Sweet Tooth

The British love of sugar has a dark and disturbing history.

  • Concept, Direction & Music: Elaine Mitchener
  • Movement Direction: Dam Van Huynh
  • Historical Consultant: Christer Petley
  • Devised and performed by: Elaine Mitchener, Sylvia Hallett, Mark Sanders, Jason Yarde


In her latest Research and Development project, vocal artist Elaine Mitchener casts a unique look upon the history of the sugar trade. “My ancestry includes enslaved Africans, sold by Africans to British traders to make Britain ‘great’ through the slave trade of sugar on plantations in the Caribbean and Brazil.”

Sweet Tooth is a deeply personal project not only about Black history but an important chapter of British history and the pivotal role Black people have played in it.

St George’s Bloomsbury is believed to have been known for its abolitionist stance. We must remember that this was very unusual due to the state religion’s complicity: on a Sabbath day, at the door of every church and chapel, the proclamation was put up by the parish clerk or reader of the church requiring all runaway slaves to surrender themselves immediately after divine worship.

This work in progress is the result of an intensive research period involving 4 performers, an historical consultant and a movement director. Sweet Tooth is part of an ambitious project that will develop over the next few years, using different mediums to look upon the many aspects of Britain’s Atlantic legacies: music ensemble, installation, solo work, film etc.

Names and other details from the inventory of Simon Taylor, 1813, Jamaica.

Archives, Spanish Town, Jamaica (transcribed by Christer Petley).

The first stage of development for Sweet Tooth has been supported with public funding from Arts Council England.

Research supported by Aldeburgh Music, University of Southampton, St George’s Bloomsbury, Centre 151. With further support from Harewood House Trust, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and Bluecoat Liverpool.