Village Voices - Last Performance at
Village Voices - The Last Night!
On Friday 28th October a group of "Doxeyites" made their
way up to Marsden, near Huddersfield, to attend the last night of "Village Voices"
Those going included the Smith family, the Essex family,
Iain and Barbara Simpson with John and Pat Perks, Geoff and Rachel Moore, Owen and Sarah Moody
(nee Jessop), and Stephen and Joan Moore. There were not enough people who indicated that they
could go to hire a minibus, and most of the families had actually planned to stay overnight, so
travelling was done by car, and a variety of routes were followed. Iain and Barbara, with Pat
and John, took the opportunity to have a long day out to see some scenery, and also visit
Holmfirth, which is the setting for many of the "Last of the Summer Wine" programmes. Others
also did some sight-seeing en route, either to or from Marsden. We all agreed that it is a very
attractive small town, and were most impressed by the high standard of the facilities at the
Mechanics Institute, where the performance took place.
The rest of the account is from my point of view
We parked nearby and called first at the office of the
Mechanics Institute to collect and pay for our tickets. There we were delighted to renew
acquaintance with Lynn and to meet Rob, Ellen and Rebekah again. Later we went to the "Royal
Swan" for a cup of tea as all the cafes were closed, and were joined there by the Smith family,
who were in similar need. A drive out to look at the moors, en route to finding the famous
Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, and a walk nearby were also pleasant,
especially as we met up with the Smiths again, and with Laura Sydonie. She was going off to
Turkey to do some teaching next day (evening) and has a part in a touring version of "Rent A
Ghost" as Hazel McWitch, (Jan to June and possibly longer if things go well!). We will look out
for it as it might be performed locally next year. Rob is being a clown in a panto at
Huddersfield, and Dan and Ellen both have things in the pipeline too, which is very good. Not
sure if and when any of them will be with Mikron again, but it could well happen. There was
just about time for us to have a scramble up by the end of the tunnel which was not then open,
(and neither was the nearby Interpretation Centre) before we needed to get back for a
pre-performance meal at Mozzarellas pizzeria in Peel Street, Marsden.
To quote/paraphrase from the website re the tunnel:
Standedge the longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel in the country, is on the Huddersfield
Narrow Canal, and is nearly three and a half miles long. It took 16 years to build at
considerable loss of life, and the final section was overseen by Thomas Telford in
1811. The tunnel is 645
feet above sea level, and burrows 638 feet underneath the Pennines.
In 1948 Tom Rolt and Robert Aickman, founders of the
Inland Waterways Association, took a boat along the abandoned Huddersfield Narrow Canal. They
were the last people to boat through Standedge Tunnel for more than 50 years
The Campaign to restore the Canal began in
1974 but took many years
to achieve so the reopening was not until 1st May
2001. There is a free Historical Interpretation Centre. Boat
trips through the tunnel are available during the season at weekends only
When we got back into Marsden we decided to have a meal
at Mozzarellas, very near the Mechanics Institute, and were fortunate in getting one of the
last unreserved tables at what was obviously a popular place. We were amused to see that Mike
and company arrived to take up their places a little later - they had obviously booked ahead.
At about 7.20 pm Lynn had to rush off fairly smartly to see to front of house, and Mike was not
far behind (the performance was due to start at eight).. As we had already collected our
tickets we could by-pass the queue of people paying for tickets reserved earlier. Lynn was
especially pleased that all but seven tickets had been sold, at £7 full price, or £5
concessions. There would probably have been quite a lot of those!
We were delighted to find that seats had been reserved
for us, in strategic places so as to command a good view (we were actually on the front row and
I have kept the "Reserve" notices!) Tribute was paid to our role in enabling the production to
go ahead, and also enabling Mikron to find funding for other projects. Their financial
situation continues to be precarious, especially as the Arts Council North have indicated that
the usual grant may not be forthcoming next year, though negotiations are taking place which it
is hoped will lead to a successful compromise.
When the play began it was odd to hear again the familiar
lines and the Doxey references when we were so far away from the source & even odder than
at Norbury Junction as that was only a few miles away from Stafford. The play seemed to be very
well received, and the audience obviously were pleased to have us among them for the occasion.
