Put That Light Out – Behind the Episode

Continuing our series of blogs called ‘Behind the Episode’. Our resident aviation expert, Kirsty, will be looking further into the real history threaded throughout our audio drama, particularly the aircraft featured in each episode.

“Put that light out! Put that light out! an enemy plane could see that fire for miles.”
With these caustically delivered words ARP Warden Hodges angrily berated Captain Mainwaring, whose platoon had inadvertently set fire to the church hall chimney, ironically whilst trying to help the wardens. It was a refrain that was to become all to familiar to fans of Dad’s Army, whilst Warden Hodges zealously went about his duty to ensure that not a chink of light was visible in the environs of Walmington-on-Sea in the hours after dark. And it would have been a not dissimilar scene acted out every night throughout Britain in the dark, dark years of WWII.

The Government actually imposed a total blackout throughout the United Kingdom on 1st September 1939, two days before hostilities were declared. As Warden Hodges had touched upon above, the aim was to deprive enemy bombers of anything that might provide an aid to navigation. All households were issued with blackout materials and were required to ensure that all windows and skylights were blanked out after sunset. Typically, thick dark cotton fabric, wooden boards or paint were used to comply with the regulations, with many offices or households fashioning blinds that could be quickly set up and fastened in place.

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To stop light flooding out when one entered a shop, storekeepers were often obliged to install double doors, customers having to ensure that they had closed one door before opening the next. It was a similar situation at cinemas where, because it was so dark at the pay kiosk, seasoned film goers would invariably arrive with the exact fee already counted out. When outside, people were forbidden to smoke, strike matches or use a torch or any other form of light. Needless to say, the lighting of fires was also prohibited.

Initially all streetlights were switched off and cars were only allowed to drive using sidelights. Not surprisingly, in the first few months of the war, the number of road deaths doubled, forcing the authorities to relax some of the regulations. Cars were permitted to drive on dipped headlights but had to be fitted with slit masks, indicators and brake lights had to be dimmed and reversing lights were banned. To make the cars easier to be seen, bumpers and running boards were required to be painted with matt white paint. To assist nocturnal drivers in finding their way about, white lines were painted down the centre of roads and curbs were painted white.
The death toll on the roads continued to be high, forcing the government to reduce the night-time speed limit to 20mph. Pedestrians were warned to keep away from the edge of the pavement and where possible to only cross the road at a proper crossing. Men were encouraged to wear light coloured shirts and keep their shirttails outside of their trousers to aid visibility.

Trains were also completely blacked out to such an extent that it was not always possible to detect the arrival of a train at a platform. With stations in complete darkness, passengers frequently disembarked at the wrong location or even got out at no station at all. Like street curbs, the edges of station platforms were painted white, but the blackout resulted in many accidents.

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It was officially recognised that the dark conditions made young girls and women particularly vulnerable and they were cautioned to take extra care and where possible, avoid being out on their own. Needless to say, the blackout served the criminal fraternity well, with households being particularly vulnerable due to Air Raid regulations. These required all doors to be left unlocked at night so that if a house was bombed rescuers could gain easy access to deal with casualties.

The task of enforcing the rigorous blackout regulations was entrusted to ARP Wardens, like Shuttlefield’s Mr Martin. The Air Raid Wardens Service was established in 1937 when the call had gone out for 800,000 volunteers. Such was the growth in the threat, however, that by the start of the War some 1,000,500 people were involved in ARP services.

Typically, a warden would be allocated to each street and would conduct continuous rounds to ensure that all statutes were being rigorously observed. They were not afraid to angrily identify any household in violation of the rules, so that neighbours were left in no doubt as to who had put their lives at risk. “No. 7, put that light out!”
Those flouting the regulations could expect to face the full force of the law, a stiff fine being the normal penalty. In addition to these duties Wardens were expected to keep a watch out for incendiary bombs and assist with the aftermath of air raids. Such duties included clearing streets where there were unexploded bombs, assisting with the evacuation of casualties from bomb damaged properties, finding temporary accommodation for displaced persons and coordinating the activities of the rescue services. These were dangerous duties and during the War at least 7,000 Wardens lost their lives.

