Our Plague Year will return to Eyam in December

Our hit digital comic strip, Our Plague Year, created by artist and illustrator Nick Burton, will return to complete the story of the villagers in a fictionalised version of Eyam as they battle through 12 months of the bubonic plague.

And this time Nick will also be teaming up with the Eyam Museum, in Derbyshire, to work with the museum’s collections and curator to investigate contemporary stories of the plague.

The museum tells the story of the village which quarantined itself in 1666, in an attempt to stop the spread of the plague. The plague, also known as the Great Plague of London, killed 75,000 people, and was the worst outbreak of plague in England since the Black Death in the 14th century.

Our Plague Year is an alternative retelling of the Eyam Plague story, conceived and created by artist Nick Burton in response to a provocation by curator Bren O’Callaghan. This contemporary narrative explores the many facets of human behaviour in the midst of a crisis.

When HOME’s gallery reopened, Burton’s strips were given physical form in one of the three simultaneous exhibitions curated by HOME’s Bren O’Callaghan. Now lockdown means the works have returned online, along with the rest of HOME’s visual art, theatre and film programme. The first of the new strips will be published on Friday, 4 December, with subscribers receiving an exclusive preview two days earlier.

Over 12,500 people have enjoyed the comic online to date, with audiences ranging from the UK, US, and Canada to Australia, France, Spain and many more.

Initially a limited series spanning 10 weeks released in May, the series will now cover a full year of adventures for the fictional villagers of Eyam, thanks to funding from Arts Council England.

Additionally, there will be an in-conversation event between Nick, Bren and Eyam Museum curator Owen Roberts and hosted by BBC Front Row’s Katie Popperwell in December, where they will discuss the real and fictional versions of the story, and where the two collide.

Nick Burton said: “When Our Plague Year returns, it’ll unfold with a renewed focus and in a more chronological fashion – from September 1665 through to November 1666. There’ll be new people, new perils, people who aren’t who you thought they were, love, jealousy and fear. Plus a few laughs.

“The global interest in this project has been a wonderful surprise. It’s nice to know that the story of a small village in lockdown can transcend cultural barriers, and I hope that the people who continue to read it, like where it goes from here. Even if where it’s going is pretty selfish and miserable.”

Bren O’Callaghan, HOME’s Curator, who commissioned Our Plague Year, said: “’If you build it, they will come…’ so said someone about a baseball diamond or a netball court or maybe it was a pop-up chicken wing shack. Regardless, I knew this project had legs, and the opportunity to respond to the parallel and similarly nightmarish Plague Year unfolding around us in real time was too ripe an opportunity not to pluck.

“Our new goal of 52 episodes split by seasons will draw upon not only historical reference but contemporary news cycles as past and present become intertwined. I can’t wait to see what fresh bile young Godelena has to share about her neighbours, or what new miracle brew Fanny Dankwoth is peddling. Bring it on, Nick!”

Owen Roberts, Curator of Eyam Museum, said: “We are delighted to be working with HOME in this project. As a museum, we promote dynamic engagement with the past. The Eyam plague story – more compelling than ever now – has been retold many times, continually attracting new readings and creative responses. We welcome Nick Burton’s addition to this rich lore and relish his dark and beady take on its contemporary resonances.”

The series will be made available via HOME’s website, with email subscribers receiving the digital strips before anyone else plus additional bonus material from the villagers of Eyam, digital updates, news and scurrilous gossip.

To sign up to subscribe, click here.