There was the usual break for refreshments, during which Iain took some photos. Geoff had his
camera out, too, so no doubt there will be more available Later we were also asked to take the
raffle tickets out of the hat (led by Freddie and William Essex)! Most of the prizes were
donated by local businesses, so winning might have been a little awkward, but we didn't do
Before that excitement, but after the performance, there
were speeches by members of the Committee and presentations of pictures to Mike Lucas, who is
standing down from Mikron, together with Lynn, though he will be available on a freelance
basis. Richard Povall will be taking over, with Peter Noon (still only 25 years old) as
second-in-command. Unfortunately Richard's condition has deteriorated somewhat, and he could
hardly trust himself to speak on such an emotional occasion, but we hope that things will work
out better in future for him. The next day the cast would all be together to perform some of
the Mikron songs, including three from "Village Voices" for a new DVD to be released shortly.
We were not able to be present on that occasion, but there were several representatives from
the Doxey Community Association who were, which was very good. Joan rang to say how much she
had enjoyed it, though it was highly emotionally charged and it was a fitting end to our
association with Mikron - at least for 2005. No doubt we will meet again in 2006, if Mikron are
able to overcome their financial problems and put a show, or shows on the road.
June 11th - The Mikron Version
On Saturday 11th June, another capacity audience of over 170 thoroughly enjoyed themselves
as Mikron returned to Doxey for the 'World Premier' of the touring version of Village
Voices. The four actors - Ellen Callender, Laura Sydonie, Daniel Wexler and Robert Took
performed the play which retained much of the original script. The new unifying concept is the
trials and tribulations of a Doxey girl who returns with a friend to run the local Post Office.
The play incorporates more local references obtained when the author Richard Povall spent time
with us earlier in the year. The original songs are retained (almost unchanged) and some new
ones are included.
All those involved in the original performance can feel pleased and proud that the
co-operation between Doxey and Mikron has produced such an entertaining production.
The other play in Mikron's repertoire is the The Wheel of Fortune celebrating the building of
the Scottish canal system. The two plays will be performed when Mikron returns to the area in
August with performances in Gnosall (22nd), Norbury(23rd) and Woodseaves (24th). Further
details from Mikron (01484 843701)
Doxey picture in foyer.
(as displayed in Culturegen tent
at Staffordshire Show)
Finale of show
at the interval
Traditional Doxey cakes
click on small images to
April 30th / May 1st - Doxey Did It !
(with a lot of help from our
After months of hard work by all
involved, Doxey Church was filled to capacity as over 350 people from Doxey, Stafford and beyond
watched the two performances of Village Voices.
On Saturday evening we had to
turn away late comers as every seat was taken and on Sunday afternoon there were only about 10 empty
The thirty Doxey-based actors, singers
and musicians were joined by 8 Mikron professionals to produce over an hour of music action and
comedy telling a story of Doxey since the war. Many of the episodes were (loosely) based on real
people and events and the audiences appreciated many of the references. The overall project was
managed by Mike Lucas of Mikron and the DCA steering committee under the leadership of Joan Moore.
The play was written by Richard Povall of Mikron. Richard Perry's experience was invaluable as Stage
Manager. Many other people participated in the project in other ways (see programme
Before the main event there was a
enthusiastic performance by the local Rap group ST16.
After the performance the Mikron
participants were entertained with a alternative version of the 'Swing Universal' song and John
Smith presented Joan Moore with an inscribed ode in appreciation of her
We look forward to seeing Mikron's own
version on June 11th.
for further photographs.
2nd - Acting Workshop
Wednesday 2nd March 2005:
First Acting Workshops run by Rob Took and Laura Sydonie (with Mike Lucas and Richard Povall
Actors included (children) Sophie Tasker, Freddie and William Essex
(Adults) Alison Cordon, Val D'Arcy, Laura Day, Kirstie Higgs, Mary Pickard, Jane Essex, Anita
Sumner, Terry Williams and Tungu Muzangaza
Joined by Joan & Stephen Moore, Barbara Simpson, Denise Peel (costumes) Alice Paton Rachel
Costley John Smith and Stephen (video)
Click on photo for larger picture
Feb 10th - Village
Voices moves up a gear
Mikron Theatre Company's
writing team went home yesterday with their heads buzzing with Doxey. They had just spent a hectic
forty-eight hours in the village listening to a range of Doxey residents tell stories about the life
and times of Doxey in the last 100 years. Many of these were from personal memories.
