Intro 00:00:09 Hello and welcome to the DreamSwarm podcast. This is your home for supernatural film stories and art. I'm your host magic realist filmmaker, Andy Mark Simpson. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin.
ANDY 00:00:28 Hello everyone. Welcome to the next episode of the DreamSwarm podcast. I'm really pleased today to be introducing Candle and Bell production company with Maria and Caitlin who are going to be talking to us about their new podcast production, which is the Newcastle Witches Podcast. So at morning, Caitlin and Maria.
CAITLIN 00:00:45 Hi.
MARIA 00:00:46 Hello.
CAITLIN 00:00:47 <laugh> thank you for having us on.
ANDY 00:00:49 So Newcastle Witches podcast is a new podcast, been out for a month or two now, but it seems to be picking up traction, a lot of support because I think witch trials are popular to look at. And I do think it's still relevant for society even now as well. So I'm really looking forward to getting deep into the chat, but before we start, could you give us a brief introduction to who you guys are as Candle and Bell and as yourselves?
MARIA 00:01:12 Sure. I'm Maria and I run Candle, and bell it's a production company based in gate head. Traditionally, our background is not in podcast. This is a new thing for us, a new avenue, and we make films and branded content for commercial clients. We have a slate of feature films in development with, you know, BFI, Torino script, lab, talent lab. So we're very much used to scripted film content and yeah, podcasting is a bit new.
CAITLIN 00:01:39 Yeah. Completely new,
MARIA 00:01:40 But a whole new way to tell a story that we're very passionate about.
ANDY 00:01:44 Yeah. I know your background is in films, feature films and short films. We've had Lucy Rose on the podcast a couple of times; our listeners can check out some of Candle and Bell's work. And Lucy Rose has done a podcast with us and there's some links to her films and the Candle and Bell films on the DreamSwarm website. So you can check those out, but as you say, podcast is a new medium for you as a production company. Could you give us an introduction then to your new podcast? The Newcastle Witches Podcast.
CAITLIN 00:02:10 So podcasting is new to us, like we said, and I started a candle and bell last August. I've been here just over year now, but when I started me and Maria were talking about like different ways to explore and kind of make new content and to talk about things that we wanted to talk about. And we thought podcasting one was a good way to do that. And we were both really intrigued by witch trials. Maria knew that there was witch trials that happened like here in Newcastle. I kind of knew they happened in the North East, but didn't know a lot of specifics. So we kind of put our heads together and were like, okay, let's see what's here. We didn't really know at the time that there was a massive interest in witches of the witch trials, it was purely out of us stew sitting there going, this is a thing we both like, and we want to talk about. So that's kind of where the start of the podcast came from, where the initial idea came.
MARIA 00:02:55 Then Caitlin fell down a rabbit hole and started researching more and more and more. And every time we had like a conversation, we're just like, you know, who we should speak to. Maybe they'll help us. And just about everybody we got in contact with did want to either be on the podcast or wanted to help with the research as that process went on, we were just uncovering more and more things. We have sort of 16 episodes planned for the podcast, but there's much more we can do beyond it. So it's, it's been quite a, a topic like to research. It's been an extraordinary story I think, to delve into.
ANDY 00:03:26 Would you be able to pinpoint your inspiration for that? What has it been like a long fascination with this, with the history of Newcastle?
MARIA 00:03:32 So ages ago we were making content for north university and there was a lecture by Claire Nally. And I can't remember what specifically she was talking about, but I think it was one of those sort of witness statements about like an accusation against witches in the North East. And I thought, wow, that's, that's quite a dramatic thing. Like actual testimony. This isn't an imagined story. It isn't fiction. It's like this actually happened. That that's quite extraordinary. And I sort of parked it. I didn't think much of it beyond that. Then I got interested in the notion of a witch today. I'm not talking about people that practice Wicca and things like that because I know to some people, you know, that's a whole different thing. I was thinking about the semantics of when we call somebody a witch or, you know, lock her up type of thing, like on, on social media and in the media and how that word is used to vilify women. And I said, think like, oh, maybe this is something like we can catch. And then when Caitlin said that she was interested in the history of witchcraft and witches, we sort of thought, well, maybe there, is there a link between the two, is there a story we can explore? And that brought us back to 1650 and the trials of the witches in, in Newcastle.
