Document accompanying talk by Tony Horitz, Director, Wimborne Community Theatre for the acta community theatre and heritage webinar, 24th June 2020.

 STEP 1       PRE-STORIES PHASE  WCT members talk about finding:

  • Themes: local/national, e.g. Coming & going of local Railway – Enquire Within 2008; WW1 –By The Way 2018
  • Issues: local/national, e.g. How best to protect common land? – By Hook or By Crook 2005; By The Way 2016
  • Location: Outdoor/unusual indoors, e.g. Victorian Pumphouse – The Great Rinsing 2012; museum/town centre – What They Left Behind 2016
  • History: uncovering/ showing in new light, e.g. NT’s Kingston Lacy House & Grounds – Voyages 1991/94; 1000 year old Wimborne Minster – A Tale of Hours 1993
  • Partners: linked to the above: e.g. National Trust; Wessex Water Board; English Nature’; Priest’s House Museum

 STEP 2       FINDING POTENTIAL STORIES – reflecting a wide range of community, illustrating agreed theme/location

CASE STUDY: What They Left Behind • 2016  (various indoor and outdoor sites, Wimborne town centre) Created as part of national commemoration of WW1, focussing on the impact of the War on people living in Wimborne; ACE Grants for Arts; Wimborne BID

WCT members researched simultaneously:

  • International sources – Western Front Association; online regimental reports; books, (non-fiction and fiction; poetry; war artists – Allies and Germans; war museums e.g. Imperial War Museum; Ypres Cloth Museum; Western Front battle grounds; cemeteries; local and university historians
  • Public Open Days at Museum inviting people to bring inherited OBJECTS to unlock STORIES
  • Interviews about objects to record memories & feelings


WCT members selected the following Objects & their Stories from those people brought

  • Letter written by Mrs Angell to War Office asking for return of her sons’ personal effects ‘so she could grieve the better’ (family of agricultural labourers; loss of three sons)
  • Contemporary Poem by woman in her 80s, addressed to her father – showing the impact of his PTSD on her as a child, and her new understanding
  • Autograph Book belonging to Wimborne resident, Bessie Coggin, and Diary of Londoner, Olive Harcourt, both Volunteer Nurses at local Red Cross hospitals (including songs, messages; cartoons; memories and anecdotes by recovering soldiers
  • Oral History Book about former shop-keeper – owners of Museum building, experiences during war – child’s POV


Process undertaken by WCT members with professional artists, choir, musicians

  • Role-play and Improvisation sessions – ed drama techniques e.g. hot seating; role on the wall
  • Writing Script – stories edited into a whole script that remains authentic to the original material (including Verbatim stories and songs), but also interpreting stories imaginatively , using different styles
  • Sharing back to group, partners, informants – Ensuring groups/partners feel ownership of the script
  • Amending stories –for reasons of historical accuracy (Framptons) and artistic concerns (general)
  • Re-writing/ Editing
  • Rehearsals
  • Performances (different scenes staged in carousel in Cornmarket; church hall; museum shop & garden; Minster Green by War Memorial
  • Evaluation by Audiences/ Reflection
  • Archiving   Heritage Lottery funded website: to archive the materials associated with WCT productions since 1991. This includes local history, stories, new legends, scripts, photographs, videos, etc.                                The physical materials are archived at Dorset History Centre.


Community Theatre and Heritage Seminar

Community Theatre and Heritage Seminar

Telling it how it was: How can Community Theatre and Heritage partners collaborate successfully to preserve and relate stories?

On June 24, 2020, Tony Horitz was invited by Neil Beddow, Artistic Director of Bristol-based acta (avon community theatre association) to talk about WCT’s approach to community theatre and heritage.

Tim Bland, Officer for National Lottery Heritage Fund also took part, to express commitment to theatre’s role in revealing cultural heritage.

18 delegates from Great Britain and Ireland participated.

Tony Horitz said:  I focused on was how we choose particular stories for WCT’s community plays – and whose stories are they?  I explained our two key criteria for community theatre:

  1. our ongoing commitment to working site-specifically – so the place we choose to perform in is almost as important as the material we research – and
  2. our devising process, which involves researching widely, talking to and interviewing a cross section of the community in the creative process of finding the stories and making the play bring the past and present – to life.

