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

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

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.



Performances in September & October 2018:

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

* Sue is doing an artist talk – a Lunchtime Lecture in Bristol Library about the research behind Common Salt | Thursday 6th September | 12.30pm to 1.15pm | Free!

b-side Festival, Royal Manor Theatre, Fortuneswell, Portland,  Dorset | Saturday 15 & Sunday 16 September | 1.00pm & 4.00pm | Book a place for £3 per ticket plus booking fee.

Ship Studio, Dartington Hall, Devon (hosted by | Friday 28th September | 6:00pm & 8:00pm | Book tickets here

Wellcome Collection, Reading Room, London | Thursday 4th October at 6.00pm & 8.00pm | Friday 5th October at 4.00pm (BSL interpreted) | Free, limited capacity, first come …

Frome Museum, Somerset | Saturday 20 October | 4:00pm & 7:00pm | Tickets on sale via Eventbrite.  Also available from Frome Museum from end of September 2018.

Our Common Salt cine-poem made by artist Lucy Cash, will be on display from the 8th – 16th September at b-side Festival‘s Outpost in Fortuneswell, Portland.

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

Previous Performances | May & June 2018:

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

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


Artist Sheila Ghelani

Common Salt on Sheila Ghelani’s website.



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

“To secure the levy on a duty of salt….there grew up gradually a monstrous system, to which is would be almost impossible to find a parallel in any tolerably civilised country. A Customs Line was established which stretched across the whole of India, which in 1869 extended from the Indus to the Mahanadi in Madras, a distance of 2,300 miles; and it was guarded by nearly 12,000 men…..It would have stretched from London to Constantinople ….It consisted principally of an immense impenetrable hedge of thorny trees and bushes.”

— Roy Moxham, The Great Hedge of India

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.

“They had this thing where they cut your tie when you put through your first trade.”  Paul Hawtin, Hedge Fund Manager

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

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