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As to whether the blackout worked, historians now argue that this is unlikely as aircraft were able to navigate by focusing on things like railways, major roads and the reflection off large bodies of water. What it did do, however, was to instil in the civilian population a common purpose and a rule structure that enabled them to cope with privations of that grim time.

The Spitfire Fund: An early take on Crowd Funding – Behind the Episode

Continuing our series of blogs called ‘Behind the Episode’. Our resident aviation expert, Kirsty, will be looking further into the real history threaded throughout our audio drama, particularly the aircraft featured in each episode.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the idea of crowd funding is a relatively recent phenomenon. In fact, it is a concept that has been successfully employed for many centuries to raise money for projects that might otherwise not have seen the light of day. Amongst other things, crowd funding has been used to aid the publication of books, to fund music and the arts, to pay for worthy civic projects such as the plinth for the Statue of Liberty and by the use of War Bonds, even to finance military conflict. And it was an idea that was to be used to great effect when, in May 1940, Lord Beaverbrook was appointed Minister for Aircraft Production.

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Photography by Tom Barker

Still reeling from the aftereffects of the First World War and the Great Depression, Britain was in a poor financial state as, for the second time in a generation, it embarked upon war with Germany. Fiscal constraints had left its armed forces ill prepared and ill equipped to take on the massive demands now being placed upon them. The Royal Air Force had been particularly hard hit, a lack of funds for new equipment forcing it to retain many obsolete aircraft in frontline service. The Luftwaffe, on the other hand, had enjoyed massive investment and had been able to gain invaluable combat experience by its involvement in the Spanish Civil War.

The no-nonsense, bombastic management style of Canadian media tycoon Lord Beaverbrook was exactly what was needed to ramp up aircraft production. Immediately upon his appointment he set about cutting through red-tape and streamlining working practices in order to derive the maximum efficiency from the factories. Many existing managers were dismissed and replaced by foreman and engineers recruited directly from the shop floor. At the end of his first week in office he broadcast an appeal to all aircraft factory workers to accept new rotas which called on them to work both day and night shifts on a seven-day week. He also appealed for redundant garage workers to come forward and join the cause. These actions had the desired effect and within several months monthly production had increased by 200 aircraft. Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding, head of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, would later comment that these extra fighters were the difference between victory and defeat.

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Photography by Tom Barker

The British public had taken the Spitfire to their hearts from the outset and as war ramped up there were numerous unsolicited enquiries as to how additional aircraft might be financed. Lord Beaverbrook was not slow to recognise that a Government endorsed fund-raising scheme would be a great way to both raise morale and unite the public in a common cause. Thus, the rallying cry went out and the Spitfire Fund was born.

Government Propaganda set the tone; posters adorned with slogans such as “A Spitfire a day keeps the Nazis away”. It also became the custom to inscribe the engine cowlings of aircraft so financed with names chosen by the benefactors, the inscriptions being in 4″ yellow lettering. Whilst most names would reference the village or town who had raised the funds, various sponsoring companies or organisations gave rise to some ingenious names. Woolworths, with their policy of nothing in store costing more than 6d (2 ½ p in today’s money), raised funds for two Spitfires; “Nix Six Primus” and “Nix Six Secundus” whilst the Kennel Club had “The Dog Fighter” (Mrs Holt would be pleased!)

Anxious not to price the aircraft beyond the reach of most respective fund-raisers, Beaverbrook listed the cost of a Spitfire as being £5,000. In reality, the actual cost was closer to £12,000. It is a problem that Katherine Winters touches upon in a conversation with her sister Ruby:
“Cost of fuselage, two thousand five hundred pounds; cost of engine, two thousand pounds; wings, one thousand eight hundred; undercarriage, eight hundred; guns, eight hundred; tail, five hundred – Propeller, three hundred and fifty; petrol tank (top), forty pounds; petrol tank (bottom), twenty five pounds; oil tank, twenty five pounds; compass, five pounds; clock, two pounds, ten shillings; thermometer, one pound, one shilling; sparking plug, eight shillings – So even if we raise the grand total of, what was it – one hundred pounds? We can donate just under one third of a propeller”.
Fortunately, most fund-raisers did not break it down in these terms and were quite unfazed by the challenge.

