Members of Wimborne Community Theatre have been using lockdown to prepare for our next project on the rivers of Wimborne. Using a wide variety of media we have produced videos – photos – poems – writing – sounds – animations – paintings, reflecting on the theme. We will be using many of the ideas in our Rivers production in 2021, as well as the memories and stories we are collecting from the local community.
Read River Memories by local people. Or take Adrian Newton’s sound walk along the River Stour. Or see what other people are doing around the world, for World Rivers Day.
If you would like to share your thoughts about a favourite Wimborne river place, about times spent fishing, swimming, bird watching, boating, picnicking, reflecting or just walking by the river, please complete the form here
Boating on the River by Howard
A fond memory from my childhood is taking a boat along the river in the 1960’s. In those days one could hire a rowing boat for a small sum from a business based on the riverside on the corner of the B3073 (Oakley Hill) and Station Road. My father would take my mother, my brother and myself along the river on a Summer’s evening as far as the weir at Canford School or sometimes West towards the bridge over the B3078 road. Frequently those evenings were memorable for the sunsets, the silence (as there were few others on the river) and the chance to enjoy the view from a different perspective as we slowly paddled around.
Walking by the River by Anonymous
My wife was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago and, while I am please to record that she is currently cancer-free, one change has been that she now appreciates being out in nature even more than previously. Long walks are de rigeur nowadays, but accompanied by the desire to take in and observe the wonderful World around us, frequently stopping to look, listen or photograph what we see. The Stour is very much part of this and, having moved back to near her childhood home some years ago, this brings back fond memories.
At the Eastern end of the Wimborne stretch there used to be a dead tree with cormorants in it, while fields further west held dandelion clocks that the children loved, views across the river where swans would glide by and then the vista of Canford School. I once cycled across the bridge at Canford Magna … only to fall off rather unceremoniously at the far end, much to the amusement of my children (once I indicated I was not hurt). As one nears the Western side of Wimborne, riverside fields are full of flowers with butterflies and moths with dragonflies floating overhead during the Summer months … all too easy to take these things for granted but recent years have certainly emphasised to us that this wonderful area to which we are granted access is a place of pure joy for those who linger and look.
A Fleeting Romance by Anonymous
She was beautiful to my eyes as a lovestruck 18-year old and she was the first girl that I kissed. Her distinctive blonde hair was a shade of blonde that picked her out so easily in the crowd and we found chatting so easy. We shared many happy times together both before and after that first kiss but it was in the end a short and innocent, if memorable romance.
On a Summer’s day we cycled out along Magna Road to to Canford Magna and crossed the bridge by the school, where we put down our bikes and laid down together in the field. In those days it was frequented by cows and in places there were thistles but it was a peaceful spot, where we could just sit and talk and only the occasional passer by wandered along the path. There we had our final kiss (although we didn’t know it then) and soon after we drifted apart but that spot will always remind me of that Summer and pleasant times.
Just a Boy by Lynne Vipond
Just a boy
Not even 10
Oh, how he loved the river
Our sad group watch
His ashes were reunited
Our Lovely boy
Goodbye dear Paul
Beating The Bounds with Mayor Anthony Oliver by Chris Brown All went well until we tried to row upstream on the Stour when it was in full flood! We encountered irate residents and fearful currents. It was a huge task and we abandoned ships to cross The Leaze to head for Deans Court as it looked a far safer option. The Militia and Mayor were in full regalia and costume so if we went in the water that would have been it!
Swimming Near The Willows by Gill Horitz A long time ago, maybe thirty years, our favourite river spot for picnics was on the far bank of the River Stour, the other side of Eye Bridge. From the bridge we’d look across the water meadows and imagine Vespasian’s army marching towards the river. To think his regiment, hundreds of soldiers, passed that way en route for Badbury! Then we’d turn right and walk along the far bank towards a small copse of silvery willows, leaves always rippling in the wind, flashing green to white; I wondered who had thought to plant them there, and why. We climbed down to a small stony beach and laid out our rug. We always felt a sense of being in our own world, hidden away.
After our picnic, we swam out to the far bank and felt the muddy silt of the riverbed soft and clingy, even slightly treacherous. I realise I knew almost nothing about the river, about the kind of fish or other creatures living in that world. We heard about poisons leaking into the river from farms and factories but somehow it didn’t seem possible. Whether it was safe to swim we didn’t know but the lure of the river landscape enticed us to visit that spot many times over the years until one year a fence barred our way and we were never able to walk that way again.
Walking the River by Peter Ferrett
Ever since I was a boy the rivers Stour and Allen have woven through my life. Pools where my children swam, fishing spots where I dreamed away boyhood summer days and endless walking along the banks, finding solace and joy in equal measure.
The same paths that we walk today for leisure were once important routes for people travelling on foot. They provided a guiding hand but I wonder if the rivers also provided those people with same gifts that we gleam from them.