Said Richard Povall, chief
writer for this project, "We have surely enough stories to write several plays based on Doxey. And
the good thing is that there is something in all of them which will resonate with audiences across
This fact-finding expedition, which started last Monday lunch-time, is the latest phase in the Doxey
project to create a play, based on the village of Doxey and produced largely by Doxey people. It
means that the writing should be on target for the first phase of rehearsals, which start in
The group which is making a
video record of the whole project has had several meetings and learning of the necessary skills has
begun. Other groups which have met for the first time this week or are about to work are: lighting;
set-building; costume; music and graphics/publicity. Although the total number of people involved in
these groups exceeds 70, there is still room for more people to join.
People would be
particularly welcome to join the music and acting groups. At the moment, the emphasis in the music
group is in exploring ideas together and having some fun. The acting group has yet to meet, but it
has to be stressed that the important thing is enthusiasm. There will be strong support from Mikron,
the professional theatre company working with the project, and players of all ages, both female and
male will be needed.
In all of the groups
working toward the production there is talk of laying the foundations for activities beyond the
Village Voices project.
Mikron will be back in
Doxey on 22 February for more research and, on Thursday, 24 February, they will be meeting the
combined membership of all the activity groups to plan the further stages of the
at the Sutton Centre,
Sutton Drive, Doxey at 7.00 p.m.
The play will be performed
in Doxey on
Saturday, 30 April 2005 at 7.30
Sunday, 1 May 2005 at 3.30 p.m.
both in the hall of St Thomas' and St Andrew's
Following this production,
the Mikron writers will rework the play to be performed by its own company of four actor/musicians.
The world premiere of this version will be performed in Doxey on
Saturday, 11 June at 7.30 p.m in the hall of St Thomas' and
St Andrew's Church, Doxey
Following this, the play will become one of the two
plays in the Mikron repertoire for its tour of England and Scotland in the summer and autumn of
2005. The play has already been booked for several venues.
Feb 5th 2005 - Village Voices - Background
(press release from
- Staffordshire community initiative wins Arts Council
- Local people will learn theatre skills and put on a
play about their community
- A national theatre company is involved
- Project to contribute to revitalising of the local
Doxey is a small community on the edge of
Stafford. It is separated from Stafford by half a mile of undeveloped land. Bounded by the main
railway line from London to Glasgow, the M6 motorway and the track of a disused railway it is self
contained. It has many of the features of a village and is often referred to as such. Only about
half of the area of Doxey is developed. The rest is made up of play areas, scrub and
Since 1996 Doxey has had a community
association which seeks to promote the well-being of the people of Doxey in a variety of ways;
either supporting actions by other organisations or by organising its own events. In 1998 it began
its campaign to secure parish status for the village and last year the Office of the Deputy Primer
Minister announced that a parish council of Doxey would come into being in 2005. Election of the
councillors will take place in May.
A major activity of Doxey Community
Association (DCA) has been its involvement in the Mikron touring theatre group, based in Marsden,
West Yorkshire. The company has four actors/musicians, two writers, a musical director and an
administrator. During their tours they use a 70 ft. narrow boat as their base. Many of their
performances take place in canalside venues, but they do on occasions venture beyond canals to
locations where they can play to larger audiences. Each year the company tours with two productions,
written by its own writers and musical director. In June 2003 Mikron came to Doxey at the invitation
of the Community Association. As well as putting on one of its plays the company did workshops with
local people and stayed overnight with local families.
The impact of the visit was such that
both Mikron and the Community association were determined that a return visit would be made. This
took place in June 2004, when the company put on both of its productions in that year's repertoire.
