The Gorbals Vampire


Citizens Theatre Community Production
By Johnny McKnight
Directed by Guy Hollands and Neil Packham
Fri 28 & Saturday 29 October, Citizens Theatre
PRESS NIGHT Fri 28 October, 7.30pm

Over 50 community performers will take to the Citizens Theatre’s stage on 28 and 29 October to perform The Gorbals Vampire, a new play by Johnny McKnight inspired by extraordinary real-life events which took place in the Gorbals over 60 years ago. The performances are the culmination of a 10-month long project which has involved local people, school children and the general public in a range of workshops, exhibitions and creative writing competitions inspired by the story.

The remarkable true story of The Gorbals Vampire took place in Glasgow’s Southern Necropolis in 1954. One September evening, hundreds of children armed themselves and descended on the graveyard to hunt down and kill the ‘Man with the Iron Teeth’ who they believed had abducted and eaten two local boys. This entirely fictitious story started as a playground rumour but rapidly spread across the city, leading to widespread moral panic about the dangerous influence of American horror comics, and ultimately resulting in the introduction of major new censorship laws in the UK.

Honouring the role that the urban myth has played in the history of comic art, artist Frank Quitely has created a new piece of art to publicise the production. Working from his Glasgow studio, Quitely is known globally for his work on titles such as DC Comics’ All Star Superman¸ Marvel’s New X-Men and Mark Miller’s Jupiter’s Legacy.


Since January 2016 the Citizens Theatre Learning team has delivered a range of work inspired by the story to involve as many people in the project as possible in addition to the performers on stage.

With the support of artists from the Scottish Cartoon Art Studio, young people aged 16 – 25 and pupils from Blackfriars Primary and Shawlands Academy have taken part in workshops developing comic art skills. The results of the comic art workshops can be seen in a curated comic book of new stories featuring the Gorbals Vampire, available to view online.

School pupils were invited to create their own original short horror story, set in a Glasgow location past, present, and future. From over 150 entries, six finalists were selected by a panel, including Philip Caveney, author (as Danny Weston) of Young Adult novel The Piper, to have their stories printed in a new collection of short stories.

Individuals who took part in the original events have come forward to share their memories of that night and growing up in the Gorbals in the 1950s with today’s young people. Their recorded conversations can be heard as part of a free exhibition about the project at the Citizens Theatre. The exhibition will also feature artwork, creative writing and behind-the-scenes information about how the show has come together, as well as exhibits revealing more about the Gorbals and the Southern Necropolis at the time of the events. 

The Gorbals Vampire co-director, and Associate Director (Citizens Learning), Guy Hollands explains why the Citizens Theatre is mounting this large-scale community project:
“The Citizens Theatre does a huge amount all year round to connect people from all walks of life with our work and with each other, and we place particular importance on making connections with the local area and local people. The Gorbals Vampire is an opportunity for local people and existing participants in our many activities and groups to come together to rehearse and perform a professionally-supported play on the Citizens’ stage.  Such a fascinating real-life story from right here in the Gorbals was the perfect inspiration, not only for a new community production, but also for a range of project work in which large numbers of people could get actively involved.”

The project has been made possible thanks to support from ScottishPower Foundation, Scott & Co, and the Spirit of the Gorbals fund.

Ann Loughrey, Trustee and Executive Officer of the ScottishPower Foundation, added:  “The Gorbals Vampire is a truly perfect example of how to bring a community together; to experience the joy of theatre and the arts right on their doorstep. It’s been a pleasure to work with the team at the Citz and a delight to be able to offer our support to help in bringing this inspiring project together at one of Glasgow’s most well-loved venues.”

Alex Irvine from Scott + Co commented: “Could there be a stronger expression of the spirit and imagination of the Gorbals than a play about community heritage delivered by people from the community? We’re delighted to be supporting this production in all its colour and grit and energy.  And its dynamism isn’t confined to the stage; I was personally very struck by the wider impact a play like this can have. As a judge of the short horror story competition, I was hugely impressed by the way the authors picked up the idea and ran away with it. What a brilliant event to be part of!” 

The Gorbals Vampire is at the Citizens Theatre on Friday 28 and Saturday 29 October at 7.30pm, with a matinee performance on Saturday 29 October at 2.30pm. Tickets are nearly sold out, and the latest information about tickets is available by calling the Citizens Theatre Box Office on 0141 429 0022.

The Gorbals Vampire exhibition is open to the public from 10am – 6pm on Wednesday 26 and Thursday 27 October and from 10am until performance time on Friday 28 and Saturday 29 October.  It is free to visit and no ticket is required. Comic art, short stories and interviews about the project can be found at

Prints of Frank Quitely’s original artwork are available to buy for £25 each (plus postage and packaging) from, and in person from the Citizens Theatre’s Box Office. Proceeds from sale of the posters will go towards Citizens Learning activities.


PRESS NIGHT Fri 28 October, 7.30pm

For more information, interviews and images, or to request tickets, please contact Keren Nicol, Marketing & Communications Manager 0141 418 6233. Production images will available to download from the Citizens Theatre flickr feed

A Citizens Theatre Community Production
By Johnny McKnight
Directed by Guy Hollands and Neil Packham
Designed by Neil Haynes
Lighting Design by Stuart Jenkins
Music by MJ McCarthy
Movement by Brigid McCarthy
Video Design by Kim Beveridge

Dates: 28 and 29 October, 7.30pm and 29 October, 2.30pm

The Citizens Theatre is an iconic venue and theatre company based in the Gorbals area of Glasgow. It has been one of Scotland’s flagship producing theatres since 1945. Fondly
known as the Citz, it is led by Artistic Director, Dominic Hill and Executive Director, Judith Kilvington.

Within a beautiful Victorian auditorium that dates from 1878, the Citizens presents a world-class, contemporary repertoire based on bold new interpretations of classic texts. As its name suggests, it places a strong emphasis on work that can enhance
and transform the lives of citizens of all ages, cultures and social backgrounds through performance and participation that everyone can access.

The Citizens Theatre has a strong reputation for delivering a pioneering range of creative participatory projects and places a special emphasis on work with children, young people and socially excluded adults. By placing arts, culture and creativity
at the heart of learning the theatre seeks to provide opportunities at the theatre and in communities across Scotland, for young people and adults to engage with drama.

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