A project which has been bringing the community together by collating wartime memories of Redbridge will stage a theatre production in South Woodford this April. Alfie James reports
Did you know that part of Beale High School used to be a prisoner of war camp and the local children used to swap coffee for teabags with the Italian prisoners through the fence?
From stories of rationing and being evacuated to blackouts and bombings, the Hope and Glory community theatre project set out to explore what life was like living in Redbridge during the Second World War. We have set up two groups: a group of researchers meeting regularly at Redbridge Museum and a group of local performers using performance techniques to explore what life was like during the period.
Thanks to the local press and the power of social media, as well as good old-fashioned word of mouth, the project has already generated a lot of interest. We’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of positive support received by the community and we couldn’t thank you enough. We’ve received emails and telephone calls from residents wanting to share family stories of memories. The project has even reached the wider community too. We had one former resident now living in Canada call us with information and we’re sharing our research with a school in Scotland who are learning about London during the war.
The project would not be the success it is without the enthusiasm of our members. Elizabeth McNally is one such member and believes the project is popular because people “love performing and there’s a real interest in local history of that era, and this is a great way of bringing the two together.”
Local history has been at the heart of this project and it’s given us the opportunity to develop our research skills by learning how to use archives, artefacts and how to interview people. One resident told us how she remembers a plane crashing and how the pilot sadly wasn’t able to eject in time. Another remembers the first time she heard the air raid siren as a young child. What has become increasingly evident throughout the project is that there was a great sense of community and that people came together and looked after one another.
The project could not have taken place without the support of The Heritage Lottery Fund and Redbridge Museum. The help given by the staff at the museum has been invaluable and it’s been fantastic to use the rich resources they have available.
The project is working towards developing a small play to be performed at Redbridge Drama Centre in April. We’re all excited to be given the opportunity to share some of what we’ve learnt with the local community. Theatre is a great way of bringing to life and sharing what we have learnt with others. The performance, entitled The Spitfire Club, will bring to life what it was like growing up during the Second World War through the eyes of a group of children and residents.