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Photography by Tom Barker

The call had gone out to individuals, towns and businesses alike and many came up with ingenious ways to fund their own Spitfire. In the Wiltshire village of Market Lavington a life size silhouette of a Spitfire was painted in the square and residents were challenged to fill it with coins, a task that was completed in a matter of days. Numerous raffles and sponsored events were held throughout the country with local communities outbidding each other in their attempts to raise the most. Many campaigns were backed by the local newspaper, a fund launched by the Midland Daily Telegraph on 5th July 1940 raising £18,000 in just three weeks, enough to pay for three Spitfire Mk. IIa aircraft. The first of these, christened “City of Coventry I” would serve throughout the war before succumbing to the scrap man in 1946. The other two, “City of Coventry II” and “City of Coventry III” would be less fortunate and would be written off when they collided with each other over Edenbridge on 28th November 1940, sadly claiming the life of one of the pilots.

As to the success of the scheme, depending on whose figures you believe, enough money was generated to pay for approximately 2,600 aircraft, although all donations would have gone into a common government pot rather than paying for a specific Spitfire. It is questionable whether it made any difference to the outcome of the war but it undoubtedly did much to unite the nation in their hour of greatest need.

The Luftwaffe – Behind the Episode

Continuing our series of blogs called ‘Behind the Episode’. Our resident aviation expert, Kirsty, will be looking further into the real history threaded throughout our audio drama, particularly the aircraft featured in each episode.

‘It was definitely a Heinkel. That girl said so.’ – Nancy in Episode Two ‘The Wooden O‘.

Even those with only a passing knowledge of the Second World War, will have heard something of the allied bombing campaign. They might be familiar with the Thousand Bomber raids, and the devastating attacks on cities like Dresden and Cologne and they will almost certainly of heard of the exploits of Guy Gibson and the legendary Dambusters who wrought havoc on the dams of the Ruhr Valley. Most will also be aware of the instruments used to reap this “Whirlwind”; aircraft like the Wellington, the Halifax and most famous of all, the Lancaster.

But what of the Luftwaffe? Whilst everyone knows about the Blitz and the havoc that was wrought on London from the autumn of 1940, many will be less familiar with the actual extent of the campaign or of the aircraft used to deliver this terror. Films like “The Battle of Britain” present the argument that Hitler switched his strike force from bombing the vulnerable RAF airfields, to attacks on London because he was incensed by an audacious RAF attack on the German capital. Whatever the reason, diverting his bombers to London was to prove costly, the Messerschmitt 109 fighters lacking the endurance to provide escort to the target, so leaving them easy prey to the Spitfires and Hurricanes of Leigh-Mallory’s “Big Wing”. The Luftwaffe would pay the ultimate price and the Battle of Britain would be lost. With his plans for an invasion now stalled until the following spring, Hitler sought to break English morale by bombing them into submission.

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‘Junkers Ju 88’ – Photo by the German Federal Archive https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en

Far from being confined to London, the Blitz would extend nationwide with raids on, Southampton, Portsmouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Plymouth, Swansea, Birmingham, Coventry, Manchester, Liverpool, Hull and Belfast. North of the border, what would become known as the “Clydebank Blitz”, would see particularly devastating raids on the West Dunbartonshire town.

On the night of 13th March 1941, a force of 236 Heinkel He.111H and Junkers Ju 88 medium bombers took advantage of a full moon to rain down terror on the unsuspecting populace. The first sirens sounded shortly after 9 pm, but the townsfolk paid little heed suspecting it was another false alarm. It was then that the first Pathfinder wave led by the He.111H aircraft of 100 Kampfgruppe duly arrived unleashing incendiaries and high-explosive bombs. The intended targets were the Admiralty Oil Depot, the Royal Ordnance Factory, John Brown’s Shipyard, the Singer Complex, which had been pressed into service as a munition’s factory, and the surrounding railways and infrastructure.

The RAF had introduced a new defence plan called Operation Fighter Night which called for the Spitfires of 602 Squadron, operating from nearby Prestwick, to assemble at 20,000 feet so that they could pick off the bombers without getting entangled with anti-aircraft fire. The bombers, however, had other ideas and had decided to take their chances with the “ack-ack” and fly low-level. The RAF pilots were refused permission to descend by Fight Control and as a result the defence plan proved worthless, not a single bomber being downed.