I identified 4 stages to choosing the best stories or the theme or topic and scripting them, including the ‘drama process’ way of improvising and role-playing ideas. See here

See here more about acta’s approach which is more theatre-based, but similar in content.                                                                                            

Group Poems • Writing In the Time of Covid

By: Tuppy Hill, Lynn Davy, Adrian Newton, Stewart Bullen, Sue Bullen, Charlie Williams, Dave Arkell, Barbara Brann, Barbara Hart, Hannah/Eva Small, Tam Gilbert, Jeff Hart, Viv Miller , Marion Leatherdale, Tony Horitz, Clare Small, Gill Horitz

Constantly buzzing busy bees,
over and over they thrum,
victims of deforestation.
I will plant them more flowers.
Dancing will reveal their location

Tuppy, Gill, Tony, Lynn, Adrian

Contrails cancelled, calm cloudless cerulean,
oceans of oxygen,
vivid voices vocalised in trees,
in the willow, in the wind.
Down below we watch, wait.

Lynn, Adrian, Tuppy, Gill, Tony
Ceasing making any sound at all
outside and inside.
Very hushed, while the bird
I spot in the buddleia
darts away as I reach for my camera.

Adrian, Tuppy, Gill, Tony, Lynn

Can anything be the same, after this thing has done its worst and
left the world to mourn?
Or will those left move on, untouched, unswerving from their former
Victims increasing, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute?  As we become
numb to the pain
I look to myself for strength and resilience, as we know these times will pass.
Dare to believe that we will survive, more compassionate and closer than ever.

Stewart, Sue, Charlie, Dave, Hannah

Can we use this time to create a better world?
One where care is more than just a badge.
Values and viewpoints as the world turns
into a new light, where the still small voice is heard.
Dream equality.  Respect for all.  Watch,
love and act the dream to life.

Barbara B, Tony, Gill, Stewart, Sue

Can I say this now?
On every side we seem beset with fools,
veiled reassuring smiles dripping with duplicity, dead eyes.
Inside our heads we peer out on to the new blooms of spring,
dazed, confused as to what a post-hibernation world might be.

Gill, Stewart, Sue, Charlie, Dave

Clear blue skies in a world out of joint seem wrong​
or see it differentl­y, how they stretch light over this unco­mmon spring.
Visions of a future less sure than the easy certainties of a time just past
infuse the day with colour, light the dance of bluebells and bright leaves.
Dependent on the will of others, we turn inward.

Tony, Gill, Stewart, Sue, Charlie

Curious these calm sunlit days shot through with threads of fear.
Opportunities all around us,
very closely to look anew at the world in which we live.
In every window rainbows give us strength.
Drum beats vibrate through my feet and out across the fields of tribal applause.

Sue, Charlie, Dave, Eva, Clare

Chorus of birds sign­al life that will re­turn.
Open windows welcome in their song,
Very sweet, very soft melodies.
If I could leave, I wouldn’t,
despite the desire to be gone.

Marion, Barbara B, Tony, Gill, Stewart

Clear empty skies, garages, greenhouses, veg beds, sheds,cupboards. Fridges!
Tired now.
One has time to sit, reflect, reminisce, comtemplate. Look forward!
Vital to think deeply and rise above the fear.
In time we will emerge blinking into the bright sun, our sight restored.
Decontaminated, revitalised to live in a cleaner, changed world.

Clare, Tam, Jeff, Barbara, Viv

Comedy is getting us through;
often helps when you’re feeling blue.
Very funny stories making me giggle.
I look up at the trees and see them change day by day.
Dawn, dusk, day – changes, challenges, nothing quite the same.

Charlie, Dave, Hannah/Eva, Clare, Tam

Colours of the rainbow in the windows
One day at a time, living the now.
Variety – old and new routines, open to change.
Invincible for many but not all
Daring walks and doorstep cheers sustain us now.

Hannah/Eva, Clare, Tam, Jeff, Barbara
Carry on clapping with all your might
obediently adhering to the rules we are given.
Vacant streets and empty shelves confront us.
In the early hours, an owl.  A new day.
Don’t despair. Make your mind fly.

Viv, Marion Barbara H, Tony, Gill

Cautiously we move into the cleansed new world,
our hopes and aspira­tions dulled
virtually but not in­consolably.​
I lie under the apple tree and think.
Visions of something better form against the blue sky.

