"A Grand Day Out or Mr Dewey Takes Charge"

A community drama inspired by the people of Bottesford and Muston

By Neil Fortey and Julia Tobin

The Living History Drama ‘Event’ was performed in the afternoon of Sunday May 4th, following many months of preparation. This was May Day weekend, and the drama came after the annual Fun Run, this year on the Sunday morning, and the May Day Gala itself which took place on Monday the 5th. Unlike in 2007, the weather was warm, the perfect spring days.

Publicity had been provided by means of a leaflet created by Bob Sparham which was distributed along with the Village Voice, whose assistance is gratefully acknowledged. In addition, BBC local radio stations broadcast an interview by Steve Beech of Radio Nottingham with Julia Tobin, David McCormack, Robin Stapleford, Neil Fortey and the manageress of the Bull, which we are told was heard by some 350,000 people – it’s a good job they didn’t all turn up for the play itself! Catch the broadcast on BBC Radio Nottingham Breakfast Show for May 2nd on their website iPlayer.

Audience numbers had to be limited, not least by the small size of the Fuller Room and Baptist Chapel meeting room.  However, we took full advantage of the grant funds to employ professional film makers John Ross and Amanda Smith to create a documentary of the event, as a DVD which is eagerly awaited.

Filming included the dress rehearsal on May 3rd and interviews with project members. Then on the 4th at 2 p.m. the audience of over 100 people, together with actors, marshals and camera crew, packed into the Fuller Room, dressed up like a 1950s schoolroom, for the start of the live performance. More than 40 volunteer actors, aged from 5 to 70, including Dave McCormack, all the way from Hinckley, Rev. Robin Stapleford and Jules herself, portrayed the scenes and memories from Bottesford and Muston’s past, ably assisted by Circle Up Drama Group, the Ann Gibbons School of Dance, and a blessing from our Rector along the way. In the play, Mr Dewey, aided by Miss Walker and Mrs Logg, gave a lesson in The Three R’s, then led the class via Fleming’s Bridge and the Rectory ford, stopping to hear the stories of folk met along the way. Bill Roberts had the novel experience of watching a portrayal of himself water diving in his paddock. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy made a guest appearance, after many year’s absence, regaling the audience at the Bull. Everyone consumed excellent tea and scones in the old school dining room (Baptist Chapel) served by Mrs Tinkley and Mrs Parnham . Top marks all round, and a big thank you to all who helped and took part.

The drama took the form of a series of short plays that were performed at appropriate locations around the village centre. The plays are based on stories told to us by village people, notably Peter Topps, Lol Pickin, Jill Bagnall, David Wright, John Simpson and Bill Roberts, to whom the writers are greatly endebted. The Laurel and Hardy piece was created by David McCormack from his knowledge and affection for the comedians, and stories and pictures from local people who were present when they stayed with Stan’s sister Olga Healey at the Bull in the winter of 1952/3.

The sequence of plays was as follows, which is slightly different from that advertised in the project leaflet.

1. Sixpence on the Cricket Stumps, Bottesford Church of England School in the Fuller Room, “Lino cuts and skipping songs”

2. The Cricket Team by Val Woolley at the Red Lion Public House. “We can get the whole team in”

3. The May Dance on the Rectory Lawn “Not too much thinking about sums and sentences, it’s all songs and swirling skirts”

4. Fishing with a Timeline by David McCormack at the approach to the Church by Flemings Bridge. “Where’s it all gone?”

5. Tales and Ale by Sue Mackrell in front of the Church “He was a real character. They broke the mould after they made him.”

6. The Water Diviner by Julia Tobin in Mr Roberts’ Field (formerly the Rectory Orchard) “This land shares its secrets with me, with a voice that whispers water”

7. A Fine Mess at the Bull by David McCormack at the Bull Inn “Let’s put our heads together so we can forge ahead”

8. Light Refreshments and Conversation In the Baptist Church “The¬†School Dining Hall”

All agreed that the drama was a great success, not just as a piece of community theatre but also as a genuine exercise in bringing local history to life. It took a great deal of hard work, and there was the potential for so many things to go wrong. But in the event all was well, and the project can look back on a notable achievement that repays our funders’ faith in our community and its project.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank and acknowledge the support of the Nationwide Building Society who provided the generous grant that has allowed us to create this piece of community theatre: also the Heritage Lottery Fund who fund the project and MLA East Midlands who funded the establishment of our website: also Bottesford Parish Council, Bottesford Youth Club and Bottesford Baptist Chapel who let us use and temporarily redecorate their premises. We are also grateful to the New Leaf Events Team, who turned the Fuller Room into something like the school room of old, and the film makers, John Ross and Amanda Smith and Gwen (sorry Gwen, I never caught your surname). First Aid cover was provided by members of Belvoir First Aid, a charitable organisation based in the Vale of Belvoir.

This page was added on 06/05/2008.

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