At midnight a second wave of German bombers arrived from the direction of Loch Lomond by which time the town’s civil defences were struggling to cope. At 2am just as the anti-aircraft guns were running out of ammunition the final aircraft in the second wave headed for home. An hour later the third wave arrived, and the endless night of hell continued. It would be shortly before 6am that the last of the night’s attackers headed home and the all-clear could sound.

The following night a further 203 bombers returned to unleash further torment on an already shell-shocked population. The final all-clear sounded on the morning of Saturday 15th March at 6:25am. During the two nights over 1,000 bombs had rained down, whilst the Luftwaffe had escaped unscathed. As most of the housing was located adjacent to the targets it had borne the brunt of the damage and out of an estimated 12,000 houses only 8 remained undamaged. At least 1,200 people lost their lives in the raids and another 1,000 were seriously injured. Over 35,000 were left homeless and many were forced to evacuate the town. Many of these would never return and thus the character of this close community was forever changed.

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‘Captured Heinkel He 111 at Celone 1944’ – Photo by the Australian War Memorial

 

Raids like this and indeed all such operations flown during the Blitz were achieved using a force of medium bombers, most typically the Heinkel He 111 or Junkers Ju88. The Heinkel He 111 could carry a bomb load of 4,400 lbs in the bomb-bay, a payload that could be increased to 7,900 lbs if the bombs were carried externally. This did, however, come with a significant reduction in performance. Compare this to the Avro Lancaster that was able to carry a bomb load of up to 18,000 lbs.
Germany had built its entire pre-war strategy on fighting a Blitzkrieg style campaign. As a result, despite repeated pleas from various experts, it had failed to develop a successful strategic bomber, instead concentrating on medium bombers and small dive bombers such as the Junkers Ju.87 Stuka. It was an error that was to cost the Reich dearly once it launched it’s attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941. With Barbarossa underway, much of the Luftwaffe’s bomber strength was diverted to the Soviet campaign, thus allowing the United Kingdom some respite before the onset of the V-Bombs. During this period the RAF by night and the USAAF Eighth Air Force by day pursued a highly organised and coordinated bombing campaign that would eventually render Germany incapable of mounting offensive operations.

So, when Katherine Winters listened to the bombers flying overhead, she would have indeed heard the sound of Heinkel He.111 aircraft. Rather than being bound for Glasgow, however, their targets were more likely to have been in the Midlands, raids on Scotland generally originating from Northern Europe.

Sigh for a Merlin – Behind the Episode

To accompany our new audio drama, we’re starting a series of blogs called ‘Behind the Episode’. Our resident aviation expert, Kirsty, will be looking further into the real history threaded throughout our story, particularly the aircraft featured in each episode.

As Katherine Winters sits atop her lofty perch gazing out over the flightpath at Duxford, she is treated to the distinctive growl of a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine as a Spitfire passes directly overhead. It is a sound that, with the passing of time, has become forever synonymous with the brave exploits of “The Few” during the Battle of Britain. Katherine’s hawk-like vision identifies the aircraft as being K9942, a Spitfire Mk. 1 that did indeed see service during England’s finest hour. By placing it in the Cambridgeshire skies the following Spring, however, author Laura Crow has had to rely on just a little artistic licence.

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Time & Again with K9942 on Armed Forces Day 2019

After making its first flight from Eastleigh in April 1939 in the capable hands of Supermarine Test-Pilot George Pickering, the operational career of K9942 was to be relatively brief. Nonetheless, it’s front-line service would see it involved in one of the most momentous events of WWII.

It was initially assigned to 72 Squadron at Church Fenton who were in the process of converting from the Gloster Gladiator, the last biplane fighter to see service with the RAF. In the first few months it was regularly flown by Flying Officer James Nicholson who would subsequently have the distinction of being the only person from Fighter Command to be awarded the Victoria Cross. That winter was the period that has become known as “The Phoney War” and although regular patrols were flown from either Church Fenton or Leconfield, log entries invariably report that “No Enemy Aircraft were sighted”.