Caitlin 00:04:40 I've just had like a lifelong fascination kind of with witches and witchcraft. I was part of the growing up Narnia, Harry Potter, those were all coming out. It was all different kinds of witches and magic and witchcraft. So I had like the fantasy kind of element there. But then also I was told a story when I was younger about a witches body being discovered when they were building the SAGE Gateshead and I remember that was like, really peaked my interest because it didn't match what I'd been told in fantasy books about what witches were. So I kind of had more of an interest in the historical side of witchcraft and the kind of fantasy side, rather than like Maria was saying, like modern day paganism and witchcraft. It was very much in like how witches were treated in the 17th century around that time period. So when Maria told me about what you'd heard, Claire say, I was like, oh, actually I've heard this thing. And it kind of just spiraled. Yeah. Like rapidly, rapidly spiraled, very quickly spiraled <laugh>.
ANDY 00:05:31 Yeah. So your podcast, as well as wider kind of inspirations, you've narrowed it down to focusing on real historical events that took place in Newcastle in the mid 17th century. And your podcast focuses on those, but you also, in the episodes so far, you've had quite a wide range of contexts around that trial to kind-of really that set the scene of what life was like in that time and, and what the town was like, what kind of areas have you covered in the podcast so far?
MARIA 00:05:59 Yeah, I mean, that's like a really, what we found quite early on is that it's really important to explore the wider social, political context of society at the time. I think it's really easy to just go, well, you know, that's what happened back then. People were stupid, you know, they thought witches existed. That's terrible. And again, it was like, the place I was coming from was psychologically, how do we decide somebody is a witch in inverted commas today and decide everything that they say and do is wrong and that they should be sort of excluded or they should be attacked for what they believe. And I was like, well, you know, this is something that we see is quite prevalent nowadays. What was it like back then? And we just started prodding and, and poking at things like, as you do, when you research, you don't know where it's taking you, you just have to let the evidence and the research lead you.
MARIA 00:06:45 And it led us to some really extraordinary things. And I think we've just released two episodes with David, Who's a historian and works at Newcastle castle talking specifically about the plague and the civil war and how that really changed the fabric of society in Newcastle. It was an extraordinary moment in the history of Northeast culture. And there was a shift and suddenly people who were just going about their daily lives were suddenly at the center of this frenzy and were being accused of being witches, but even more cynical than that, they were, they were going to be put to death for it. And I think it's really important to understand that. I think you can't just say this, a story about these people and they were accused of being witches and then they were killed. There's so much more to them as people that you have to do them justice, but there's also so much more happening around that. It's like, why has this happened?
CAITLIN 00:07:36 I think the witch trials are one of the most heavily kind of research and looked into areas. But a lot of people, especially if you're going back 10, 20, 30 years, have a lot of different opinions on why they took place and why they happened. So I think it's important that you look at all of the aspects of why something took place, rather than just focusing on one. So I think as well, we have a bit of a, a rhetoric nowadays to go like it was because they were women and women were target back then it's because everyone hated women and it's like, that's not quite right. There's a lot of different elements that fed into why someone was accused of witchcraft. That was a part of it, but it is more complicated. It's a lot more complex. So we want people to understand why the witch trials took place. It's not to excuse anyone's behavior so we can understand why a horrendous thing happened. Because I think people like to think, oh, that'll never happen to us. We'll never do anything like that. Like, people back then were just cruel, but people don't really change. And that's something we've discovered the more we've gone into the podcast and we've spoken to people and of the history is that humans don't really change. We just dress it up and put different labels on it.
MARIA 00:08:33 Yeah. And I think a lot of the episodes that we have, like, we have one that's about magic and like, what did it mean to believe in magic in that era? Understanding it. That was really fascinating.
CAITLIN 00:08:43 Yeah. I remember when I told Maria about that episode initially, she was in the little editing room in her office and I just kind of walked in. I was like, do you know what magic was in the 17th century? And she was like, what? Like, it's not how we would see magic again. It's not like, like how you see it in the fantasy films that are popular nowadays. It it's completely different set of beliefs. It's not even at least what some like kind of pagans or like people who identified, which is now would practice. It's a bit different mm-hmm <affirmative>. So I was like, what is it? I want people to understand what people were being accused of. Cuz they just think, oh, magic spells Harry Potter. It's not right. It's not quite right.
