My Dearest Girls…The Letters Book.
In development with Arts Alive Rural Touring and Shropshire Archives, with the support of Pentabus.
This duo of performances is based on the real letters sent between a group of six young women between 1917-1920. Connected by schooling together in Bridgnorth, Shropshire they keep in contact through round robin letters addressed to all, sent bundle by bundle, each women adding her reply to the last and sending them on. Against the background of War, through the years, across county and town, through work and strife and changes of address these women write to each other. One of these women hand copies each letter out in to a book, saving their words.
‘My Dearest Girls,
I’m very glad to hear that everyone is in such good spirits. Here’s to all of us, may we never want nowt, not me, not thee. Alas the philosophers name has slipped my memory and I cannot lay claim to being a poet or anything of the sort.’
These are tales of everyday life; of life as a farmer’s wife, as a farmer’s daughter, as a nurse, an office worker, a carpet factory worker and a dance teacher (yes a dance teacher). There is gossip and hint of scandal, reprimands and reprisals, tales of dancing for royalty, skating in the moonlight, fiancés on the frontline and how to feed 100 chickens while on rations. These are the words of the women as they wrote them, telling their stories to their friends, a snapshot of lives continued to be lived as men fall, prices rise and hope is longed for.
There are two versions of this:
This is a short 30 minute storytelling piece. Flexible and easily tourable it is suitable for festivals and events with an option of up to three performances a day.
Focussing on one of the girls letters, Helen of Brockton, Much Wenlock, this will draw on agricultural themes, women working on the land, the impact of the war on family and farm, locality and Helen’s wait for news from The Front.
This version was workshopped at Pentabus in Autum 2013, and has been touring throughout Shropshire and beyond in 2014 including Shrewsbury Folk Festival, The Edge Storytelling Festival, Attingham Park, as part of Fun Palaces day at Pentabus, Preston and Burnley Libraries and as part of a charity event in aid of the Jon Hayward Trust (Helen’s Grandson). It will continue to tour country wide until 2018.
My Dearest Girls: The Letters Book
A full length performance running at 90 minutes, including interval, suitable for rural touring networks and arts centers regionally and nationally.
By combining character, music hall and folk influenced song and lyrical story telling, I invite you to meet, hear and imagine yourselves within the lives and friendships of these girls. The girls talk to the audience directly in their own words, sometimes in letters, sometimes in song (they like to sing), sometimes I fill in the gaps as the audience see these young women at work (and at play) across country, town and country as their friendships evolve, history happens and the war begins to draw to a close. There are tales of husbands and fiance’s, walks by canals and in parks, dancing in knightsbridge, and how to get the most out of your rations.
This piece was developed with director Terina Talbot, musician Phill Ward and designer Claire Browne.
This was previewed in November this year at Habberly Village Hall, Trefenon Village Hall and Wem Town Hall. There is a review by Chris Eldon Lee here
My Dearest Girls: The Letters Book & My Dearest Girls: Helen’s Story are available for until 2018. For further details and tour booking please contact myself firstname.lastname@example.org, or Pippa Frith on email@example.com.
You can read further background as to this project’s origin here.
All images © Tom Middleton Shropshire Media Network