In the Footsteps of the Shadow Factory

Excitement surrounds the Nuffield City Theatre ‘Studio 144’ opening and its inaugural production ‘The Shadow Factory’, telling the role that the townsfolk of Southampton played in keeping the production of the Spitfire going despite almost insurmountable odds.

Destruction of the Supermarine Woolston and Itchen works between 24th and 26th Sept 1940 led to the establishment of the Shadow Factories in small Southampton premises, for production of parts and sub components for later Spitfire assembly and testing at Southampton (Eastleigh) Airfield and other locations in Hampshire, Berkshire and Wiltshire. Many skilled craftsmen were employed in the various plants supported by a huge force of female war workers, most with initially, little engineering experience. All of this activity was underlined and supported by local communities.

Supporting the play at the Nuffield Theatre City, from 7th Feb until 3rd March, a special 90-minute walk will visit many of the locations referenced in the play, highlighting the contribution the residents of Southampton – and particularly Woolston – played at this critical hour.

Local tour guide and Woolston resident Geoff Wheeler will be conducting the tours on Sat 17th, Weds 21st, Sat 24th Weds 28th Feb and Sat 3rd March, starting from Woolston Millenium Garden. Free parking is available in Woolston close to the Gardens. The walk is timed so that the No. 3 bus from Woolston can be caught to Studio 144, in time to see the start of the play. The walk commences at 4pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays, (with extra walks at 10.30am on Saturday dates) and costs £6 per adult (payable on the day) with accompanied children and teenagers welcomed free of charge.

Geoff is particularly keen to meet up with those who have special memories of the Shadow Factories or Woolston during the period of the Second World War and its aftermath.

In addition to the Shadow Factory Walks, Geoff will also be leading a series of City Centre walks, leading out from Studio 144 on each of Fridays 16th, 23rd February and 2nd March 2018. On these walks, ticket holders will find out about the wider role Southampton played in the Second World War, focusing on the year 1940, the ‘Year of Destiny’ for Southampton. The destruction of the Supermarine Spitfire factories in Woolston, and the Blitz nights of 30thth November and 1st December brought home the true reality of war against civilians, and the possibility of invasion. The 90-minute walk will focus on the establishment of the Shadow Factories and the mobilisation of the population to defend their homeland, which would eventually lead to victory in 1945.

Stops along the tour will enable walkers to view both historic and newly developed locations in the centre of the city. Tickets are available on the day, also costing £6, with accompanied children and teenagers again welcomed free of charge.

For more information, Geoff Wheeler can be contacted on: email or Tel Geoff on 07500330410