August 2022 - Ilkeston Community Theatre and Festival’s first week-long festival. First Steps. What an experience!
There were plenty of varying experiences/ opportunities during the festival week to cater for the tastes of all the community. The ups and downs seemed almost like a rollercoaster ride throughout the week. As Chair of the group, I had the pleasure to attend most of them.
The week started off at the Needlemakers on Monday evening with the Open Mic Poetry evening. Participants had the chance to read out their own original poems on a variety of themes, and how wonderful, thought-provoking and moving they were. We shared some very special moments together and the group have decided to organise similar events at certain times throughout the year as it was so good.
On the Tuesday morning, the college hosted a festival arranged, well attended talk by Michael Rumble, on ‘D. H. Lawrence and the Ilkeston Connection.’ Remarkably interesting, we were able to reflect upon the writer’s time/ experiences in Ilkeston, including the fascinating detail of his uncle from Ilkeston killing his cousin. We saw a previously unpublished picture of Louie Burrows’ father and discovered how Lawrence based one of his characters on him. Lawrence’s relationship with Louie Burrows was explored. Quote of the week comes from a lady involved in the riveting post-talk discussion which had focused upon whether Lawrence would have been happier in the long term with Louie Burrows, whom Lawrence was engaged to for 15 months before he eloped with Frieda, in a ‘What if?’ situation: ‘Well, Frieda was just a tart.’ Wonderfully expressed in a straightforward Ilkeston manner. Well said Madam!
On Tuesday afternoon, Kirsty, Fiona and Jenny, in their ‘Creative Writing for Trauma Survivors’ session led us through some creative writing exercises, one involving the hand, stimulating us to think creatively as a basis for writing for empowerment. Analytical and yet creative at the same time, we were honoured to have such a talented trio of skilled people to talk with us.
On the Tuesday evening, we experienced a lovely exhibition of the dwindling tradition of bobbin lace making. The pieces on show were so delicate and intricate. The craftsmanship involved was praiseworthy. Steeped in history, we learnt that each area had their own patterns/ methods, so that place of origin could be ascertained by a study of a piece of lace. It seems a shame that this art/ craft is disappearing from schools now. Surely this is the type of tradition from our area that we should be keeping alive? It is, after all, part of our local heritage. We then had a go at doing it ourselves. How therapeutic and strangely peaceful it was, despite having to remember which of the bobbins to move, and in which order. I was informed that it was not as peaceful if one made a mistake. The ladies of the bobbin group were genuinely friendly and welcoming, answered any questions willingly and knowledgably, and even gave us a cup of tea. Thank you, ladies.
On Wednesday morning, published author of ‘Sons of Woden’ (Rune series of books), Wayne Oxley, talked about ‘Writing Myths and Legends,’ and told us about the legends within Derbyshire, the Shuck, in particular, which was fascinating. He showed us the original illustrations for the books, as well as giving us a quick insight into his new book, ‘Children of the Moor’, which was exciting. Wayne is an outstanding storyteller in his own right.
Alan Reavill, published poet, gave us two interesting talks, one about ‘Poetry, Just words?’ and one later on in the day on ‘A Poet’s Ilkeston.’ Both were well received and inspired audience members to reflect on the meaning of poetry and to have the confidence to talk about their own poems in a safe environment. Having previously communicated with Alan via email, it was lovely to actually meet face-to-face with such a friendly, generous gentleman, qualities which were reflected in his talks.
After Alan, award winning playwright Tina Jay gave information about her courses in September at the college. Having won the Kenneth Branagh Award for new drama writing for her play ‘Walking,’ she has had many of the plays performed in London and The Manchester Exchange. It’s exciting to see someone of her calibre available for local people in Ilkeston to learn new skills.
Visitors downstairs at the college were treated to a free cup of tea or coffee and could make a ‘boutonniere,’ a decorative arrangement of flowers for originally placing in a buttonhole, nowadays pinned to clothing. Beautiful.
On Wednesday morning, an intrepid group of individuals were given a tour of the Market Place and Bath Street, by Gill Kincaid-Dugen, which all said was very informative. Once again, isn’t it important that we learn the local history of the very place we live in? The talk ended at the bottom of town at Weleda, who had previously kindly offered to give the members of the walk some free samples, which was a lovely reward for them. Thank you, Weleda. It’s lovely to see local businesses supporting local community groups. We value this. Working together in this way makes life more enjoyable for all.
Wednesday after lunch was very peaceful, when Susan from T’ai Chi led people in relaxing, yet beneficial movements. Participants enjoyed it immensely and everyone watching commented about the sense of serenity and calm within the room, something we all need in today’s hectic whirlpool of rushing and working. People learnt that this could also be practised seated, so it really is accessible to those who think they cannot attempt any exercise. The opportunity and joy of this ancient art was therefore there for all to enjoy. Bliss!
Still on Wednesday, back at Ilkeston Methodist Church, the Messy Festival was there for families to enjoy themselves together creatively.
A colleague of mine attended Ilkeston Theatre Company’s Open evening on Wednesday evening and said that he felt very welcome and comfortable there, a veritable ‘home from home.’ The friendly group even got him reading a part from a play script for them in the session. The group are, of course, used to performing and are beginning to prepare for their Christmas pantomime which I’m sure will be a treat for all.
Also on Thursday morning, I got the chance to see the ‘Knitted Bible Exhibition’ at St. Mary’s, which was astounding. Goodness knows how many hours’ work the ladies put into this, but it was certainly worthwhile for the visitors to marvel at and discuss the detailed work accomplished.
Throughout the week, we also held a second-hand book sale at the college, proceeds going towards Ilkeston Community Theatre and Festival group. It attracted a slow trickle of people over the 3 days, providing us with at least a small amount of money to finally go into our bank account at last. Good.
