The Battle of Stanhope

I had a meeting with Helen Ward of Jack Drum arts about a new project they plan to run. This will be a community play based on the story of a riot that took place in 1818 in Stanhope, Weardale. The project is Supported by the Adult & Community Learning Fund (ACLF) through the Skills Funding Agency (SFA). There will be workshops aimed at family learning on all aspects of the production. My part would be to introduce a digital dimension to the project. The issue is the civic unrest of 1818 and the plan is to seek to draw a creative cluster around this issue. It therefore, seems that this is an appropriate project for me to feed into the AHRC Creative Clusters project. Below is a fuller description of the project.

1818 may be the closest we’ve ever come to a revolution in Britain, due to a famous riot in a pub in Weardale! “The Battle of Stanhope” as the event has come to be known, took place on December 7th, when starving lead miners and their families stood up for their rights against the Prince Bishop. It was a hard time for the local population as the end of the Napoleonic Wars had seen a drop in demand for bullets. With little work and no state benefits to buffer them against a hard winter, the miners took to poaching on the Bishop’s hunting grounds in greater numbers than usual. The Bishop was furious, and the local landowners and magistrates responded in military style, requesting that the government send troops to root out possible revolutionaries.

Documents from the period are housed in the County Record Office and available for public viewing. They clearly show how every story has two sides. Whilst Lord Darlington describes the poachers as a lawless “Set of Ruffians”, others perceived of them as “laborious and industrious” in a “ragged and starving condition” with only rye bread, coffee and tea for sustenance.

You can make up your own mind by going to see a musical play which tells the whole story. “The Bonny Moorhen” is an award-winning script commissioned by local group Jack Drum Arts, and based on a ballad of the same name. Written by celebrated singer-songwriter Jim Woodland, the play is being performed by members of the local community working in collaboration with professional artists, in a purpose-built theatre inside an agricultural shed on Stanhope Showground. It is an ambitious project which has received support from the Weardale Area Action Partnership along with £66,000 from the government’s Adult and Community Learning Fund via the Skills Funding Agency. Killhope Leadmining Museum is also involved alongside Daleforce, a ‘Cultural Olympiad’ project which aims to improve access to cultural activities for young people in the lead up to and beyond the 2012 Olympics.

Steering Panel

I have agreed to join the steering panel for the project and tonight we met for the first time at the Emerald Nursery in Frosterley which is the charming former railway station. I met several people for the first time who all have different roles to play in the project. [EDIT The steering panel were to meet at this location throughout the project and beyond. ] I agreed to set up a production website to assist the project development and also an e-list to facilitate communication between the panel members and also to communicate with would be participants.  For the task of creating the production website I chose to use “Google Sites” for the functionality of document uploads and event planning it offered. This placed functionality over design which was fine.

To kick start the process of recruiting participants we have decided to run some workshops at the end of the month. I will produce something to promote the digital aspect of the project.

Adventures in Weardale

We arrived at the wonderful Wearhead Primary School on a lovely sunny day. We had a smallish number pass through our workshops. The next workshop at Wolsingham school was better attended and people participated in the drama and music workshop. With these workshops being so far from my home I stayed overnight in Blanchland. This is quite close to where I grew up so my parents came to visit. My mother reminded me that my Grandmothers family came from Blanchland and were landed gentry at Newbiggin Hall until the lands reverted to the crown when the male line died out – perhaps more on that later. On day two we travelled to the 3rd workshop in Stanhope quite close to the Bonnie Moorhen itself. Click on the “more” link to see all the images.

Click here to see all the images in this gallery

New Project Plan

Document has been updated and uploaded to the documents store

Communication

A new email list has been created for people interested in this production. If you would like to be on it contact s.d.thompson@tees.ac.uk – there is also a sub-list for the Steering Panel.

Udate From Adam

When I first had the opportunity to be on the steering group of the project, I took the chance to join but didn’t know what to expect.  Then I began to learn more about the idea of a community play and how much it can do to bring the community together in a way that has never been done before.  The reason I find doing this so appealing is the fact that this is such a big thing for the Dale.  It’s a great opportunity to have so many people, doing so many different things.  I have always loved drama and have tried a few times to do things to help keep it happening in the Dale.  Then this project came along and I couldn’t wait to be involved.  Even going to the meetings to help decide what happens next is exciting!  Now that the workshops have begun the play will really start to take shape. “The Bonny Moorhen” is the perfect play to be performed in the Dale.  It’s about our lead mining past and how the miners stood up for their rights when times were hard.  It demonstrates the power of what we can do together.  I’m not saying we should start a riot like they did but we can put on a great show together!  To make the project a success we need all the support we can get, even down to the smallest jobs you can think of doing.  Whatever you can do will be a big help!   There will be workshops taking place in November and December, advertised in many shops and public places in the Dale, and then the big push in the New Year to get the play rehearsed and the set and costumes made.  You can visit the website at www.dramadale.co.uk for up to date information or telephone the project co-ordinator Julie Ward on 01388 765002.  AND please do check out this blog to get a feel for what it’s all about. http://j.mp/oUDWhP

[editors note] Adam lives in Frosterley and goes to Wolsingham Comprehensive.  He attends Jack Drum Arts’ youth theatre sessions as well as helping and working with other community organisations in the Dale such as Daleforce.

Venue Confirmed

“The Bonny Moorhen” by Jim Woodland, directed by Paddy Burton, designed by Joseph Robson with musical direction by Duncan Brown & Steve Robson, produced by Jack Drum ArtsPerformances at Stanhope Showground, Unthank Park, Stanhope, Weardale, March  22nd, 23rd & 24th 2012

Supported by the Adult and Community Learning Fund (via the Skills Funding Agency), Weardale Area Action Partnership, Durham County Council, Bishop Auckland College, Wolsingham School, Teesside University & Daleforce

Dec 7th – Anniversary of the Battle of Stanhope

Wednesday Dec 7th will be the 193rd anniversary of the Battle of Stanhope! We would like to organise a re-enactment of the event with lots of people in costume as a means of both celebrating the trials and tribulations of ordinary people who rise up against the establishment in extraordinary circumstances AND as a means of getting the press on board. We hope for a bit of telly coverage. If anyone has any ideas or wants to help please contact me julie@jackdrum.co.uk 01388765002 (Steve Robson of Stanhope Silver Band has already said he is getting dressed up!)

Visit by Award-winning Playwright

Jim Woodland, the award-winning playwright who wrote the script for “The Bonny Moorhen” will be coming along to our first drama session at St Thomas’ Church Hall on Sun Nov 13th. He will be giving a synopsis of the story and a run-down of the characters in the play as well as workshopping ideas for a new ending to the play. We will also be doing a impro session looking at how the characters would behave if they were alive today! Session runs from 2-5pm and all are welcome as we will have some fun making activities going on simultaneously. NB – We have some money for transport and child-care if anyone needs it!

Dec 7th – Anniversary of the Battle of Stanhope

Wednesday Dec 7th will be the 193rd anniversary of the Battle of Stanhope! We would like to organise a re-enactment of the event with lots of people in costume as a means of both celebrating the trials and tribulations of ordinary people who rise up against the establishment in extraordinary circumstances AND as a means of getting the press on board. We hope for a bit of telly coverage. If anyone has any ideas or wants to help please contact me julie@jackdrum.co.uk 01388765002 (Steve Robson of Stanhope Silver Band has already said he is getting dressed up!)

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