The Dark Store

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Ballad of GladnessMusic: Sarah Dew. Lyrics: Charlotte Oliver
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The Dark Store project is named after the retail distribution centres that cater exclusively to online shopping: places where no members of the public will ever browse.

The Dark Store is an exciting new collaborative project between Sarah and writer

Charlotte Oliver. It shines a spotlight on those who would not ordinarily have a chance to share their story: hidden workers from the 19th century up to the present day including the covid era.

'Ballad of Gladness' is an example of one of the songs that will form part of this hour long radio ballad. As part of a creative writing workshop with poet Clare Shaw,

Tracy White, member of USDAW (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) wrote a testimony detailing her working life during the covid pandemic. Charlotte then sifted through Tracy's words to find the essence of her story and shaped it into the ballad form that the song's lyrics take, whilst remaining true to Tracy's language. Sarah then wrote, recorded and produced the song.

Vocals: Charlotte Oliver, Clare Shaw, Raven (Sally Lidgley, Jaye Lewis, Pat Edmond,

Karen Chalmers, Nia Davison) and Sarah Dew.

Music: Sarah Dew

More about The Dark Store


The Dark Store is an hour long radio ballad: a collection of spoken word and nine original folk songs, highlighting the significance of the hidden labour and lives of essential workers, throughout history to the present day. The project uses historical material: the work of governesses in the 19th century; the herring girls who worked the north-east coast of England, and miners in the 20th century. Contemporary supermarket and dark store workers, a Glaswegian lorry driver, and NHS nurses tell their stories of the covid era.

Writer Clare Shaw speaks of her online writing sessions during lockdown with USDAW workers, in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. An office cleaner tells of her daily essential work. These provide fabric that is worked into poetry, folk music and song by a collaboration of writer Charlotte Oliver and composer Sarah Dew.

We provide a platform where voices are heard. We challenge invisibility; promote respect; applaud the creativity and struggles of those working in ‘the dark’, and disrupt preconceptions of historical forms and folk ballads.

'The Dark Store' will be premiered at South Square Gallery from Friday 3rd June until 31st July 2022.


It will be broadcast in full by Leeds Chapel FM community radio;  more details to follow.


For information about Charlotte Oliver, see


For information about Clare Shaw, see 

Supported by Arts Council England; South Square Arts Centre;

Arcade Production Company, Scarborough; Chapel FM.

Please contact Sarah or Charlotte for further information.