Hidden in Plain Sight: How can we learn from the past?

Hidden in Plain Sight: How can we learn from the past?
By Mark
22nd February 2021


For the past four generations, a phrase has been passed down within my family:   


 “When poverty walks through the door, love flies out the window. 


It was my Great Grandmother who first introduced us to that phrase. A woman born in abject poverty, widowed by war and left with 4 children to raise. My Grandfather was placed in a workhouse for a time to allow her to work on the other side of London and when she came back to collect him and his siblings, they had been dyed purple – a signal of the dehumanising tactics used by those in power and authority. This is a perfect explanation of where her belief may have materialised from; who thought it would be a beneficial or right to dye 4 children under the age of 10? However, that was over 100 years ago; surely those ‘tactics of control’ are a long distant memory?  


Sadly not.  


During lockdown, Highly Sprung Performance have been honoured to work with Echo Eternal, delivering online lessons for young people about the Holocaust, introducing them to survivor testimony. We’ve seen the atrocities committed in the belief that one group of humans were better than another and a clear absence of ‘love’ in their barbaric dehumanisation of people. But again, this is a part of our history. 80 years have passed, so what modern day examples could there be?  


Enter officer Derek Chauvin and his complete dehumanising of George Floyd as he knelt on George’s neck, nonchalantly, hand in pocket. 


We have all been shocked by the footage, the actions, the complete disregard for another’s life shown by Chauvin (which follows countless other examples of police brutality). The disgust at these dehumanising actions echoed around the world. It highlighted our differences and divided us once more.  Personally, I found myself shouting at the TV “When will we realise we have far more in common than that which divides us?”   


Isn’t it time we learnt from the past, instead of making the same mistakes?  


Enter Hidden in Plain Sight, our new teaching resource. Created as part of Ready Box-Set Go, this programme of creative exercises, drama and dance explores the story of William and Ellen Craft, a couple who evaded slavery. We want to use this Box Set to encourage pupils to draw parallels to modern day. We want to help put a stop to hate ruining both our lives and the lives others of others.  


Hidden in Plain Sight is set around 1850. It tells the real-life story of Ellen Peace-smith, a daughter of a slave and her slave owner, who fell in love with William Craft, a fellow slave. Together they plotted their escape: an audacious mission that utilised Ellen’s mixed heritage and, more importantly in 1800’s America, her pale skin. The pair dressed Ellen as an elderly, disabled man covered in bandages, with her husband William playing the role of her slave. Together they travelled the country in search of a free state where they could live together as themselves. The hate they endured from others was quite astounding, especially in light of the dehumanising rules and regulations they had to follow, but more incredible was the strength William and Ellen showed in search for a better life. Their love was stronger than anything their haters could throw at them.  


Ready Box Set Go is Highly Sprung’s newest offering to schools as they begin the return to normality and teaching in person. Following months of learning online, many students will be faced with the daunting task of having to relearn how to communicate, cooperate and collaborate with others; this task was tricky enough before students had spent weeks alone at home. Hidden in Plain Sight not only fosters peer relationships. It also highlights the power of humanity. For me, the greatest power we can all show is the rejection of hate, in all of its forms.  


Maybe my Great Grandmother was right on many levels. Poverty isn’t just about money; it’s a poor moral compass, lack of respect and the worst of all, HATE. When those terrible attributes enter our lives, we MUST hold on to what we hold dear or risk losing it forever.  


Working on Hidden in Plain Sight has taught me that we must embrace LOVE and hold on for dear life, especially in these most trying of times!