When reading some of the history of the Minster I began to think about the journeymen Stone Masons of the nineteenth century who were drawn to the extensive restoration work after a century of neglect, much like Hardy’s Jude. Imagining myself to be one such man and being a song writer, I wrote the song “River run Deep” which hopefully will be added to this website.
My Stone Mason needs a chance of work but he also needs the river to guide him there. As he follows its flow the river becomes his companion and its gifts of self knowledge are revealed to him. I hope you enjoy it.
First Sighting by Barbara Hart I had never seen an otter in the wild. They are elusive creatures after all but otters were back in the rivers of Dorset and I kept looking as I crossed the rivers in Wimborne. There was interest in the town at the time because a young otter had been seen in the Allen with a cable tie around its neck. People were concerned that the tie would tighten as the otter grew and there were numerous sightings and efforts being made to save it. I kept looking.
One Saturday afternoon, crossing the bridge from Crown Mead we noticed some people looking down at the river. Curious, we stopped and joined them. My long wait for an otter sighting was well rewarded. There were three! We watched as they played in the water with no concern for the gathering crowd on the bridge above them. They dived and surfaced, making dashes up and down the river. The two younger ones chased each other while the larger animal stayed close to the river bank. We speculated that they were a watchful mother and her boisterous youngsters who were putting on a performance for us. The show lasted for at least ten minutes and my first and so far only otter sighting could not have been more memorable.
I’ve Always Loved Rivers by Tony Horitz During my childhood in Surrey, I remember my mum taking my brother Peter and I boating on the river Mole during the school holidays. There was something calming and reassuring, watching the river meandering along – a sharp contrast to our school-time which was fitful and regimented by two cane-wielding headteachers. Nothing stopped the river flowing. Years later, after I’d moved to Dorset, picnics on the Stour near Eye Bridge brought similar solace – this time from work. But we only discovered the joys of the little River Allen recently; walking towards High Hall from Wimborne last summer, on a beautifully warm, clear blue-skied day, we deviated by a creaking wooden bridge and scrambled through waist-high grasses down to the river bank. There, we dangled our feet in the shallow chalk stream, water spooling around our ankles, deliciously cool and refreshing. I spotted a gold-hooped dragon-fly, which I had just read about – they’re apparently quite rare. It was in a different league to the ubiquitous, much smaller, iridescent ones. While they flapped briefly before stopping for a rest by every reed – this gold-hooped whopper sped like a rocket, flying low above the centre of the stream, on a straight course towards…Walford Mill? Wimborne? Who knows. No resting up for him. To complete this delightful experience, after we’d gathered our belongings to go home, a large heron arose from the rushes upstream and soared above us, stopping for a moment, as if watching us, checking we were on our way.
Poem by Malcolm Povey Getting out of my car
at the Craft Centre,
the river a dark whisper
among weeds, trees.
Never explored it,
though saw otters on
video on the centre.
Due to the recent changes to government advice, this event has been cancelled. Although we have done a thorough risk assessment and planned for social distancing, we feel now is probably not the time for people to gather. We hope to reschedule it in the future when things return to something more like normality.
Watch this space.
So for the meantime, we are back online only!
Everybody has the opportunity to get involved in contributing to our next production in 2021.
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:
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
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. https://www.acta-bristol.com/seminar-keeping-stories-alive/
WCT is planning a site-specific community theatre production in 2021 performed in, on or near the Wimborne River Allen (one of the purest chalk streams in Europe) or the River Stour.
To launch the project we invite you to tell a Wimborne river story or memory to be shared with people from around the world in celebration ofWorld Rivers Day,on Sunday, September 27. Please use the form below and send to us.
We welcome stories from people of all ages, and family stories about a favourite place, or times spent fishing, swimming, bird watching, picnicking, reflecting or just walking by the river. What does being near the river mean to you?
If you prefer to remain anonymous, please state. Otherwise your name will be published alongside your memory on the WCT website.
Why WCT members are focusing on our local rivers for the next production:
We asked ourselves: how much do we know about the river? How often do we stop and look? Who does look, and why?
We talked about the beneficial sense we feel of being close to water, seeing birds and the wildlife of the river bank, of pausing to look, and of spending time close to nature, and the importance now of people thinking about ecological issues.
Members agreed that we would create a River production which:
Reveals – what lies beneath the familiarity of our locality, in terms of history and ecology and explore threats to the East Dorset environment, & ‘to open people eyes and ears’ through performance and sound. We will explore how people with visual impairments will be able to explore this, through touch and hearing.
Connects and Develops – an existing sense of community felt by many WCT members, that Wimborne town represents a ‘heart’ situated in an ancient location alongside the rivers, a place inhabited since Neolithic times – and to encourage involvement of people who may live outside ‘mainstream’ cultural activities.
Explores some of the following issues:
appearance of otters and how they bring joy to observers
the sounds and behaviour of fish
making what we notice and prioritise accessible through theatre
tensions and differences with regards changes to our environment
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