Operational sorties flown in the early part of 1940 largely consisted of Convoy Patrols, but on 1st June, 72 Squadron was suddenly thrust into the limelight when it relocated to Gravesend to supply support for Operation Dynamo. In what has become known as the “Miracle of Dunkirk”, during an eight-day period, 338, 226 allied troops were successfully rescued from the beach by a hastily assembled armada of naval vessels and civilian boats. The 12 aircraft from 72 Squadron were in the thick of it and on 2nd June, whilst flying with 5 aircraft from 609 Squadron, engaged 5 enemy aircraft, with two confirmed kills.
Weather played havoc on 4th June and K9942, whilst returning from another sortie over Dunkirk, was obliged to make a forced landing at a farm near Lewes when it ran out of fuel. Worse was to come the following day when having sustained damage during a patrol over Dungeness, the aircraft made a wheels-up landing at Gravesend. The Spitfire could not be repaired on-site and so was transported to Hanworth Air Park for attention by General Aircraft.  The brief operational career of K9942 was at an end.

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Time & Again with K9942 on Armed Forces Day 2019

By this time the Spitfire Mk. 1 was giving way in front-line service to more advanced models. Thus, after a successful rebuild, K9942 was assigned to No.7 OTU (Operational Training Unit) at Hawarden near Chester, where an observant Katherine Winters might have noticed that it was given the Squadron Code of LV-C. By December 1940, No.7 OTU had been renumbered No.57 OTU. The Unit specialised in Spitfire training and in the Summer of 1940 some 58 aircraft were on strength. Training Courses were typically a mere two weeks in duration, primarily concentrating on type conversion. Therefore, K9942 would have spent most of its time pounding the circuit at Hawarden and it’s extremely unlikely, that with its limited fuel endurance, it would have ventured as far south as Duxford.

So why did the author elect to include this specific Spitfire in her storyline?

K9942 was to prove a real survivor. During a busy career it was to suffer quite serious damage on several further occasions, but each time the aircraft was patched up at a Maintenance Unit and returned to its vital training role. In August 1944, being an aircraft of Battle of Britain vintage, an Air Historical Branch initiative called for its retention as a future museum exhibit.

The next 30 years would see it appear at a succession of Battle of Britain Days and air-shows around the country before, in November 1971, it joined the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon as the oldest extant Spitfire. Here it would be restored to its former 72 Squadron markings, but with the Code SD-V.

In October 1997 the aircraft was transported to the Medway Aircraft Preservation Society to undergo a full rebuild. During the restoration process it was discovered that, a bit like the hammer analogy, the aircraft had been fitted with new wings after one or more of its landing accidents. The restoration process sought to strip the aircraft of the many modifications that it had received throughout its career so that it was returned to a fully authentic 1939 Spitfire Mk. 1.

With the work complete the aircraft was officially donated by the Ministry of Defence to the Royal Air Force Museum.  Initially the aircraft returned to Hendon, but having been replaced on display by Spitfire Vb BL614, in November 2002 it was transferred to the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford, where it remains to this day, now with the correct Squadron Code of SD-D. And it was whilst performing at this location in June 2019 that Time & Again Theatre Company was given access to take photographs and chat to visitors in front of the plane, in between performances on Armed Forces Day. Thus K9942 truly became “The Greyhounds Spitfire”.

 

 

Casting Announced for Greyhounds A/W 2019 Tour

Time & Again are incredibly excited to welcome five new company members! They’ll be joining us in heading back to the 1940s and performing in Greyhounds for our Autumn/Winter 2019 tour!

Greyhounds will be coming to Sheffield 9th – 12th October and Cambridge 9th & 16th November, with more dates to be added soon. You can book tickets here and here!

From left:
Samantha Vaughan – Ruby Winters
Katherine Reynolds  – Katherine Winters
Adam Martin-Brooks – Will Croft
Kendal Boardman – Nancy Wilde
Ben Hynes – Edward Holmes

We’re really excited to welcome to our new members to the company and to see them bring this story to life once again for brand new audiences.

Written by Laura Crow, Greyhounds entwines Shakespeare’s famous story of ‘warlike Harry’ with the everyday trials and tribulations of small village life during World War Two. Whilst the war rages above them, the residents of Shuttlefield village struggle to stage a production of Henry V to raise money for their local Spitfire fund.

The original cast, from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018 run of Greyhounds, will also be performing for two nights of the tour.


