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The Black Mary Project

The Black Mary Project will revive Black Mary’s Hole, a fabled 17th Century healing well, on the site of Calthorpe Community Gardens in Kings Cross co-creating, with the community, an imaginative healing sanctuary for London.


Calthorpe Gardens sits on the site of London’s forgotten 17th Century spa town where, legend has it, a Black woman, Mary Woolaston (known as Black Mary), kept a healing well. Lead Artist Gaylene Gould will collaborate with culturally diverse Calthorpe members and other creatives to create a dynamic and imaginative programme bringing this history to life. The programme is set to launch in Spring 2024.

A restorative space to revive, reconnect, restore and rediscover.

Black Mary/
Mary Woolaston

Legend has it, Mary Woolaston or Black Mary kept a healing well in the midst of 17th Century Clerkenwell/Kings Cross, London. Notoriously rebellious, this neighbourhood was also a popular spa town where people could take the healing waters. Due to the lack of care in recording historic Black British women's lives Mary Woolaston remains a shadowy figure. She is however clearly mentioned in Thomas Cromwell's 19th Century book on Clerkenwell and an area, Black Mary’s Hole, was said to be named after her. Artists, historians and the community will work together to invoke Mary's memory, blurring speculative fiction, historic fact and contemporary stories to explore a legacy of healing.

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Why here?
Why now?

At one time, London had its own spa town; a place where the rich and poor could freely come together to walk, rest and partake in the healing waters. The memory of such a space has long been forgotten. Today, England's capital city needs a healing space more than ever. The pandemic claimed thousands of lives and now the survivors face a punishing economic reality - London urgently needs a place for people to heal.


This project will revive a healing centre for London at Calthorpe Community Gardens which already provides an oasis of care for those who most need including the economically challenged and the recently arrived.

Project Elements


A Black woman artist and gardener will be  commissioned to create a permanent memorial and Healing Garden in honour of Mary Woolaston at Calthorpe Community Garden. The memorial garden will also be inspired by  the healing stories carried by Calthorpe Community members today, connecting the past to the present.



Gaylene will devise a Healing Tour, leading groups through the area, weaving stories about the forgotten spa town and the legend of Black Mary while offering space for all to share their own healing stories. Gaylene will also create a  temporary Contemplation Installation which will be available to tour. 



Over the Memorial Garden launch weekend, a Healing Festival will take place co-designed by Calthorpe members  and  built around three themes: Compassionate Play, Care and Water. The Festival will feature immersive and interactive experiences designed to heal and connect.



Part-documentary, part fiction, part ritual, Adenike Oke will make a film creatively documenting the project's process, the history, and reflect on collective healing. The film will be be shown at the launch weekend and be available for festival and touring.

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Lead Artist: Gaylene Gould

Co-designers:  Calthorpe Community Mythmakers Group

Producer: Zaynab Bunsie

Memorial Producer: Corrina Antrobus

Calthorpe Community Engagement: Mila Campoy

Historian: Kelly Foster

Filmmaker: Adenike Oke

Curatorial Advisor: Zoe Whitley

Curatorial Advisor: Adelaide Bannerman

Performance Mentor: Sonia Hughes,

Partnerships: Beki Bateson and Helen Galliano

Calthorpe Development Officer: Zoe Durbin

Supported by

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