MARIA 00:09:16 So yeah. And then also interesting we have towards the end of the series, as we talk to Katie and ask like, how did we get from this crime to the way that witches and witchcraft are portrayed nowadays? And you can see the thread as you go sort of get further and further away from the actual historical event to how it was written about in Victorian times and at Edwardian times and going into the 20th century and now where we are on in the 21st century, you can see the journey sort of like the meaning of being a witch. Yeah. And magic and witchcraft and the actual crime itself has changed, I guess like that's sort of the journey that the podcast goes on.
CAITLIN 00:09:52 Yeah. The Victorian sort of sat in the Victorian, you were going, oh, look at those silly people who believed in witches, look at all the silly things they did look, we would never do that,
MARIA 00:10:00 But they were very interested in like mysticism and ghosts. So, you know, but
CAITLIN 00:10:04 Witchcraft was silly and witches was silly. And how could those barbarians back then do such a thing? Yeah,
ANDY 00:10:09 You've traced threads where as you say, portrayals of witches and our popular imagination of is now is very different to the historical reality of the 17th century. But you can see how that thread has grown and how it's been treated in the different eras. So yeah, I've found that really interesting in the podcast, looking at the historical context, 'cause 17th century in England and Scotland was a really turbulent time and especially for Newcastle- the city that we're all based in. And we know that that was a particularly turbulent era in Newcastle, as you mentioned, there's big plagues there. And then the civil war was happening where Newcastle was actually occupied by different armies and under siege. So just in those few years prior to these witch trials, so the, the material reality in the day to day life in Newcastle was a very stressful time, I suppose, for a large part of the population. And maybe that's something that feeds into that kind of frenzied atmosphere.
MARIA 00:11:04 Yeah. I mean, it's, it's sort of human psychology that hasn't really seemed to have changed. I, by no means an expert, but I see it now, you know, in our lifetime we've had 9/11, the war, Iraq and Afghanistan. And I remember the messages coming out of that of like, oh, it's because we don't have enough love and care in our society. That's why we were attacked. And that's exactly what they were saying in 1645 of like we've had this plague because we aren't a good people and God has deserted us. It's the same kind of psychology of you're somehow being punished for something and how that must feel as a collective society. Like you just, you get, get stuck in this constant state of trauma and reactionary behavior and somebody has to pay. I think so
CAITLIN 00:11:49 People do it nowadays. Like if you have a few bad things happen to you on a morning, like if you're going into work or anything you think, oh, someone's out to get me today or something bad's happened or I'm having bad luck today. It's the same kind of thinking we haven't lost it. We've just put new words on it. Instead of now going God's punishing me. You might just go, well, I've got a lot of bad luck today or someone's out to get
MARIA 00:12:08 Me. We have an episode coming out very soon, call portrait of a witch. And it's just like decoding what you would've thought of, which was, and why they would've cursed you and you know, harmed you and what kind of harm they would do. And that's like, not that dissimilar from the way people think nowadays really.
ANDY 00:12:22 Yeah. That thing of finding scapegoats blame for whatever situation you're in. And we've seen that throughout history and we, like you said, we saw it in the 17th century witch trials and we see it nowadays. in your podcast, you're looking at these different areas and that are giving it context, but also relating it to nowadays and how the human behaviors and the psychology, even though it's like 400 years ago. What's the most surprising thing that you've come across?
MARIA 00:12:47 The biggest moment for me was when we went into like the archive and saw, you know, records, people being convicted and put in jail for witchcraft that was really upsetting and a bit surreal. And I think then when, so one of our episodes, we delve into one of the case where we have written testimony, accusing three people of being witches. I think like when I talk to people, I say, oh, we, we have this, this podcast and it's about the new castle witches. And they immediately go, oh yeah, cuz witches. They were, you know, they were just midwives or they were all women and, you know, poor and vulnerable. And that like some of that is true, like by, I'm not saying it isn't, but reading this, this particular testimony and it's about Mary Moore accusing a woman called Margaret Muschamp and her sister and another woman and reading that testimony.