From left:
Catherine Cowdrey – Ruby Winters
Laura Crow – Katherine Winters
Jacob Taylor – Will Croft
Fiona Primrose – Nancy Wilde
Tim Cooper – Edward Holmes

Greyhounds AW 2019 Touring Poster

OPEN CASTING CALL – New Company Members

THIS OPPORTUNITY IS NOW CLOSED

Time & Again Theatre Company are currently seeking new company members to join us on our Autumn/Winter 2019 Tour!

Audition date – Sunday 8th September, 1pm – 4pm
Audition Location – Hope Aria Academy, Hope Aria House, Unit 15 Wellington House, Manchester, M40 7FS

Greyhounds Website Header

Time & Again formed in July 2017 as a new company wishing to explore all things vintage and historical. We’ve just completed our second successful run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and are now small-scale and rural touring both of our shows. Time & Again recently won the Oldham Coliseum Pick of the Manchester Fringe award, as well as winning an Undrowning Scholarship of $1000 back in July for our efforts in promoting women in STEM, particularly the lack of women in the aviation industry.

We are looking for 6 new company members, 3 male, 3 female.

New company members will be expected to each learn and perform two different roles – one in our 1940s show Greyhounds and one in our Edwardian show Clouds – as well as joining in with ASM and tech duties, including helping to load and unload the van, setting up the lights for each show, laying out and packing away props. The ability to drink endless of cups of tea and snack on biscuits is also preferable!

Tour dates are currently between 9th October and 3rd December 2019 so anyone applying would need good availability from the end of September onwards.
So far we have dates in Sheffield, Cambridge, and London, as well as local performances in the Manchester area. You will be required to stay overnight for some shows. Time & Again pays for and provides accommodation and travel for all shows out of the Manchester area, as well as breakfast and an evening meal.

We currently pay our company members minimum wage of £8.21 per hour on performance nights only. This covers from the moment we arrive at a venue, from unloading, setting up, performing, and packing again, to the time we leave. This is supplemented by a share of the profits (if any) on a show by show basis.

To Apply
Please email a headshot, CV, and short cover letter explaining why you would like to join the company to itslauracrow@gmail.com

Show Information

Greyhounds
Written and Produced by Laura Crow
Directed by Jacqueline Wheble

Greyhounds 12 Location

The year is 1941 and rehearsals for Henry V are underway…
Greyhounds entwines Shakespeare’s famous story of warlike Harry with the everyday trials and tribulations of small village life during the Second World War. From within the wooden O of the local village hall, where every scene is set, the residents of Shuttlefield rehearse, gossip and indulge in some seriously bad acting as the night of the performance draws ever closer.
Each character is required to perform a short monologue from Henry V during the course of the show. There are additional extracts of Henry V threaded throughout, so experience or understanding of Shakespeare would be desirable.

Greyhounds is a full length play comprising two acts each 1hr long, usually with a 20 minute interval between each act.

Character Breakdown

All roles, other than Mr Nelson, are equal in terms of stage time and importance. It’s a true ensemble piece.

RUBY WINTERS – Playing age: 25 – 40
Directing the village’s production of Henry V. Would-be bohemian; thwarted artist. Bossy but kind. Loses her sight during the show after being caught in the blast of a stray German bomb.

KATHERINE (KATE) WINTERS – Playing age: 18 – 25
Ruby’s younger sister. Reluctant participant. Quiet, awkward, extremely literal. Logical to the point of causing unintentional offence. Becomes a codebreaker at Bletchley Park during the course of the show.

NANCY WILDE – Playing age: 18 – 25
Aspiring actress, recently moved to the village from London. Cheerful, friendly, tries to be helpful. Works in the local greengrocer’s shop owned by her aunt.

EDWARD (NED) HOLMES – Playing age: 25 – 35
Former RAF pilot, currently injured. Studied mathematics at Christ’s College, Cambridge. Rather formal and traditional. High ranking official at Bletchley Park.

WILL CROFT – Playing age: 18 – 25
Playing Henry V. A devotee of literature, working in the fields. Reserved but friendly. During the play we discover he is a conscientious objector. Returns from service in the RAMC with a slight tremor in his right hand.

ARTHUR NELSON – Playing age: 45 – 65
Ruby’s cantankerous lodger. Fought in the First World War. He only appears in the second act of Greyhounds but it’s still a sizeable part.