It also put on workshops at the local primary school in Doxey. By now the relationship between Doxey
and Mikron was firm and the question was not whether Mikron would return, but on what
In the autumn of 2004 ideas began to
grow. It is difficult to say where they had their origin - who contributed to the final plans and
how - but by Christmas they had gelled into a proposal that Mikron would write "in their inimitable
style" a play based on the village of Doxey, that it would be performed - in the first instance - by
Doxey people and that Doxey people would also undertake all of the other tasks involved in putting
on a theatre production: music, costumes, lighting, set building, publicity and front of house. We
suspected that there was already a base of relevant talents in the village, but we did not intend to
count on this. Rather, we sought to give to those who had an interest in the theatre and enthusiasm
to learn an opportunity to acquire the necessary skills by working with local professionals in those
This is a highly innovative project which
has several objectives.
It seeks to make live theatre more
accessible to the people of Doxey.
Over 60 people will have learned and
developed skills in one or more of the areas associated with production of a piece of
The cohesion of the community of Doxey
will be greatly enhanced.
The Mikron theatre will acquire material
for one of its 2005 productions.
At an early stage it was realised that
there would be a substantial financial cost to this project as well as an enormous input of local
effort. Mikron is a professional company and their time would have to be paid for, as would be the
local professionals who would be providing training for Doxey people. There would also be costs of
publicity, materials, hire of premises, etc. The total came to £36 000. The DCA committee started
writing to a variety of grant makers. A bid was made in early 2004 to the Arts Council. It was awful
timing that the rejection of this bid came the day after Mikron's second performance. However, we
were invited to bid again and this time it was successful with an award of £27 510. This was made on
condition of funding being obtained from other sources. Subsequently a grant of £1500 has been made
by Staffordshire Council and the William Sutton Housing Association which has en estate in Doxey and
has supported DCA from its inception has made a donation, too. Some bids for further funds are in
the pipeline and it is expected that some donations from the local community will make up the
Throughout the development process the
Community Association has valued the support of Stafford Borough's arts officers and of Culturegen,
the Borough's organisation which promotes the work of arts professionals in and around Stafford.
This collaboration will continue until the end of the project.
Work on the project is well under way.
More than 60 Doxey people are involved in one way or another. All of the groups to address the tasks
to be undertaken have been formed and most have had their initial sessions. Local professionals are
mentoring them in learning the necessary skills. Members of the Mikron company will be visiting
Doxey in the first part of the week beginning 7 February, to meet local people with stories to tell
about Doxey, to enable the Mikron researcher and writer to build up a picture of the village and to
start writing his play: Village Voices.
Already some of the objectives of the
project are being achieved. People are learning skills. Social networks are improved. Young people
are getting involved in their community.
The performances in Doxey will take place
on Saturday, 30 April and Sunday, 1 May. After then Mikron will rewrite the play for its company of
four actors and take it on tour across the country as one of the two productions in its summer and
autumn season. Already bookings have been made for Village Voices.
This is a project which more people in
the West Midlands area needs to hear more about.
(From the press and publicity officer
for Doxey Community Association)
Feb 5th - Donations to Village
Village Voices is to be a joint production between professionals
Mikron Theatre Company and the people of Doxey. It will be a play about Doxey - the area and the
people - with Doxey residents taking part, working along side the professional artists in many
areas (acting, music , filming, costumes, props, set design, publicity, photography, Front of
House, lighting, etc.) If this production is successful , Mikron hopes to do similar work with
other communities around the country.
Most of the project is being paid for by awards from the Arts
Council and Staffordshire County Council.
We have raised most of the money needed, but is there any way you
could help to make sure that this production goes on , and is a success?
Some residents have asked if they can donate small sums of money,
anything from £1 upwards, towards the project. Rather than organise lots of small fundraising
activities we have decided to invite all residents to make a donation.
Can you help by giving a donation ( no matter how small) and /or
by giving your time as part of the team working on the play?
Please let us know by ticking one or more of the following boxes
||I can give a donation. This can be done by sending your
donation and this slip to The Doxey Community Association (DCA) c/o The William Sutton
Housing Association in Sutton Drive or to the DCA Treasurer, Barbara Simpson, 170
||I would like to be part of the team, helping in the
production. Please contact Joan on 251622 or Jane on 621543 to say which area you would like
to work in.
||What other community events would you like to see taking
place in Doxey? If anyone has any suggestions , please contact Sarah on 242525, or write them
on the back of this sheet and leave it at the William Sutton office in Sutton