in 2022 will celebrate their twentieth anniversary.

Creative Estuary

Creative Estuary Co-Commissions supports a wide range of cultural projects with new commissions for Estuary-based producers and artists, from activity for emerging cultural activists to large scale commissions with a diverse mix of partners. The Co-commissions raise widespread awareness of existing creative talent across the region and support creative practitioners and organisations to make and present new work. We are committed to engaging our local communities to contribute to their creative identity and will give artists, organisations and creative practitioners opportunities and support to help them realise their creative ambitions. The Co-commissions create opportunities for creative innovation and new cultural production – we want to capture imagination and provide opportunities for greater collaboration and knowledge sharing. For more information visit

Creative Estuary has a vision to forge a new future founded on creative energy and innovation, along the length of the Thames Estuary. The project is supported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and led by the University of Kent on behalf of a consortium of public sector and cultural organisations. They include the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), Kent and Essex County Councils, the Greater London Authority, 11 local authority areas represented by Greater North Kent and Opportunity South Essex, South East Creative Economy Network (SECEN), University of Essex, Locate in Kent and cultural organisations Metal and Cement Fields. In early 2019 the University of Kent was awarded £4.3m from the DCMS Cultural Development Fund on behalf of the partners. DCMS Sport funds the Cultural Development Fund which is administered by Arts Council England.

All enquiries, high res images and further information:

Olivia O’Neill, Chloé Nelkin Consulting
T: 020 3627 2960

The Ballad of St John's Car Park (c) Manuel Vason