Village Voices - 2005
[In 2005 The Doxey Community Association worked with The Mikron Theatre Company to produce a play about Doxey which was performed at the Church Hall on Sat 30th April and Sun 1st May. It was produced with the aid of an Arts Council Grant and the assistance of the Borough and County councils as well as the local Housing Association. The play, which was written by Richard Povall of Mikron was then modified and became half of Mikron's offering for 2005.
The material displayed on this webpage was all produced at the time and displayed on the DCA website. Only minor 'tidying up' and consolidation has taken place [in 2020].
Over the following three years the DCA used the experience gained to produce two 'Easter' Pantomimes - "Mother Goose" in 2006, "Puss in Boots" in 2007; and in 2008 a dual bill - "Plays in Tandem ("The Emperor's New Clothes" and "Blue Suede Shoes"). But by 2009 the interest was declining and the proposed show never happened. (some minor further details may be found in Doxey Times and DCA Archives )]
Feb 5th Background
Feb 5th Donate
Feb 10th Moves up a gear
Mar 2nd Acting Workshop
April 30th / May 1st Doxey did it !
June 11th Mikron Version
Mikron Programme in 'pdf' format<
Note : this is a very large file (72Mb)
October 28th > Last Performance (a personal view)
(This is the page for the project with the Mikron Theatre to produce a play in Doxey about Doxey)
Feb 5th 2005 - Village Voices - Background
(press release from DCA)
- Staffordshire community initiative wins Arts Council funding
- 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 community
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 farmland.
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 basis.
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 fields.
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 theatre.
- 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 total.
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 Voices
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?/p>
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, xxx Doxey.|
|I would like to be part of the team, helping in the production. Please contact Joan on xxxxxx or Jane on xxxxxx 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 xxxxxx, or write them on the back of this sheet and leave it at the William Sutton office in Sutton Drive.|
Feb 10th - Village Voices moves up a gearMikron 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 the country."
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 March.
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./p>
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 project
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 p.m.
Sunday, 1 May 2005 at 3.30 p.m.
both in the hall of St Thomas' and St Andrew's Church, Doxey.
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.
Mar 2nd - Acting Workshop
Wednesday 2nd March 2005:
First Acting Workshops run by Rob Took and Laura Sydonie (with Mike Lucas and Richard Povall in attendance)
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 to see all images (as a 'gallery')
April 30th / May 1st - Doxey Did It !
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 seats.
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 efforts.
We look forward to seeing Mikron's own version on June 11th.
Review by David Bastable
Doxey Community Association
and Mikron Theatre Company
By Richard Povall
St Thomas and St Andrew's Church,
April, 2005 at 7.30pm
This was a refreshing production, a breath of fresh air, in which a local community was supported by four professional actors. The aim wasn't simply to perform a play but to offer training in a variety of theatre skills ranging from song and dance to lighting, costume and set design.
The church was full, an encouraging start, and the audience were immediately engaged. This relatively modern church was a challenging venue in itself; both the set and the lighting were used to advantage here. The bow-shaped set drew the audience into Doxey, the two late Victorian terraces being divided by the local river, the Sow, and behind them, Doxey Marshes; this nicely crafted set, therefore, provided a symbolic introduction. The low-timbered roof of the church also aided the lighting and gave the stage a warm and intimate atmosphere. One of the strengths of the production was that it didn't need to rely on a few individual performances; there is no need to single out any individual performer but rather the corporate strength of an entire community engaged in a project which united it.
The theme was the history of Doxey during the last sixty years, in other words, the living memory of, at least, the elder residents. One character, Bob, holds the play together: he is seen, initially, as a boy often fishing in the River Sow, and it's Bob's hobby, fishing, which provides a useful metaphor, to' trawl the depths for a yarn spun years ago'. The play, therefore, opens with a child's perspective on Doxey at the end of the Second World War and it's local children as much as adults who play an integral part in this production. The atmosphere is festive and hopeful, the war is over, Doxey is at peace, and Bobby finds `a new stream .... and will catch many big fish'. Songs are sung by the choir and a Victory Party is celebrated with bunting in the Doxey streets.
The next scene, however, provides a stark contrast, a darker note, when a letter arrives from Africa breaking the news to Bobby that his father had been killed in the war. The sombre way the letter was read aloud, a shared role between the African writing it and Bobby's mother reading it, was an effective method of stagecraft.
The scenes which follow chart the transformation of Doxey from a village into a suburb, yet a suburb which never loses its identity as, unlike many suburbs, Doxey has retained its strong roots and this project vibrantly affirms that identity.
. The `homes fit for heroes' turn out to be prefabs and the 'People's Republic of Doxey is swelled by an influx of new residents from the Birmingham slums. The immediate post-war costumes appeared to be extremely authentic and the humour contained in the Universal Grinding Wheel song, with its banjo player, proved to be one of the highlights of the production.
The Universal Grinding Wheel Company with its diverse products- ball bearings, cars, forks and bicycles - also acts as a cement to bind the Doxey residents `to stick around together'. Here Bob, like many of his neighbours, finds employment and enjoys his leisure hours not only fishing, as when a boy, but also socializing at the Doxey Institute and playing football and cricket on Universal's pitches.
By the end of an enjoyable evening the audience have seen Bob grow up, marry Ena, the spirited Doxey midwife, become a father, and, finally, in retirement at seventy, he can reflect with Ena on their lives in Doxey, and the many changes they had experienced there during the last sixty years. The years pass, the bunting is displayed again for Doxey to celebrate the Queen's coronation, the Station Master and the Engine Drivers fade into history like the steam trains that once blackened Castletown, and in their stead, the M6 arrives on the outskirts of Doxey to herald a new age.
This production wasn't simply entertaining, it was educational both for those participating in the project, and for the large and appreciative audience who could see sixty years of Doxey's past rolled out like a carpet before them. The corporate creativity, energy and enthusiasm of the Doxey community sustained "Village Voices" and it was fortunate to receive unobtrusive guidance from both Mikron and local professionals.
David Bastable 19/05/05
June 11th - The Mikron Version
to view Mikron programme
Note : this is a very
large file (72Mb)
and may take some time !
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)
[Village Voices was performed at Norbury on 23rd August 2005. A substantial Doxey contingent was present]
click to see more photos
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 (Barbara).
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 that.
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.
Postscript - 2020
When tidying (!) these web pages in 2020 I found that there is an archive of the Village Voices project held at the Heritage Quay organisation"...Heritage Quay is the information, records management and archive service at the University of Huddersfield. We are your friendly information and records professionals, winning many awards for our services and our approach. For University staff we can help you to make the most of your information – whether it’s data in systems, filing cabinets or electronic documents. ... "
Richard Povall who wrote the play was quite ill with MS for most of the time he was involved. He died on April 14th 2015..
At the start of 2020 the Universal Grinding Wheel factory and offices were finally being demolished, ending a century of association with Doxey.