MARIA 00:13:32 It, it isn't at all those conclusions that people have about the kind of woman that was accused of witchcraft and what they were accused of. It's such an upsetting test me. And the more you picket it, the more you prod it and sort of say, why would they be saying this? I mean, it just becomes more and more upsetting. And you see like this poor woman was just caught up in something she had no idea of and was then killed. And her sister likely died in jail before she was hung. And I think like that was like the shocking moment for me. And yeah, I think that the biggest time was like, oh my God, because I went into this with, as we all do, like with a few preconceptions and I was always saying like, no, no, the research, we can't bring our own biases and stuff. We have to let the research surprise us if that's what it's gonna do. And that really, that really did surprise me cuz I think it turned a lot of my preconceptions on its head. Really? How about you? I
CAITLIN 00:14:23 Think the most surprising part for me was initially, so I'm 23. I kind of grew up with social media being around. I grew up basically being able to find, you can find basically anyone on the internet, you can find something about them. You can find people's Instagrams, their Facebooks or some kind of trace. Everyone leaves a bit of a print.
MARIA 00:14:41 Not that you stalk people....
CAITLIN 00:14:43 I definitely stalk people, but more like, yeah, if you wanted to find someone or you've met someone, you can probably Google them and find like their Facebook account or something. What really surprised me was how there basically wasn't a trace of the new castle, witch trial victims. You have their names, which are spelled differently. Well the last names, at least in like the records that are of them and then there's basically nothing else. And it still surprises me that there's basically nothing left for these people. But a name again, that really shocked me cuz the age you grew up in now it's hard to just lose people, at least in England, but that wasn't the case back then people could disappear or could die and there wouldn't be a trace of them. And I think that just really shocked me. It, I think it also helped pushed me into my spiral of research, but it was the most shocking thing was 15 women and one man were executed and there, we don't know anything else really about them.
MARIA 00:15:30 The strange thing is that people at the time probably did know them because the population of Newcastle was so small that they probably were known to people. Yeah. And they weren't just, you know, outsiders living in a hut somewhere. They were part of the society of Newcastle. They were their neighbors. They were tradespeople. They lived in the city.
CAITLIN 00:15:48 Yeah. It was Jo Bath or David silk. One of them, said that due to the population size of Newcastle and how many people were executed, every person in Newcastle, would've known at least one of the victims. So if you think about that nowadays and like where you live, you would've known at least one person who was publicly executed for witchcraft about
MARIA 00:16:02 About 12,000, wasn't it?
CAITLIN 00:16:03 So I think it was about 12,000 and then half, almost half the population was wiped out due to the plague. And then they had to build back up again. Cuz the plague happened was about 15 ish. Yeah. Give or take a couple of years there. Um, I'm terrible with numbers. Give or take that they have to build the population back up again. So we're not talking like a high population number. We're not talking about like terms of like now where you could go into new castle and you probably wouldn't recognize most people you saw.
ANDY 00:16:26 So you've explained there how your podcast has looked at the way these witch trials fit into the wider context of what was happening in the city of Newcastle. Did you have any sense of whether there were any similarities with how Newcastle Witch Trials linked to the Pendle witch trials or other parts of Northern England and also into Scotland? What are the similarities between the trials and the way these events took place?
CAITLIN 00:16:52 So, because the border for Scotland kind of fluctuated over the years with Berwick in that we were in an odd place where we were closer to Scotland than we are to London. So we had, well, we had English influences cuz we're in England. We had a lot of Scottish influences too. So for instance, the person who trialed the witches was a Scottish witch pricker who was sent from Scotland, came down and trialed the witches, which pricking isn't done. Usually in of a part of England, it is very much like a Scottish way of testing for a witch. That's one big thing straight away. But in terms of the way that people were accused, again, we won't, we don't know for certain how the people in Newcastle were accused, but the little bits and pieces that we do know of them is kind of similar to how a lot of other English, which craft trials took places. So for instance like neighbors accusing each other, that was a big thing. There's a bit of a misconception that it was like the people in charge were coming down on individuals, but it started with your neighbors and the people around you. And then the people in charge got involved. And that was kind of when condemned, but it was, it was usually people's neighbors or people. They knew condemned. That's kind of in line with other English, witch trials. So we've got a bit of both because of where we're sitting...
