Our two river valleys and their coastline have a rich history.
The lives of generations of people who have lived and worked here are reflected in the places and objects they have left behind. More recently photographic collections and oral history recordings have provided us with an archive of stories waiting to be brought to life.
Alongside our brief AGM meeting*, Waveney & Blyth Arts heard how two local organisations are using these archives to explore, through art, music and theatre, our local heritage.
Suffolk Record Office has set up a heritage and creative arts project, Land and Shore, which explores the lost communities of the Lowestoft Beach Village and Dunwich.
‘Land and Shore’ will use printed local studies books and archive sources, including maps, photographs, diaries, oral histories, newscuttings and ephemera available at Suffolk Record Office, with a view to promoting engagement with Suffolk’s heritage and to bring to life this important history for new audiences. Participants will explore and research their location, supported by a variety of history and multi-arts professionals, to recreate the stories of these ‘lost communities’ in a fun and innovative way using drama and music shared through performance. No experience is necessary, and anybody is welcome to participate.
Suffolk Record Office is working with arts and music organisation The Voice Cloud to involve local communities in the research and arts productions.
On the same theme of animating our past, we heard from Ivan Cutting, director of Eastern Angles Theatre Company.
Ivan described the early inspiration for his plays: radio portrayals of rural history which mix oral history and narration in documentary style with music by Ewan McColl. Clips from the railwayman and the Yarmouth fishermen programmes showed how effective this can be in recreating these lost lives. The importance of primary sources was emphasised and Ivan showed how the newspaper archives can provide faithful records of actual speech from the time. He illustrated with slides how the plays offered by the company have evolved since 1982 to cover more challenging venues and a wider range of stories.
Of particular interest to Waveney & Blyth Arts is the forthcoming production, The Tide Jetty. Written by Tony Ramsay, and touring in 2019, the play is a joint venture with the Broads Authority’s Water, Mills and Marshes project, funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund. The scheme will explore and celebrate the Broads National Park landscape and, through drama, ask questions about its sustainability. Ivan remained ‘tight-lipped’ about the subject of the play as he wanted us all to turn out to village halls and other venues when it is touring.
Waveney & Blyth Arts was hosted by the Waveney Heritage Centre at its new premises in Brockdish old primary school. Geoff Doggett introduced us to the facilities available including a meeting room with projector and screen and an artists’ North Light studio. The centre was set up to explore, record and celebrate the culture and environment of the Waveney Valley. It has an active programme of talks and workshops and a particular interest in exploring the agricultural history of the area as well as the slightly more unexpected inclusion of a room devoted to the history of broadcasting. It takes as its focus -Giving Our Past a Future.
*Waveney & Blyth Arts AGM was held on Wednesday 28 November 2018.
As usual, the AGM was brief, providing an overview of the financial record, a look back at the 2017-18 programme and a look forward to next year. The Management Committee were elected en bloc with only one vacancy to fill – a deputy rep for Southwold.
Members were tempted to rejoin with news of next year’s offering – our annual walks and workshops programme, a special festival of books – independent bookshops and presses in the region, a theme of Bugs and Blossoms which would focus our attention on the declines of insects and wild flowers in the region using the arts as a catalyst for action to reverse this trend.
We heard from Michaela Hobbs at the Ferini Art Gallery about the 2019 Pakefield Postcard Auction whose proceeds would go towards the Bugs and Blossoms project. Very many thanks to Michaela and PPA for that and huge congratulations to her on receiving the Community Pride Award 2018 for the Postcard Auction’s contribution to the local community.