Preston Remembers was a site-specific work written by Helen Newall, and original music by Matt Baker, and included songs from World War I arranged by Matt Baker. Commissioned by Preston Remembers as a result of Theatre in the Quarter's outdoor performances of Over By Christmas (Newall, 2014) its aim was to foster awareness of the impact of WWI on Preston, and depicted stories of three historical figures in the town with significant involvement in WWI: Beatrice Blackhurst, a women's rights campaigner, who opened a free buffet on Preston Railway Station to offer refreshments to soldiers and sailors passing through the transport hub on the way to the Fronts; Joseph Garstang, an absolutist conscientious objector who was imprisoned for his beliefs; and John Gregson, a reservist soldier who was called up during the war and who died at the Front, and whose diaries and letters formed much of the narrative.
The work was constructed out of research conducted by Preston Remembers Volunteers, and was written to be performed in the open air to reach and capture audiences of passers-by; performance sites included the newly refurbished cenotaph, and a further aim was thus to bring this object back into attention and out of 'object blindness'.
Research questions in the creation of this script included: • 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 a paper given to the Symposium on Commemoration held at The University of Lincoln, 2016. 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.