ANDY 00:17:58 That pattern of accusers in the witches was more similar to other parts of England. But that bit of the, the furious testing for which is that was actually the methods that were employed against Scotland and, and some of the, those people who were doing that were Scottish and, and came down. Yeah,
CAITLIN 00:18:12 It was a Scottish witch pricker that was brought down to do the witch pricking. And we have evidence that the witch pricker went into Durham. And I think there was, I think into Northumberland as well. But if you go to, um, you know, Washington, close by, a witch there was swam. So that was, you know, the swim test that's quite popular. So that was another different method of kind of witch trialing in the area. That's kind of more in line with English, witch trials than Scottish witch trials. So I've got a mixture of kind of influences because we were like on the border basically between Scotland and England.
MARIA 00:18:41 One thing. I forgot to mention for like the last question, you know, we're talking about people knowing, I mean, it wasn't just 16 people that were accused that were found guilty. There was a, a larger number.
CAITLIN 00:18:52 That's something that's forgotten about. A lot of the witch trials is that just, we have like the executed number, but a lot of the people were accused and they died.
MARIA 00:19:01 It was like 29 people that were found guilty.
CAITLIN 00:19:03 Um, 28 that were found guilty. Only 16 actually made it to the execution. So the others, maybe a handful of them got, let go. That's what Jo Bath. And Kate Liddane seemed to believe that the rest of them probably died in prison.
MARIA 00:19:18 Yeah. We know that one man, before these witch trials did die in prison, he was sort of accused of being a witch. We think Margaret mu Jam's sister died in prison somewhere.
CAITLIN 00:19:29 Uh, not Margaret mu jam. It's Doy sho Jane Hunter and
MARIA 00:19:32 Margaret White. Oh yeah. Sorry. We
CAITLIN 00:19:34 We might have the Margaret's mixed up there.
MARIA 00:19:35 One escaped.
CAITLIN 00:19:37 Yeah. Jane Hunter was executed in the Newcastle witch trials and Margaret White. We don't know what happened to her. It's like she died in prison. If her sister yeah. Made it to execution. It's like she died in prison. That kind of shows you the three kind of ways you could almost get out of it. Cuz Dorothy Stone had money. It doesn't seem like the other two women
MARIA 00:19:54 Had had any yeah.
CAITLIN 00:19:55 Or had much
ANDY 00:19:56 Thinking of the accusations and the links with the Scottish witch trials... in Scotland a few months ago, Nicola Sturgeon The Scottish leader apologized for accusations of witchcraft. And there's a campaign to get official pardons for those who were convicted of it in Scotland. Could you see that happening in England? Are you aware of any similar campaigns or feelings towards that?
CAITLIN 00:20:20 So when it comes to getting a pardon, it's different getting it done in England than it is Scotland. So we actually, back when we were researching this, I found the witches of Scotland podcast and I reached out and I actually spoke to them. I know they told me then that guy getting a pardon is different for Scotland in England, cuz in, England's gotta come from the queen. It's gotta be a Monarch's pardon and that's notoriously hard to get anyway. But there have been over the past, I would say 20 years people have tried to get pardons and they just haven't gone anywhere. There have been petitions in that. And they've just kind of been ignored. There is one thing which she shot. So in 1998, someone did try and get the pen witches, pardon, who were executed in 16, 12 and the home secretary at the time, Jack Straw opposed the idea.
CAITLIN 00:21:03 And he opposed the idea because the witches were apparently convicted. According to the law of the time harsh thought may seen by modern standards and indicate that a pardon would only be given if the 17th century verdict could be shown to be an in incorrect. So they would only give the pardon in England if they could prove that the witches weren't actually witches. That was about twentyish years ago. Yeah. And since then the petitions have Dean kind of flopping. I know there is one. Now that's being support supported by Blackpool tower dungeon for the, again, the Pendle Witch Trials, cuz that's one of the most famous cases in England. But looking at that 20 years ago, the Home Secretary at the time was like, well, you can't prove they were'nt a witch at the time.
