ArtsGroupie CIC

Promoting and Providing Access to the Arts

ArtsGroupie presents:

Kitty: Queen of the Washhouse

by John Maguire

ArtsGroupie are proud to share that we have been able to produce and perform Kitty: Queen of the Washhouse thanks to funding from Arts Council England (ACE).

“Nobody was ever poorer for what they gave a neighbour in distress”

The play “Kitty: Queen of the Washhouse” is one that celebrates one of our own famed Liverpudlians, Kitty Wilkinson (1786–1860), whose community efforts for public hygiene helped stem the outbreak of cholera, leading to the opening of the first combined washhouse and public baths in the United Kingdom. A pioneer that many people know of but may not comprehend her dramatic life story. It highlights the importance of working within a community in a time when more and more people are becoming socially isolated. Technologically, we can connect with people on the other side of the world, yet we sometimes don’t talk to our closest neighbours.

In 2019 the play was performed in Liverpool selling out 1000 seats at the Grade 1 listed St Georges Hall then followed a tour of primary schools,
including St. Vincent de Paul (the site of her original washhouse) and Broad Square – to over 650 primary school pupils, and a rural tour of Shropshire to 1,500. We engaged with 45,000 people online through our social media platforms.

Just before the Covid pandemic outbreak, the play was staged again in March 7th 2020 at St Georges Hall and once again sold out. In response to the emergency we recorded a public health message that promotes the important messages about hand washing and social distancing using our Kitty character.

Culture Liverpool commissioned an outdoor performance of the play as part of their #WithoutWalls project, but this is currently on hold until further notice.

This play will appeal to those who want to celebrate the life of a strong female character, it is suitable for all, from children aged 7 and above, right up to adults.

ArtsGroupie’s Kitty Story

ArtsGroupie are delighted to announce that we are taking Kitty to the Big Smoke! We are playing the legendary Kings Head in Islington for 3 dates in March. Tickets are available through their website. This powerful one-woman performance by SAMANTHA ALTON (Weave) transports you back to 1830s Liverpool to tell the story of Irish immigrant Kitty Wilkinson whose pioneering approach to public hygiene helped stem the city’s 1832 cholera epidemic. The play, first performed at St George’s Hall to a sell-out audience in 2019 and again in 2020 was written by JOHN MAGUIRE (The Liver Bird) and is directed by MARGARET CONNELL (Forgotten Voices).  Incorporating music and song as well as creative visual effects the audience is immersed in Kitty’s life story, invited to explore the political and social climate of the period, and to celebrate a truly inspiring female hero.

View our Trailer HERE

The piece is told by Kitty’s statue, come to life as a friendly ghost. It is a highly animated portrayal and physical performance, as Kitty relays her fascinating ‘against all odds’ story of how she has become the only female statue in St George’s Hall.
The audiences will leave with Kitty’s “I can” philosophy. They might also accept her challenge to help get more female statues in St George’s Hall and gardens!

History lovers, local, national and international, feminists, those from Irish backgrounds and Liverpudlians will all have a natural connection with this theatre piece.

We want people to feel like they understand how Liverpool was in the 1830s. We want them to feel like they have totally immersed in Kitty’s life story and have a deeper understanding of the political, social climate she lived in. We want them to feel inspired at how Kitty kept on going when faced with adversity. We want her resilience to serve as a catalyst to inspire people to be the best version of themselves and to take a little bit of Kitty’s attitude away with them from the evening.

“It’s not just HIS story it’s also HER story.”

Our aim is for Kitty to be the first of a series of historical ‘scouse’ women based plays, whose life stories will be retold to new audiences. Each tale demonstrating the extraordinary strength of these women and their impact on our society.

The Kitty Story brought to ghostly life...

“The Kitty story is brought to ghostly life through an autobiographical monologue brilliantly performed by Sam Alton in white starch.”

Opening Nights
July 2022

She captivated her audience...

“Alton’s performance and story-telling was outstanding as she acted out Kitty’s journey with attitude, bringing real personality and character throughout each stage of her life. She captivated her audience from the first moment”

Number 9
March 2019

Fascinating story....

“Fascinating story – learned a lot – brilliant actress. She must have been emotionally and physically exhausted by the end!”

R - Audience Member
July 2022

A powerful play with a moving story

“A powerful play with a moving story. An unusual start where you are immediately sucked in. The simplicity of the props and their clever use allows you to immerse yourself in the story. A remarkable actress who held us right to the end”.

Pat - Audience Member
July 2022

...the play totally got me...

“Normally not a fan of theatre but the play totally got me!"

C - Audience Member
July 2022

Extraordinary Performance

“Coming in at almost an hour, there is a lot of pressure to maintain the activity and energy levels which Alton achieved through her accomplished use of the space and clever re-purposing of props to maintain our interest: this is the story of an extraordinary woman told through an equally extraordinary performance.”

North West End
July 2022

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Past Performance

Kitty, Queen of the Washhouse: The King’s Head

Kitty at the King's Head Theatre, Islington

Past Performance

Kitty, Queen of the Washhouse at The Reader, Calderstones Park

The Reader Theatre Room, Calderstones Park, Liverpool L18 3JB

Past Performance

Kitty, Queen of the Washhouse at The King’s Arms, Salford

The King's Arms, Bloom St, Real Ale House & Award Winning Theatre

Past Performance

Kitty: Queen of the Washhouse at The Cockpit Theatre

Kitty is returning to Shakespeare North, but this time at the amazing Cockpit Theatre

ArtsGroupie News

Channel 5 – Great British Cities – Liverpool (with ArtsGroupie’s John Maguire)


Kitty Queen of the Washhouse Gallery

ArtsGroupie News

2023: Reflecting on an EPIC year

Walk Tour

The Kitty Wilkinson Walking Tour