The Festival of The Beck
This mammoth project for New Perspectives involved staging four different community plays in four neighbouring villages with four different casts on four successive weekends. The plays all took place in villages in north Nottinghamshire.
As well as being our biggest challenge to date it also allowed us to really witness the impact that the work was capable of having as what began as a simple idea really did escalate into a summer of endeavour and participation from huge numbers of villagers.
We fought off ducks, tested a moat, climbed numerous church towers, paddled, hollered, let off pyrotechnics, photocopied thousands of pages of scripts, made a dead sparrow and raised many a glass in many a toast.
There were one hundred and forty-eight people in the four shows and countless others who helped in other ways – mums and dads sorting out costumes, people who lent props, those who mowed fields, brought bales of hay and tidied paths; two teams of bell ringers who filled the villages with peals (on cue!) and over a thousand who came to the plays as audience members.
The plays were :
It’s 1944 and Mr Winston Churchill has sent his crack team of Patriotic Players to Eakring to bolster morale now that it finds itself a possible bombing target of the Luftwaffe. With a mixture of comedy, film, music and special effects, the team rattle through the most exciting moments of the village’s history. The church becomes filled with great rectors of old; the village hall is turned into a cinema; and the local schoolchildren stage a play about William Mompesson. But whatever you do, don’t mention the oil!
Eakring’s first ever community play was a witty and energetic celebration of its heritage and the moment when Eakring became the war’s best-kept secret. We made a trio of films for the project, with history book in hand but tongue in cheek…
‘This evening we are here to tell you the story of a Nottinghamshire village not unlike this one. In fact it’s very much like this one. Because it is this one…’
With a total population of sixty two and the smallest pub in the county our Magnificent Maplebeck Caper was a romp through the history of a place where we could discover very little (if anything) of note. But no matter. From the Vikings to today – via the Domesday Book, the Crusades and the installation of the village phone box, we left no stone unturned as we tried to answer the big questions: What makes Maplebeck, Maplebeck? Is it true that the village was lost in a game of cards? Where did all the farms go? And how on earth did a landlord that enormous fit inside a pub that small?
The third show took place in Norwell, and things were becoming more and more ambitious.
‘Hillary Hubble, a dusty historical lecturer, has arrived to give a talk about Norwell’s medieval past and her love of prebends – but revolt is stirring amongst the village’s oldest inhabitants – the gargoyles! When the grotesque carvings start to heckle and jeer Ms Hubble realises that she knows little about the real history of the village – the stories of the people who have lived there and the things they have got up to over the years. Join Hubble in a quest to find the true heart and soul of the village and find out about the things that never make it into the history books!’
A performance that ended with the audience sitting on piles of hay bales in the middle of a moated field.
“He who would have beautiful Roses in his garden must have beautiful Roses in his heart.” So begins Dean Hole’s celebrated A Book About Roses, one of the most formidable publishing successes of Victorian England. And Caunton was home to the great man: an immensely popular preacher, friend of the greatest writers of the day and known throughout the land as The Rose King.
He Had Roses In His Heart was the story of a friendship between a simple gardener and Caunton’s most famous son. Combining local tales of murder, merriment and manure it attracted a huge audience as we wended our way through the village and scenes took place in brooks, amidst gravestones, on the back of tractors, in the grounds of a magnificent house and culminating in the church where rose petals fell from the sky and a choir brought the series of shows to a beautiful conclusion.