“We heard from those who had crossed that sea. One was a ship’s pilot who brought 88 refugees in a boat that usually takes 15 passengers. A fishing boat for 10 men brought 56 passengers. One refugee ship foundered in the channel, but nearly all were rescued.”
Syrian refugees fleeing to Lesbos? No, Belgians fleeing the devastation of their country in 1914.
In 1914 these refugees were welcomed in England. Towns mobilised to house, clothe and feed them. Even small villages took in a family.
The treatment of refugees is one of the themes in a show I’m putting on in Hertford on Saturday 21 November.
From a Time of War
Saturday 21st November 2015
St Andrew’s Church, Hertford
7.30pm – 9.30pm (doors open 7pm)
An evening of readings and songs, expressing the dreams and reality, hopes, fears and frustrations of those who experienced the First World War, at home in Hertford and at the Front.
WW1 themed raffle
Tickets from St Andrew’s: 01992 504373 email@example.com
or from Hertford Tourist Office: 01992 584322
Seeing It Through 15 November
Some images from the show, ‘Seeing It Through’ which was performed at Hertford Theatre Studio on 15 November 2014. Our small cast of five – Toni Brooks, Catherine Forrester (seen in the photo playing young Ware soldier Claud Sweeney in the trenches), Rob Madeley and Steve Scales, plus Director Richard Syms who also took the narrator role of the Editor of the Mercury, gave fantastic performances which were very well received by the audiences. (In the pic, left to right: Steve, Toni, Catherine, Rob).
Now we hope we can put it on again!
The story of how ordinary people lived through the First World War is worth telling. It is a powerful counter to the glorification and mythologising of war, while also revealing much about the roots of how we live our lives now.
This story was inspired by the research I did for my play The Last Witch. I became interested in ‘cunning folk’, who were around until the 19th century and possibly nearly up to the 20th century, and who claimed to be able to put their magical powers at your disposal, for a fee. One of the most popular services they offered was, not casting spells, but finding treasure. There’s a fascinating book on the subject, Cunning-Folk. Popular Magic in English History, by Owen Davies, who is a Professor of History at the University of Hertfordshire.
The story is set in Banbury and the surrounding Oxfordshire countryside, which I know well.
This story was longlisted for the Fish Short Story prize a couple of years ago. It’s a very well regarded competition so I felt very chuffed!