Echoes of Wartime

Community-based theatre with a WW1 theme, with opportunities both for local researchers and performers.

Thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the arts charity Common Players is making theatre with the community in and around Crediton as part of Crediton Festival this summer 2015.

For local people there are opportunities to get involved, from bringing forward stories of real men and women for possible inclusion to being part of a team of actors who will present them as part of Crediton Festival this summer. The first rehearsal session is on Monday April 13th 7-9pm, in the Old Town Hall in the High Street.

What are we doing?

Through a programme of workshops with local volunteer actors, we will re-create stories and characters based on the research of local historians Keith Parsons and Len Darling and with the help of by Penstone-based writer Mary Stephenson. These will be presented during the Crediton Festival both as street theatre and on the main stage in the town square.

In addition, the grant will enable the stories, with accompanying pictures and documents, to be digitised and exchanged between pupils at Queen Elizabeth school and pupils at schools in Avranches, France, and Fulda in Germany, and to encourage those schools to return similar stories of their own relatives and townsfolk from the same period. It is hoped that this exchange of heritage material will increase mutual respect and understanding as well as improve language skills. An exhibition of the project will be on show at the Museum later in the year.

Common Players Director, Anthony Richards, said. “We’re delighted to be awarded this Heritage Lottery Fund grant. It comes of course from the payments which ordinary people make every week on the national lottery, and it seems fitting that we will use these funds to commemorate the extraordinary lives and the sacrifices made by ordinary people when we were at war 100 years ago."

The project’s Producer, Rod Brookes-Hocking, added, “With local Crediton and area historians we have been discovering some truly memorable stories, and not just of soldiers, but also of women at that time of the suffragettes, of agricultural labourers, of ordinary Crediton citizens.

We’ve also been very encouraged by the links we’re developing in Avranches in France and Fulda in Germany. In time we think there could even emerge a three-town, three-nation project with EU support, but right now we’re very focussed on our local Crediton heritage and new ways of communicating it”

Getting involved as a source of stories:

We are particularly interested in any information people may have about how women from the Crediton area were affected during World War 1. Were they involved in the Suffragette movement and frustrated by the agreement to put their cause on the back burner? Did they enlist with the Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses? When war ended did they have to give up their job for a man?

How were farms around Crediton affected? Did they lose horses to the war? Did women take over the role of farm workers? Were they perhaps made homeless because their farm worker husband had been called up and lost the cottage tied to his farm job?

Did anyone in your family sit on a tribunal deciding who should be sent to war?

We would really like to hear from anyone who knows of any conscientious objectors from the Crediton area. What was their war like? Were they shunned by their friends, given a white feather? What was it like to go through the Tribunal process in order to become a conscientious objector.

Even general information is useful; how did people around Crediton feed themselves, did they starve? Were there still doctors and nurses locally to treat the sick or were they all too busy treating injured servicemen?

There are Crediton characters from that time we are keen to learn more about such as Amy Montague, wife of Colonel Montague, who lived at Penton House and was Secretary to the Exeter Women's Suffrage Movement. Then there is the feisty Minnie Berry of 7 Queen's Place, East Street, Crediton. Married to Samuel Ware, Minnie was outraged when she discovered her 14 year old son Charles had enlisted. No doubt much to his embarrassment, she had him withdrawn from the army. A year later, at 15, he signed up again and this time she enlisted the help of her MP and appealed to the War Office to have him returned. Does anyone know about the visit Rupert Brooke made to Crediton in 1911 to visit friends at Penton House. Did he return before going off to war?

If you think you have any information that might be of interest to the Crediton History Society and even used in Echoes of Wartime, we'd love to hear from you. Please email the writer Mary Stephenson.

Getting involved as a performer:

We're creating a new group, made up from students at QE and adults. Would you like to join in?

The project will give participants training and experience in improvised performance based on a researched character or two. It’s a great way to develop role play and improvisation skills.

The company will learn about interactive street theatre techniques, "Hotseating" and "Forum Theatre" wherein characters are put under pressure to reveal their motives and alternative ways for the story to play out are explored.

Directed by Anthony Richards of Common Players, The first session is free and thereafter it will cost participants £20 for the whole journey.

All are welcome to the first session regardless of experience. After this session you can choose to commit to the whole journey, and the timetable is below.

Rehearsals will be in The Old Town Hall, High Street, Crediton.

Mon April 13th 7-9 First open taster session (signup following this)
Mon April 20th 7-9 Impro and Forum Theatre
Mon April 27th 7-9 Introduce historical material to forum ideas
Sun May 10th 2-5 Work with historical material
Sun May 17th 2-5 Build a dramatic shape
Mon May18th 7-10 Refine a dramatic shape
Sun 31st May 2-5 Rehearsal
Sun 7th June 10-5 Rehearsal
Thurs 11th June 7-10 Rehearsal
Friday 12th June 7-10 Rehearsal

Sat June 13th Street performances at the opening of Crediton festival
Sun June 14th Forum theatre to be shared with Avranches and Fulda
Sat June 20th Street and forum theatre show presented in the Town Square.

There will be no lines to learn and lots of improvising to do.

If you are interested in coming along, or want to know more please contact Anthony Richards 

6 April 2015