MARIA 00:21:40 At the moment there is an effort by Newcastle castle to get a Memorial put up on the site of the execution. And hopefully that does happen to at least like as society acknowledge what happened, why the home secretary feels this way. I maybe you can ask him Andy, get him on the podcast. There
Speaker 3 00:21:57 Was yeah. So that was in 1998. And then over the years into 2008 and 2010 people were calling for him to like basically change his mind again, not England <affirmative> and nothing went anywhere. England has got a very good let's turn the cheek approach to this. And I, I do personally think that the way to get 'em to notice it is to start memorializing them. And if we can start memorializing different witch trials in different victims of witchcraft in England, they're gonna have to start taking notice because there's gonna be like a proven interest in it. People want to remember the people who were accused and want to memorialize them. They can't really turn the other away. If we're all making whatever effort we can to do that
MARIA 00:22:34 Start talking about why, why this happened.
CAITLIN 00:22:36 Yeah. I mean the Newcastle witch trials aren't very well known or very well talked about. So that's why we wanted to show people the history of the time and what was going on and kind of delving more into that to get people intrigued, to get them thinking about this. We are creatives. We're not, we're not like the people who are going for the pardon in Scotland who have like a background in law, which is incredible, but that's not what we have and we want to do something. So we've done it in the way that we know how, which is doing something creative and being massive history nerds.
ANDY 00:23:02 No, it's great. And I've really enjoyed the episodes so far. Not just because I'm from Newcastle and interested in history myself. But I think it's kind of a symptom of the society then, like, as you say, links to other parts of England and to Scotland, but also like you say, I think those threads come through and blows away some misconceptions, but I think there's still religious extremism in the world. I think there's still people look for scapegoats. I think there's still misogyny in the world. So I think all the themes that are coming through in the podcast are still relevant for today as well. And I've really enjoyed it. So how can people follow the podcast? Where can they get a hold of it to listen to it?
MARIA 00:23:39 Listen. And if you like it let us know. That's really, it's there for people of Newcastle to learn about their history. Yeah.
CAITLIN 00:23:45 And pushing it out and getting other people to take interest in new castle. We have like, we have a lot of history here and people should know about it. Especially people who are living here.
MARIA 00:23:54 <laugh> yeah. Yeah. Like not talking about the Northeast within the context of the industrial revolution, I think is different as well. Not that it's, we're trying to ignore that history, but this history is also important. And it also has like an interesting link to the establishment of Newcastle as you know, for coal for what it was known. Like we touch on that as well. So I guess we're just learning more about the roots of the city.
CAITLIN 00:24:17 If you wanna come learn about the history of Newcastle and the witch trials and the 17th century, and if you want to help us remember the victims and the people, that's all we can do now that they're gone is remember them come and listen to the podcast.
MARIA 00:24:29 Yeah.
ANDY 00:24:29 Yeah. So that's the Newcastle witches podcast, which is on all the major podcast distribution networks. That's great. And what about following you guys on social media? What's the best way to keep up to date with how things are going?
CAITLIN 00:24:42 We're on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We upload on all of them when every episode's coming out and we also upload some facts that maybe some of them get in the episode of ones are things that maybe didn't quite nave it into the episode. So we share different facts about Newcastle and about the witch trials. Um, and other things kind of linked to the episodes that are coming out with the Newcastle witches on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter
MARIA 00:25:03 And soon to be on YouTube, you just search the Newcastle Witches podcast and it comes up in Google and it'll take you wherever you want to go.
CAITLIN 00:25:11 Come and comment. We like interacting with people. We will reply.
ANDY 00:25:14 <laugh> well, that's great. So yeah, I definitely recommend to the DreamSwarm audience. I know a lot of people are interested in the history of witchcraft and this is really good delve into specifics, but also how that links to broader themes and broader historical context. So yeah, the Newcastle witches is podcast, really recommend people go on there and thanks to Caitlin and Maria for coming on the show. Really appreciate it.
MARIA 00:25:35 Thank you for having us. Been great.
ANDY 00:25:42 Thank you for joining us for this episode of the DreamSwarm podcast. I've been your host, Andy Mark Simpson. We hope you'll join us for the next one. Remember you can subscribe to stay in touch with future episodes and follow us at the website, www.dreamswarm.org or follow on Twitter and Instagram @Dreamswarm. And we look forward to joining you for more supernatural film stories and art. In the meantime, be creative, be curious, be kind, we'll see you soon.