Over By Christmas (OBC), written by Helen Newall, and co-directed with Matt Baker, was a site-sympathetic community piece of drama with songs performed in the autumn of 2014 to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of WW1, and the entrainment of troops heading to the Front on the stations at which the piece was performed. It was part of the Imperial War Museum's First World War Centenary Partnership Project. OBC was performed 47 times, at 25 railway stations throughout Cheshire, and at St Pancras Station in London, to over 20,000 people. It involved more than 400 performers and 1,250 school children from across Cheshire. It is a community project which continues the Cultural Capital in Telling Tales project, and specifically concerns cultural memory and commemoration.
Research questions included:
• How does theatre commemorate?
• How do site, community performers and community audience members collude to remember what the living participants haven’t physically experienced?
• How might performance and site specificity amplify community commemoration?
• How can a production best convey historical information, and dramatic emotion despite the material challenges of the specified sites.
Complementary writing includes the script of a talk given by Newall about commemoration and WW1 to the Mid-Cheshire branch of the English Speaking Union in Tarporley, Christmas 2014, and a paper given to the Symposium on Commemoration held at The University of Lincoln, 2016.
As a result of this project, Newall and Baker were commissioned to make Preston Remembers for the Preston Remembers Project, and Your Country Needs You! for Warrington Borough Council and Warrington Museums for Warrington Festival, 2015. The research questions were also tested in a large open air multi-media and live performance work, Honour, for Quays Culture at Salford Keys in August 2014.
This project continues the 'Cultural Capital in Telling Tales' project with which Newall has been engaged for several years as writer-in-residence for Theatre in the Quarter. During this time she has created and produced plays with TiQ based on local history and community reminiscence in order to: raise awareness of local issues; educate about history; provide communities with improved access to the theatre; and to improve opportunities for local theatre professionals.
Awards & Reviews
- Cheshire West and Chester Arts Awards - performing arts category
- Best WW1 Commemorative Project: National Community Rail Awards, held in the Riviera International Centre, Torquay on Thursday (October 1): http://www.chesterchronicle.co.uk/news/chester-cheshire-news/theatre-quarter-scoops-national-award-10232493. The judges described the impact of the project as ‘breath-taking’.
-OBC was also shortlisted in the Tourism Experience or Event of the Year category (alongside Jodrell Bank and Tatton Park!) in the Marketing Cheshire Annual Awards 2015.