Barbara, Jeff, Tony, Gill, Stew

Children languish, focus gone
our days lengthen and merge like wax in the sun,
vista of a world you never knew
in all your life, but feared.
Despite this, raindrops on the dark pool sound like laughter.

Jeff, Barbara, Tony, Gill, Sue

China comes to town, we resist playing host
Onward, unwelcome, invading, conquering our land,
Virus invisible and maybe invincible, we’re in its thrall.
In science we trust, comrades.  In trust we move on.
Demands our wisdom will flourish this Spring.

Dave, Viv, Tony, Sue, Gill

Clear, calm streets aid my passage.
Others make way with fear.
Vulnerable they call us now, spent and dispensable.
I refuse to be governed by stupidity and ignorance!
Do, act, dance – demand life!

Tam, Jeff, Barbara, Tony, Gill


Writing in the Time of Covid • Spring 2020

Writing in the Time of Covid • Spring 2020



The POEMS in this SOUNDSCAPE were written during the Covid lockdown as a way of keeping in touch with the members of our group and a way of recording our feelings and thoughts by making poems together. To read the poems, click here

Each acrostic was written by 5 people by members of Wimborne Community Theatre, each line beginning with the letters of the word ‘Covid’.  The focus was ‘in the time of Covid’.  After writing a line each person sent it to the next person, and so on.  Finally, each piece was recorded by the person who wrote the first line.

The soundscape was created by Adrian Newton, using recordings made in his garden (the dawn chorus, Thursday clapping, etc.) for a Silent Cities global project.

Writers are:     Tuppy Hill, Lynn Davy, Adrian Newton, Stewart Bullen, Sue Bullen, Charlie Williams, Dave Arkell, Barbara Brann, Barbara Hart, Hannah/Eva Small, Tam Gilbert, Jeff Hart, Viv Miller , Marion Leatherdale, Tony Horitz, Clare Small, Gill Horitz

Photograph: Gill Horitz


Millstream Theatre

Millstream Theatre

Millstream actors recording with Adrian Newton

Millstream Theatre, based at Priest’s House Museum, will take part in the 2020 Revival theatre project commemorating the opening of the refurbished museum.

Millstream performed in ‘Echoes of the Past’ in a scene staged in the Victorian Kitchen featuring a mysterious encounter between two people who worked in the building while it was still a residence –  Hannah Bartlett, servant to the Low Family in the 19th century, and Ralph Lowles, shop assistant at the Ironmongery run by the Coles family for much of the 20th century.

Millstream meet regularly at PHM, and the group is facilitated by Tam Gilbert, of Persuasion Arts, and Tony HoritzState of Play Arts.


Animating ‘Echoes of the Past'

Animating ‘Echoes of the Past'

John Low in front of the Priest’s House Museum, drawn by student from St Michael’s School (Photo credit: Alastair Nisbet)

A Wimborne Stationers shop, boarded up for 30 years, has been brought to life in animated form by a group of students at St Michael’s Middle School, Wimborne, as part of Wimborne Community Theatre’s Echoes of the Past project commissioned by the Priest’s House Museum.

Pupils made both screen-based and Victorian zoetrope animations to tell the story of John Low’s shop and how it went on to become an award-winning museum.

Working with artists Nic Rawling, Alastair Nisbet and Hannah Small, the 12 and 13 year old students recreated the story of John Low whose boarded-up shop became a time capsule – and its contents a nationally important collection.

They drew and voiced the main characters, John Low and museum founder Hilda Coles, brought the museum’s mummified cat to life and animated a Victorian lady writing “to my love” on an 1860s Valentine.

Alastair Nisbet, animator and producer from arts organisation ScreenPLAY explained:
Nic who performs internationally with the Paper Cinema makes a unique type of live animation so as well as drawing and voicing the characters in traditional film sequences, the group have worked with him to make four Victorian style zoetrope animations.
The zoetropes and films will form an installation for the promenade theatre event Echoes of the Past which takes place in June.

Read more about the project.

Ron Jenkinson, Headteacher at St Michael’s said the artists’ mini residency had given students a taste of life in the creative industries.

They have drawn, storyboarded, voice recorded, filmed and above all worked together as a team to make some beautiful work for a real world project and that’s been a great experience for them.