‘Facts not Opinions’: Stretched to the Limit

‘Facts not Opinions’: Stretched to the Limit

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Thursday 30 March - Saturday 01 April
£15 general admission, £5 Southwark residents
‘Facts not Opinions’: Stretched to the Limit

Sneak inside one of London’s most unusual locations, after-hours, for a thrilling site-responsive experience.

This spring, Kirkaldy’s Testing Works – an historic, Grade II* former workshop and museum in the heart of Bankside – will open its doors for five exclusive, fun but slightly surreal pop-up performances over three days.

Set in the world’s first independent, commercial materials testing works, audiences will join in with a surprise extravaganza that’s been 200 years in the planning. Come and mingle with eccentric Victorian characters and test your mettle in an entertaining hour-long immersive drama.

What you will experience:

Celebrated Victorian engineer David Kirkaldy is having a surprise party – and you’re invited, but only if you come up to scratch! This immersive experience offers guests the opportunity to secretly join the celebrations. Once inside The Testing and Experimenting Works, challenge your strength and wiles against Kirkaldy’s scrutiny and the mighty million-pound Universal Testing machine… A proper Victorian knees-up lies in wait for those who pass the test.

Guests will weave their way through rooms in this unique and atmospheric former 19th century factory including Kirkaldy’s office, the factory workshop and the basement, all filled with music, soundscapes and the Scottish engineer’s original testing machines, including the 14.5m-long Universal Testing Machine he had designed, commissioned and patented in 1863.

‘Facts not Opinions’: Stretched to the limit has been created by theatre makers and performers Sammy Kissin and Al Barclay, as part of Blackfriars Stories commissioned by Southwark Council.

The show is inspired by the link between Blackfriars Bridge and Kirkaldy’s Testing Works and was originally conceived to mark the 200th anniversary of David Kirkaldy’s birth.

Sammy, who studied at LAMDA and Manchester University, said: “We really wanted to honour Kirkaldy’s world view that ‘Facts not Opinions’ matter. It is a celebration of the dynamism of the man, that idea of strength and how strength can be tested.”

Guildhall alumni Al added: “We have all been tested to destruction recently. We were interested in confronting this in a place designed to break the indestructible – and question, who are we?”

The present Blackfriars Bridge is the second bridge to bear that name; the first being deemed unsafe due to poor construction. The new bridge, built in 1869, employed the newly established Testing and Experimenting Works on Southwark Street to test its wrought iron framework and ensure its long-term viability.


Thursday and Friday – 7pm, 8.30pm; Saturday – 3pm, 7pm and 8.30pm

Educational Programme

A free educational programme for more than 100 local secondary school pupils will run alongside the performances.

Renowned illustrator, set designer and creative director Emma Rios will be delivering a series of arts and engineering workshops for children, plus guided tours of the museum. Visitors will be taken back in time to the industrial revolution when building specimens from all over the world were tested to destruction in Kirkaldy’s workshop.

Emma, who is known for her paper sculpting installations and illustrations, has worked with clients ranging from Tatler and the Wall Street Journal to the V&A and Historic Royal Palaces, Liberty, Harrods, as well as fashion brands including Myla and Saloni.

About Kirkaldy’s Testing and Experimenting Works

A museum has been running at the site since 1984 run entirely by a team of volunteers. It is one of the few places in the world where you can get up close and hands on with working, historic machines – and yes, break something!

Kirkaldy opened the world’s first purpose-built independent testing site at 99 Southwark Street, London in 1874. He pioneered a real change in thinking – that all components had to be tested to a pre-existing standard, and facts were more important than opinions. The famous inscription above the door reads ‘Facts not Opinions’.

Today Kirkaldy’s advances in science and engineering are celebrated by the Institution for Civil Engineers and the Engineering Hall of Fame.

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