Drama in the Dale

Project run by Jack Drum Arts. Facilitator / Main Contact: Julie Ward

Project Description

A family friendly community theatre project designed to celebrate the landscape and history of Weardale in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Drama in the Dale started life as an Adult & Community Learning Fund project in 2011 which drew together a diverse range of people who live, work and play in the Dale.  The lack of participatory cultural opportunities had been noted by local residents, in particular young people, and a community play project was instigated as a way of crossing generational divides.  Approximately 50 people aged 7-70 took part in the initial production, “The Bonny Moorhen, which told the story of an iconic battle in which local leadminers rose up against the landowners to assert their right to hunt, catch and eat the wild game.  It was 1818, the Napoleonic wars had ended and the bottom had dropped out of the lead market.  Times were hard and the miners and their families were starving.  The Battle of Stanhope, as it was known, became a marker in British history, prefiguring the infamous Battle of Peterloo, however the story is largely unknown.  The production took place in a temporary theatre space built inside a barn, and was hugely popular, selling out over 3 nights and drawing audiences from hundreds of miles.

Project Report October 2013

The project is ongoing

After the initial production was finished the participants wanted to do more and so a community play association was constituted with a committee of local people who have continued to meet and generate new projects with the help of a Big Lottery social enterprise grant.  In June 2013 the group recreated “The Bonny Moorhen” as an outdoor promenade production on-site at Killhope Lead Mining Museum as part of Festival of the North East. Other projects have taken place in partnership with Beamish Open Air Museum, Bowburn Banner Group, Heritage Open Days and Escomb Saxon Church. The group has just been selected to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company as part of the Open Stages project.  It is interesting to note that many of the participants in “The Bonny Moorhen” were carers or people with mental health problems, including a military veteran suffering PSTD. Two participants provided case studies for the Harvard Educational Review in respect of ‘arts – opening the doors to a wider world’.

References and reference materials

As part of the funding conditions for our first version of “The Bonny Moorhen” it was incumbent on us to create useful resources for other groups who may wish to set up their own project. It is therefore possible to access and download a variety of documents as part of Drama in the Dale’s ‘Project in a Box’ at http://ditd.wikispaces.com/

Particularly useful docs/links may include: “The Bonny Moorhen” programme 2013 http://ditd.wikispaces.com/file/view/bonnymoorhen%20programme.pdf/343913440/bonnymoorhen%20programme.pdf

Case studies in Harvard Education Review – available online: http://dramadale.co.uk/harvard-educational-review/