On Thursday afternoon at the college there was a Spanish Quiz, which tested people’s knowledge of the Spanish culture and vocabulary and also a concert organised by Michael House Singers, at Ilkeston Methodist Church, which I attended. Heavenly, angelic, wonderful, are just three of the words I would use to describe their music. An acapella group (singing without accompaniment), their harmonies were delicious and lifted everyone’s spirits way above the rooftops of Ilkeston.
Friday at the Needlemakers was amazing. The place was packed solid with people obviously enjoying the performance of The RumbleLab and The Brokebeats, both bands being extremely talented. The excited audience even flowed out into the car park. They couldn’t get enough of it. The Rumblelab gave us some highly commendable original indie/ folk songs (written by the very gifted Michael Rumble) and were followed by a highly energetic, tempestuous performance by the dance/ rock band The Brokebeats. Johnny, leader of the band paced up and down the room, amongst the audience almost like a hybrid between a ferocious wild cougar and a mighty strong gorilla. His passionate, almost frenzied performance was absolutely magnetic. He certainly gave 150% and boy, was it worth it! The audience were immersed from the first minute to the last.
On Saturday morning I was welcomed to Erewash Sound Radio’s Open morning, given a lovely cup of tea and was delighted to speak to presenter Dave Allen, Station Manager, Jeff, and the rest of the crew. I learned all about their training for budding broadcasters and was taken on a tour of their two recording studios, where I saw the equipment, Lucy broadcasting a live link (quite exciting) and a roomful of wires, which looked quite chaotic and hazardous, but was essential to the running of the station. Music selection on many of the shows is pre-selected digitally according to an era. There is an A-list and a B list of music and so on. Trying to get the exact timing for the news and links is a skill which I had never thought of before as a listener but is a skill which one begins to learn automatically when on the air. A great group of people.
Finally, we went to our finale of the week’s events at Ilkeston Methodist Church on Bath Street on the Saturday evening. Would people turn up to our free community concert? We didn’t have the worry. The place was packed and we had to put more and more rows of chairs in for the people who flooded in. They all had a real treat. Ilkeston Studio Players certainly has some Robert Lindsays of the future and had the audience engrossed. Michael House Singers wove their magic again and sang beautifully and Melissa Robson, winner of Ilkeston’s Got Talent Competition, sang ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Miserables in a way that mesmerised the entire audience. We were fortunate enough to have the Deputy Mayor, Chris Corbett, with us, who awarded the competition certificates and prizes to the winners and runners up. It was a great night out and response from the audience showed that these kinds of events and a community theatre are definitely needed. Everybody was full of praise.
So, in conclusion, was our first Ilkeston Community Theatre Week-long festival a success? Definitely.
Will we do it again? Yes, definitely. Next year it will be bigger and better. If this is what we can do with not much time (since we only first met in February of this year after my letter in ‘Ilkeston Life’ at Christmas time about the Ritz), no money whatsoever and not a huge amount of promotion, the possibilities are really endless. We now have a bank account, the committee and huge numbers of enthusiastic supporters. We currently have over 380 signatures on the sign up sheets wanting an Ilkeston Community Theatre and a week-long festival every single year (other partially full sign up sheets are still out there in the community, so the actual figure will be larger than this).
Of course, we could never have done this on our own or as an individual. We work with the community, for the community. We have only been able to put on this festival with the hard work and effort of people who support our community organisation and who were willing to put a lot of time and effort into preparing for and working at the festival. They all offered their services free of charge to benefit the community. Their offerings are greatly appreciated.
Many, many thanks go to the committee (Richard, Sue, Julia, Paul, Karen, Sarah, Paul and Kev) for help with planning meetings, ideas and helping to promote the events. We will, of course, have a meeting to reflect on lessons learnt this year and to start planning for our theatre and next year’s festival. The work doesn’t stop here.
Thanks also to those who offered venues: Ilkeston Community College, Ilkeston Methodist Church, The Needlemakers Pub, United Reformed Church.
Thanks all who helped to put on/ arrange events as part of our festival week: Michael Rumble, the creative writing on-line story writers, Charlotte Bannister, Sue Hennessey and Fred Greger, Alan Reavill, Kirsty, Fiona and Jenny for the creative writing/ poetry talks, Wayne Oxley, numerous Derby College staff who helped out with moving things, Reception and events (especially Gill Kincaid-Dugen), Cycling Sarah, St, Mary’s Church, The Bobbin Lace group, Ilkeston Theatre Company, Erewash Sound Radio, Messy Festival organisers, T’ai Chi group, Tina Jay, The Michael House Singers and Ilkeston Studio Players. Huge thanks to Steven Millership for designing our logo and letting us own it. Thanks to Ilkeston Life and Erewash Sound for promoting. Special thanks also to Shree Hooton, who with very little notice, helped to supply some of the prizes and make the prizes look wonderful for the prize-winners and Sarah, who donated Bodyshop prizes. Thanks to Weleda and the free samples for our walkers. Thanks to Chris Corbett, Deputy Mayor, and his escort for attending and presenting the prizes at our finale concert on Saturday night. Thanks also to everyone who donated books and manned the second hand book stall. Thanks to John, my partner, for his long/ suffering support of my wild, ambitious ideas and schemes. Hope I’ve not missed anyone.
Finally, I’d like to thank all of the community who attended our events. Everything we do, we do it for you (did someone sing that in a song at some time?).
The roller coaster ride of our first festival is now over and we’re floating back down to earth. We can be pleased with what we achieved but we now need to move forward to planning for Ilkeston Community Theatre and Festival’s 2023 festival. We have taken our first steps. Now we really start to walk.
Caroline Greatorex - Chair – Ilkeston Community Theatre and Festival August 2022