Kington and Eywas Harold in the media spotlight

PUBLISHED: 14:22 19 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:09 20 February 2013

Kington and Eywas Harold in the media spotlight

Kington and Eywas Harold in the media spotlight

Tales of life in the Herefordshire communities of Kington and Ewyas Harold are being broadcast on TV and radio following a 12-month collaboration between The Rural Media Company, BBC Radio Drama, Arts Council England and residents

Tales of life in the Herefordshire communities of Kington and Ewyas Harold are being broadcast on TV and radio following a 12-month collaboration between The Rural Media Company, BBC Radio Drama, Arts Council England and residents.

More than 150 people, ranging in age from seven to 85, helped put their communities on the map when they took part in the project.

Entitled The Marches, it created two 45-minute radio dramas, which were broadcast in the Afternoon Play slot on Radio 4 in September. There are two accompanying films that capture the sounds and images of rural life, together with the voices, lives, stories and histories of communities who live in The Marches.

The project came about after Rural Media approached BBC Radio 4 with the idea of developing a community production for radio. Not only was the BBC interested in the idea, it was also keen explore the use of film with radio as it had in a previous City Speaks project, which created six new radio plays and six 15-minute films inspired by a Peter Ackroyd story.

Rural Medias creative director and producer of The Marches, Adrian Lambert, said: The previous plays had been 15 minutes and these were three quarters of an hour. It was quite an undertaking creating that length of moving image to an audio track in a way that doesnt divert attention from listening to the play like creating a 45-minute pop video!

Over the past 20 years, Hereford-based Rural Media has built a national reputation for its arts and media projects, with community filmmaking a cornerstone of the award-winning charitys work. The Marches is seen as a landmark for both Rural Media and the BBC, demonstrating the way in which through creative partnerships isolated rural communities can have a voice and produce high quality, broadcast drama and documentary for a national audience. It was also a project which invited radio listeners to re-think
and explore their relationship to the radio play.

Delving into a treasure trove of stories, ideas and impressions gathered from community workshops and interviews with local people, writer Sebastian Backiewicz had the task of scripting the dramas. The results were Man In A Wheelbarrow, inspired by people from the town of Kington, and Fearless Librarian Saves The Day created by the people of Ewyas Harold.

Fearless Librarian Saves The Day celebrates the Herefordshire Mobile Library Service, which recently fell victim to cost saving measures. The Ewyas Harold play draws upon several stories, but in particular those from Graham Sprackling, who started working for Herefordshire Library service in 1951 and for 30 years, from 1962-92, was a mobile librarian. His wonderfully funny and touching recollections helped provide the perfect backbone to the play. During my time going round the area I picked up lots of little stories and over 30 years a lot of interesting incidents happened, said Graham.

I found a use for all my tales and experiences. It was rewarding, suddenly you were revisiting things that happened and its got a lot people talking. Its been a lot of fun; it was a whole new experience.

The famous Kington Festival wheelbarrow race features in the Kington play, as do many other themes gathered from across the market town. Primary school caretaker and Kington street cleaner Dick East was a key figure in gathering source material from across the town and features in the radio play himself. Its been very nice to be a thread that has woven Kington into this marvellous cloth, he said. It was lovely to have my brains picked, it doesnt matter who tells the story so long as everyone gets something out of it. I really appreciate the joy that came out of it all, and the coming together of so many different age groups. I felt really proud of the efforts everybody made to bring it together. Its a jewel for the town itself.

Adrian and Rachel Lambert directed the Ewyas Harold film, using the idea of the village hall fete. The film required 120ft of trestle tables and the creation of 20 carefully composed visual re-interpretations of the radio drama, complete with 18ft of turf, gravel, a freshly caught salmon and mass community participation on the last day of filming. John Humphreys directed the Kington film, lovingly crafting an incredibly beautiful visual exploration of Kington and the locations, places and events in the play, including some stunning photography of the wheelbarrow race itself.

Meanwhile, Rural Media has also been working on a short drama to highlight the challenges faced by those growing older in the countryside. Part of a campaign called Over the Hill, which also includes eight short documentaries, the drama, Away From It All, stars Doreen Mantle, best known for her role as Mrs Warboys in One Foot in the Grave. It sees her selling her house to a retiring couple who are desperate to live the rural dream The film is currently in post-production and will be released later this year.

Young people in the Forest of Dean are also working with filmmakers from Rural Media to recreate their own 21st century version of Blue Remembered Hills, one of Dennis Potters most famous television plays. The short film involves young filmmakers and performers from Potters home town of Coleford and will be shot next April. It is part of a larger Dennis Potter project led by The Dean Heritage Centre and Voices in the Forest.

The Marches plays and films are available via the BBC Radio 4 website and free DVDs and CDs are available for communities and film festivals by contacting
01432 344039.

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