Common Salt

Sue & Sheila Common Salt

Photos: Paul Samuel White


Common Salt

Sheila Ghelani and Sue Palmer

Common Salt is a performance around a table – a ‘show and tell’.

It explores the colonial, geographical history of England and India taking an expansive and emotional time-travel, from the first Enclosure Act and the start of the East India Company in the 1600s, to 21st century narratives of trade, race and culture.

Sue and Sheila activate insights into our shared past, laying out a ‘home museum’ of objects and stories; of the Great Hedge of India, of borders, and collections – all accompanied by original Shruti box laments.

“Common Salt … was exquisite … A miniature with epic undertones.”
Audience on Twitter

Common Salt is a reckoning; the interconnectedness between history and global power, artefact and trade, race and memory is hidden in plain sight.

“Common Salt was incredible – Sheila Ghelani and Sue Palmer create a completely hypnotic space. Honestly unlike anything I’ve seen before.”
Audience on Twitter

“… like reading a book in 3D real life.  Both my friend and I were gripped throughout and couldn’t stop talking about all the ideas it sparked.”
Audience email to Bristol Central Library


Salt line Common Salt

Common Salt national tour in 2019:

Kings College London, (part of Theatre Capital programme) | Thursday 17 October | 11.00am (with post show discussion)

Wells Library, Somerset | Saturday 19th October | 11.00am & 2.00pm | Buy tickets online

Cambridge Junction, Cambridge | Monday 21st October | 5:30pm & 8.00pm | Buy tickets

Frome Library, Somerset | Saturday 9th November | 11.30am & 2.30pm | Buy tickets online

Lancaster Arts / Lancaster Maritime Museum | Saturday 16 November | 3.00pm & 7.00pm

Yeovil Library, Somerset | Saturday 30th November | 11.30am & 2.30pm | Buy tickets online

Queen’s House, Royal Museums Greenwich | Friday 6th December| 11.30am & 2.30pm | Details to follow

Common Salt national tour in 2020:

Museum of Rural Life in Reading (January), OSR Projects Somerset (February), Manchester City Library (Friday 7th February), Leicester Attenborough Arts Centre (Friday 6th March), Museum of London Docklands (Wednesday 18th March),  Holburne Museum in Bath (Friday 27th March), Folkestone Fringe / Urban Room (April), Live Art Development Agency London (Thursday 23rd April) and The British Library in London (Monday 18th May).


Artists & further information :

Common Salt on Sheila Ghelani’s website

September’s Artist of the Month at Art.Earth – Sue Palmer writes about the making of Common Salt

Listen to an interview with artists Sue Palmer and Sheila Ghelani about the making of Common Salt. Interview by Scare the Horses curator Paula Crutchlow, with contributions from Dr Nicola Thomas, Cultural Geographer at University of Exeter.




Common Salt toured to 8 venues in 2018, with 23 performances: the Wellcome Collection, Battersea Arts Centre and South London Botanical Institute in London, Bristol Library, Dartington Hall Devon, Bside Festival Dorset, Frome Museum Somerset and Southernhay House Hotel Exeter (Scare the Horses).

Common Salt (A Lament) was made by artist and moving image maker Lucy Cash in collaboration with Sue and Sheila. It was exhibited at b-side festival’s ‘Outpost’ in 2018.


Thistle and tongs Common Salt

Background to the work:

Common Salt is an artwork made by artists Sheila Ghelani and Sue Palmer, who began collaborating in 2013, investigating a thread of connected narratives, originally inspired by the hedgerow, as part of Sheila’s two-year Rambles with Nature project.

Developed over 4 years of research into the colonial and geographical history of England and India, the work is rich and complex, resonant with our contemporary times.  Working against our collective amnesia, Common Salt explores the knotty complexity of lucre, enclosures and borders and the economic and social history of trade.

The artists developed Common Salt while in residence at b-side, Portland, Dorset in May 2017, with work-in-progress showings on July 6th 2017 at b-side’s Outpost.


Past Performances of Common Salt in 2018:

South London Botanical Institute, London (part of Chelsea Fringe) | Thursday 24 May | 4:00pm & 7:00pm

Battersea Arts Centre, London | Thursday 7 – Saturday 9 June | 2:30pm & 7:00pm

Bristol Central Library, Bristol | Thursday 13th September | 4:30pm & 7:30pm

Artist Talk – a Lunchtime Lecture in Bristol Library about the research behind Common Salt with Sue | Thursday 6th September | 12.30pm to 1.15pm

b-side Festival Fortuneswell, Portland, Dorset | Saturday 15 & Sunday 16 September | 1.00pm & 4.00pm

Dartington Hall, Devon (hosted by | Friday 28th September | 6:00pm & 8:00pm

Wellcome Collection, Reading Room, London | Thursday 4th October at 6.00pm & 8.00pm | Friday 5th October at 4.00pm (BSL interpreted)

Frome Museum, Somerset | Saturday 20 October | 4:00pm & 7:00pm

Southernhay House, Exeter, Devon |as part of Scare The Horses | Thursday 31 October | 6:00pm & 8:30pm

Supported using public funds by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Developed with support from b-side and One Final Act by Rajni Shah Projects.

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Developed with support from b-side and One Final Act Rajni Shah Projects
In partnership with Somerset Libraries, Somerset Art Works and all our host venues
Hand Salt Coin 1 Common Salt