Common Salt

Sue & Sheila Common Salt

Photo: 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

Common Salt toured to 7 venues in 2018, with 21 performances: the Wellcome Collection, Battersea Arts Centre and South London Botanical Institute in London, Bristol Library, Dartington Hall Devon, Bside Festival Dorset and Frome Museum Somerset.

A specially created ‘cine-poem’ by artist and moving image maker Lucy Cash in collaboration with Sue and Sheila was exhibited at b-side festival’s ‘Outpost’ from 8th – 16th September 2018. Watch now online:



Further connections:

Artist Sheila Ghelani

Common Salt on Sheila Ghelani’s website

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

“… 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 Library


Thistle and tongs Common Salt

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.

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 Deborah Clark owner of Southernhay House and Dr Nicola Thomas, Cultural Geographer at University of Exeter.


Salt line Common Salt

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.

Two Trees Common Salt

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