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A large number of actors on a stage are facing the camera, crouching down and raising their hands to the sky. They are dressed in a variety of drab clothes from the 1950s. One actor is lying on the ground in the centre of the stage with the other actors gathered round him. He has a grimaced face. Another actor is standing at the very back of the stage. He is standing on a wall above the others looking out to the camera with one hand in the air.

The Gorbals Vampire

Back in 1954, whispers echoed through the playgrounds of the Gorbals, weaving tales of a man with iron teeth who had allegedly abducted and consumed two local young boys. The community was gripped by fear and speculation until one fateful night in late September when hundreds of children, aged 4 to 14, gathered at the Southern Necropolis. Armed with whatever makeshift weapons they could find; they embarked on a daring mission to hunt down and vanquish the infamous Gorbals Vampire. 

Drawing inspiration from this extraordinary event, our Participate team undertook a 10-month-long project to bring this iconic story to the Citz stage. 

Acclaimed playwright and actor, Johnny McKnight crafted a script that humorously captured the essence of that unforgettable night. Weaving local folklore, memories and stories, the script honoured the tale whilst bringing the story to a new audience. 

The project involved as many people as possible, aiming to ignite creativity and foster a deeper connection to the tale. 

A large ensemble cast of 50 performers was recruited.  Hailing from both the local community and beyond, the performers undertook workshops, rehearsals and creative learning opportunities. Local schools also got involved with pupils participating in writing competitions inspired by the story and comic art workshops led by artists from the Scottish Cartoon Art Studio. 

a glorious celebration of Glasgow and what it means to be Glaswegian – when the chips are down, the community pulls together as one, the city’s divisions are forgotten, and the people unite in a common cause

Glasgow Theatre Blog 

A large group of people stand together in a rehearsal room. They are all looking straight ahead in various positions of standing and crouched.

In homage to the role played by urban legends in shaping comic art history, renowned artist Frank Quitely crafted an original piece of production artwork used on posters and flyers across the city.  

The voices of those who experienced the events firsthand were also integral to the project. Through recorded conversations, individuals shared their memories of growing up in the Gorbals in the 1950s, offering invaluable insights into the community’s history. 

Co-director of The Gorbals Vampire, Guy Hollands, emphasized the significance of large-scale community projects like this one, “The Citizens Theatre does a huge amount all year round to connect people from all walks of life with our work and with each other, and we place particular importance on making connections with the local area and local people”. 

Two actors sit on the edge of a stage. One teenage girl and an older man. They sit in front of lights that spell Gorbals Vampire.

On 28 and 29 October 2016, the performers took to the stage at the Citizens Theatre to present The Gorbals Vampire. The cast performed to a sold-out theatre and to rave reviews. 

The legacy of this remarkable production lives on through the hearts and minds of all those who participated. Their collective efforts had not only resurrected a piece of local history but also illuminated the enduring spirit of community and creativity that continues to thrive in the heart of Glasgow. 

A large group of actors including men women and children are standing close together in a huddle. They are all looking at each other and smiling. They are all wearing drab, beige toned clothes from the 1950s and have dirt on their faces. One woman near the front is holding a silver metal tea pot.

“In some ways, it makes you think maybe it just is something in the Scottish psyche. We’re no feart to stand up for ourselves. I think that’s what makes it so enduring and it’s the reason the story’s lasted. But then I think as well when people’s backs are up against the wall and there’s fear there, it just brings out another side of instinct in people which is what I love about it.”

Johnny McKnight

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