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/
Members of WCT are busy walking around and looking at our local rivers – the Stour and the Allen. This is part of a creative process to stimulate ideas work for our new river project, which we hope to realise in 2021. You can find their poems and films on a new private Facebook page: WCT Creative Thinking – a place to post ideas, thoughts, reflections, news, photos, relating to the project Get in touch to get linked!
Chris, who died recently, was an invaluable part of Wimborne Community Theatre for 25 years and will be greatly missed by us all. She performed in many of our productions, sometimes with her children, Ben and Ellie, bringing enthusiasm, ideas and creative energy to everything she undertook. She played a variety of roles from an Elizabethan commissioner in By Hook or By Crook, a Wimborne mother welcoming evacuees in Mrs J Puts out her Bunting, to an all-seeing bossy housekeeper in Enquire Within. In the Millennium play The Quarterjack’s Challenge she was the audience’s favourite, voted Wimborne Worthy of Worthies with her portrayal of Alicia Payntere, the wise woman of Cowgrove.
Chris was involved in every aspect of WCT – she was great fun at workshops and rehearsals and a willing volunteer backstage and with fundraising. She and Frank most recently compiled an intriguing town trail for our summer fundraising event and provided vital backstage support in our productions ByTheWay and Echoes of the Past. Always supportive but never afraid to give constructive criticism, her positive attitude and vitality will long be remembered and treasured by her friends at Wimborne Community Theatre.
The Bare Bones, 2003
Grist to the Mill, 2005
Mrs J Puts Out Her Bunting, 1995.
Chris 2nd from left
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
During lockdown, WCT members have been working collaboratively online.
On Sunday, 24 May, members took part in a commemorative reading of the original production Mrs J Puts Out Her Bunting, devised by Wimborne Community Theatre in 1995 as part of Wimborne’s VE Commemorations, and performed in the Cornmarket, Wimborne.
The reading was dedicated to Chris Dowdle, who sadly died recently after a long illness. Chris had been a supportive member of the group for many years, and performed in the original Mrs J Puts Out Her Bunting.
We gathered together 10 people who were in the original production (some who were then children), who joined more recent members for the reading on Zoom.
We were thrilled to welcome back the following who were in the original production: Jessica Billington, Sammy Boyle, Sharon Muiruri, Adrian and Lynnet Williams, Julie Gooder
The play, set in 1945, tells of the stoical heroism of an ordinary woman, Mrs J, who represents the quiet spirit of British resolve and determination during that time. The show was developed by Wimborne Community Theatre members from research using poems, speeches, songs and local stories woven together with a Daily Sketch story from May 1945.
Future Plans: Plans for WCT’s involvement in the re-opening of Priest’s House Museum have been postponed, although we hope to perform at the opening ceremony in the Autumn. Further information will follow.