Clouds
Written and Produced by Laura Crow
Directed by Jacqueline Wheble

Brown Group Shot

The year is 1913 and women are rising up…
Winifred Baxter is determined to become the first Englishwoman to enter an air race, learning to fly amidst the chaos of the suffragette movement, a glorious garden party and far too much nephology: the study of clouds.
Our only set is a large mockup of an Edwardian monoplane so performers must learn how to assemble and take apart the plane quickly as part of the show. In Edinburgh we managed to do this in less than 3 minutes each night, though on tour we’ll have considerably more time!

Clouds is a one act play lasting 1 hour.

Character Breakdown

All roles are fairly equal in terms of stage time and importance. It’s a true ensemble piece.

PHILIP BROOK – Playing age: 25 – 35
An aviator with a high opinion of himself. Seems to be a typical product of a male-dominated society to begin with but he becomes invested in Freddie’s efforts to enter the race. Obnoxious yet charming.

SYLVIA LOVEJOY – Playing age: 18 – 25
A budding Suffragette with an innocent view of the world. Likes to grow flowers. Always talking, incredibly naive, accidentally humorous. Drives the pace of the show along with Philip. Extremely likeable.

FREDDIE (WINIFRED) BAXTER – Playing age: 18 – 25
Determined to become the first female pilot to fly around Britain in an air race. Hot-headed and rather cutting, but able to win the sympathy of the audience. Her health declines rapidly throughout the course of the play.

THEODORE BAXTER – Playing age: 18 – 25
Freddie’s older brother. Stutters badly and is obsessed with Nephology; the study of clouds. Shy and sympathetic. Fond of Sylvia.

LADY SARA FITZMAURICE – Playing age: 25 – 40
Married to Sir Hugh Fitzmaurice who owns the Blackburn monoplane flown by Philip and Freddie. Visitor to the local hospital and organiser of a garden party. Seems snobby and rude initially but a more understanding character emerges.

The parts usually double as follows;
Ruby Winters and Lady Sara
Katherine Winters and Freddie Baxter
Nancy Wilde and Sylvia Lovejoy
Edward Holmes and Philip Brook
Will Croft and Theodore Baxter
Mr Nelson and Light and Sound

 

What I’ve Learnt About Society’s Views on Women From Walking Round Edinburgh Fringe Dressed as a Suffragette

What I’ve learnt about society’s views on women from walking round Edinburgh Fringe dressed as a suffragette.

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Firstly, I feel incredibly proud to wear my sash. It’s a constant reminder of the real women who – however controversial – fought for a very basic right; that women should have an equal voice and say as men. They were determined, brave, unwavering, and consistently belittled, beaten, arrested, mocked and shamed for simply wanting to give women a voice.

Whilst we’re not facing a fraction of the hatred heaped upon our Edwardian sisters, we are still getting heckled, called out and challenged every single day. Just yesterday we had:

“Ridiculous!”

“No, no, no, no, no. Dreadful idea!”

“Bloody socialists!”

“That’s worked out well!”

Some of these comments are dressed up as wit, some less so, but there’s an uneasiness behind each negative reaction. In 2019 people still find the concept of women needing to fight for their rights as just a little bit of a joke. Don’t be silly love. You’ve no need to go on about any of that any more.

Our male cast members, particularly, come in for a lot of curiosity, incredulity and scrutiny. Fair enough, a group of women might parade around as silly suffragettes but surely a man can’t be standing there holding a ‘deeds not words’ banner?

“Men can’t be suffragettes, can they?”

“Don’t you mean, votes for men?”

This is a pervading attitude, one that seems to think that only women can support the rights of women, only women should have an interest in feminism. And this is a big problem. If people only care about issues that 100% directly effect themselves, it doesn’t leave much scope for creating a better world.

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On the flip side, we’re getting a huge positive reaction from young women and girls (and a wonderful young father with his baby daughter). You can see visible excitement pass their faces as we stalk past with our sashes and banners.

“Yassssss!”

“Votes for women!”

The image of these militant freedom fighters resonates hugely with them. But why? It’s been over 100 years since Emmeline Pankhurst and co. chained themselves to the railings and threw bricks through windows. You could argue that suffragettes are no longer relevant. But perhaps, just perhaps, that struggle to have your voice heard still rings true for many women today.

