The fate of 183 deceased children is well known. But former journalist Adrienne Hunter wants to know more about those who survived as she writes a novel about the 1883 disaster.
Adrienne, who started her career on the Sunderland Echo, said: ‘During this horrific tragedy, children at a magic show were crushed when they ran down a flight of stairs for free toys.
“But there were thousands in Victoria Hall that hot summer afternoon and many were saved by the quick actions of hall keeper Fred Graham, who thought on his feet and turned away the rushing children to an escape route.”
Adrienne, 59, a member of the Durham-based Sunderland Antiquarian Society, said: ‘A lot of people have done excellent research into the tragedy, and I’m lucky to be able to access it.
“While researching online I found Chris Cordner’s story about Meg Hartford, a former Sunderland woman who is Fred’s great-grandniece. Meg holds her own memorial for the children every year lost.
Chris put Adrienne, a PhD student in creative writing at the University of Sunderland, in touch with Meg – and the results were great news for the novel.
“I’m so grateful – Meg is a fantastic researcher who looked into Fred’s later life and told me all about him and his family,” she said.
“She also uncovered some great information about one of the little girls who survived and testified during the inquests.”
Adrienne’s novel, tentatively titled The Tall Streets, combines the created characters with the stories of real people to trace the event that unfolds and how
its consequences have reverberated over the years.
She added: “”The Victoria Hall disaster remains the worst tragedy of its kind and was mourned across the country – even Queen Victoria sent her condolences.
“I hope that by writing a work of fiction I can express the full emotional impact it has on Sunderland, and perhaps help bring some of
those people who have been gone for so long.
:: Did you have a relative who died in the Victoria Hall disaster, or who left memories of the disaster? Contact Adrienne on Facebook @AdrienneHunterNovel.
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