Speaking with Shadows
Abstract landscape showing a castle keep and shadows projected onto ground in front of it

Speaking with Shadows Podcast

When you’re wandering about a historic place, what voices do you hear echoing off the walls? Are they the ones you learnt about at school – or do you wonder about the shadowy, quiet voices that may have gone unheard?

Speaking with Shadows is the podcast that listens to the people that history forgot. From castles on the south coast to Hadrian’s Wall in the far north, join presenter Josie Long as she travels across the country to seek out six stories from the hidden corners of England’s history. 

Photograph of comedian Josie Long leaning on wall in front of Portchester Castle keep
Speaking with Shadows presenter Josie Long at Portchester Castle

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Speaking with Shadows brings you a new story every fortnight on a Tuesday. Episode 1 invites you into the 1930s world of Gwen Lally, Britain’s first female pageant master. Other figures stepping out of the shadows in further episodes include revolutionary soldiers from the Caribbean, a medieval Jewish community in York, and imprisoned conscientious objectors from the First World War.

You can listen to the episodes as they are released below, and subscribe on your favourite podcast platform including:

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Gwen Lally directing a pageant
The first episode of Speaking with Shadows features Gwen Lally, Britain’s first female pageant master
© King's College London Archives K/PP251/2/8

Episode 1: A 1930s Pioneer

Our first trip is to Battle Abbey where we discover the story of Gwen Lally, a former actress who directed thousands of performers in Battle’s 1932 pageant. We hear about Lally’s pioneering role as the first female pageant master and her exploration of gender roles both on and off stage. 

Listen to the episode here and follow the link below to read more about Lally, the Battle Abbey pageant, and how women in the early 20th century explored the boundaries of gender.

Discover more about the episode
Sketch of an unknown French soldier by Emile-Jean-Horace Vernet, c.1830
Sketch of an unknown French soldier by Emile-Jean-Horace Vernet, c.1830
© Jacqueline Hyde, Paris/The Menil Foundation/The Image of the Black Archive and Library, Harvard University

Episode 2: The Caribbean Prisoners of Portchester Castle

In episode two we visit Portchester Castle to hear about the black prisoners of war, captured during the Napoleonic wars and brought all the way from the Caribbean to be imprisoned at the castle. 

Listen to the episode here and follow the link below to read more about the lives of the black prisoners and how they came to be at Portchester.

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Reconstruction drawing of the massacre at Clifford's Tower in 1190
A reconstruction drawing illustrating the burning of the wooden tower during the massacre of the Jews in 1190
© Historic England (illustration by Peter Dunn)

Episode 3: The Medieval Massacre of the Jews of York

In our third episode we visit Clifford's Tower in York, the site of a terrible tragedy in 1190 where the entire Jewish population of the city was persecuted to their deaths. We explore this story to try to understand how and why such a shocking event could take place, and hear how the local Jewish community reflect on it today.

Listen to the episode here and follow the link below to read more about the massacre of the Jews of York.

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Detail from a postcard published during the First World War in support of conscientious objectors
Detail from a postcard published in 1917 in support of conscientious objectors

Episode 4: Voices from the Walls – Richmond Castle’s Conscientious Objectors

At Richmond Castle in North Yorkshire Josie discovers the stories behind some of the thousands of graffiti inscribed on the walls of a Victorian cell block. Many were left by conscientious objectors imprisoned here during the First World War – men from all walks of life united by their belief that war was wrong. 

Listen here and follow the link below to read more about the conscientious objectors and the graffiti they left behind. 

More about this episode

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