“They will remember that we were sold, but not that we were strong. They will remember that we were bought but not that we were brave.” William Prescott, 1937 (former slave)

  • 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


“Elaine Mitchener has ACHIEVED A MOST DIFFICULT CHALLENGE ; She has created a dauntingly vivid
theatrical evocation of deep and prolonged collective pain in such a way as to bring out OUR emotional empathy fundamental to communication. She has not aimed for ‘beautiful art’
but her unblinking honesty and the ultrasensitive resonance of her three musical companions, has parAdoxically created something of real, visceral beauty- art,in fact.” Robert Wyatt 03|12|2018 THE WIRE

In her latest 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.

The work is a cross-disciplinary music theatre piece devised by Elaine Mitchener. It uses text, improvisation and movement to stage a dramatic engagement with the brutal realities of slavery, as revealed by historical records of the British sugar industry and to illuminate its contemporary echoes.

SWEET TOOTH premiered on Thursday 23 November at Bluecoat Liverpool and is currently on tour. The premiere marked the culmination of a five year research by Mitchener into our love of sugar and the historical links between the UK sugar industry and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

The 50 minute piece is divided into six chapters:
1 – Universal Slide – invocation
2- Bound
3 – Scold’s Bridle
4 – Names
5 – Scramble
6 – The Mill – invocation

The text for SWEET TOOTH includes extracts drawn from a traditional Jamaican plantation chant ‘Guinea Corn’; a Kumina invocation song that was transcribed in Morant Bay, St Thomas, Jamaica in the 1950s; and the names and other details of slaves taken from the 1813 inventory of plantation owner Simon Taylor, transcribed by historian Dr Christer Petley (Univeristy of Southampton) from the Jamaica Archives in Spanish Town, Jamaica.

Reviews and Interviews

“SWEET TOOTH is a vital black British addition to those seminal creative statements of resistance and defiance from the African Diaspora.” Kevin Le Gendre, Jazzwise Magazine —> Read

A Q&A with Elaine Mitchener about her performance piece Sweet Tooth – a visceral, overwhelming indictment of the role sugar and the slave trade played in building the British Empire. Chris Bohn, The Wire —> Read

Elaine Mitchener spoke to Gilane Tawadros, the Vice-Chair of the Stuart Hall Foundation, about SWEET TOOTH  and the process of research that led to this incredibly powerful, thought provoking and much acclaimed performance. —> Read

SWEET TOOTH is part of an ambitious project in constant evolution, using different mediums to look upon the many aspects of Britain’s Atlantic legacies: music ensemble, installation, solo work, film.

SWEET TOOTH has been supported with public funding from Arts Council England. Commissioned by Bluecoat in partnership with the Stuart Hall Foundation, London and The International Slavery Museum with further support from PRSF Open Fund, Edge Hill University, Centre 151 and St George’s Bloomsbury.

The first stage of development for SWEET TOOTH has been supported with public funding from Arts Council England. Original 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.