In the arts world, there is a huge lack of female writers, producers, and directors getting their work made and recognised. Though, not for a want of willing and able candidates.

Even here at Fringe, according to The Stage, men earn 60% more than women. (https://www.thestage.co.uk/news/2019/men-earned-60-more-than-women-at-last-years-edinburgh-fringe-study-claims/)

This year the #womenoffringe group have been truly excellent, offering support and a platform for the women coming up to Edinburgh. But the fact remains, that it’s still sadly necessary to have a specific group supporting women. Our voices still get lost, talked over, patronized.

So pardon me if we continue “engaging in unedifying conversations about the suffragette movement.” There’s still a long way to go.

As Emmeline said:

“I incite this meeting to rebellion!”

And that’s my call to you. Support female theatre, support female writers. Listen to what we say and recognise that there’s still plenty we have to fight for. Because, if the reaction to our costumes is anything to go by, wanting equal rights is still an act of rebellion!

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Flying Lesson

Laura, the writer, producer, and actor playing Winifred Baxter in Time & Again’s latest show, Clouds, is taking to the skies in the lead up to the Edinburgh Fringe to experience what it’s really like to wield the controls of a plane. The only problem – she’s absolutely terrified of flying!
Last Tuesday she managed to conquer her fear and head up to the clouds. Here’s what she had to say about the experience:

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On Tuesday I had my first ever flying lesson.

This was a HUGE deal for me as I’m totally afraid of flying. Even on big passenger jets, which I use as little as possible, I’m stressing and feeling sick and clutching at the arm rests at the slightest movement. I’ve even been known to call out loudly, “are we going down?”, which probably doesn’t make for a particularly fun flight if you’re unfortunate enough to find yourself sitting next to me..
So going up in something much smaller, and actually taking over the controls, was filling me with ‘you’re going to die’ level of fear. But it was a really important challenge for me to undertake. My character in Clouds is a daring female pilot and I want to be able to do her justice. I feel I can’t play such a pioneer without experiencing what it’s actually like to control a plane myself.

The lesson had already been rescheduled twice due to low clouds (ironic!) but luckily on Tuesday the weather was clear, bright and not too windy. I arrived at Barton and met my instructor. I was given a headset with a little microphone to wear during the flight so we could hear each other. Not going to lie, it felt a bit like being on TV or in a film (nerd). We went to the control tower to write down the details of our plane and which runway we’d be using. There’s actually plenty of traffic up in the sky, although it looks pretty empty and peaceful from the ground, so it’s important to get these details and times to avoid collisions. Then it was time to get in…

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The plane felt quite flimsy. It was much smaller than a car; a little box under big white wings with two seats side by side. The inside was a bit car-like I suppose, with windows either side and a sun shield you could fold down. I was instructed to strap myself in and give the door a good thump to make sure it was firmly shut.
There were lots of checks to perform before we started up: dials had to be in the right place, switches had to be tested, seat belts checked. Then it was safe to start up the engine.

It wasn’t actually as loud as I was expecting (though I don’t know what I was expecting… a Spitfire? A Jet? Who knows with my mind at this point). On the ground, you control the steering with foot pedals which is a bit mind bending to get your head around. You want to use the control wheel, like you would if you were driving a car, but instead it’s all in the feet. I was told to direct us out so I took up the pedals. Our trundles down to and away from the runway were a bit wobbly but I did my best.

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The engine was revved up a bit to help us take off. It felt like we weren’t going fast enough to ever get up into the sky, but of course we did. The going up wasn’t so bad. It was the levelling off. Every tiny pocket of air, every little rise or drop felt hugely amplified and sent a burst of fear shooting through me. It would be calm for a stretch but then there’d come another burst of the plane bumping and wobbling in the air. This feeling never eased off through our time in the air and was the worst part of the experience for me. Luckily, my instructor was lovely and told me lots about the plane and the area we were flying over (towards Blackpool) to distract me.

The view was AMAZING. That was definitely my favourite part of the flight. The north west is actually really green! You notice that there’s actually far more fields stretching out around you than built up areas when you’re up that high! We flew over the abandoned Camelot theme park which looked particularly captivating and poignant, the rusting rollercoaster track slowly decaying in the bright sunshine.

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Taking the controls was also terrifying. The first time my instructor passed over control, I passed it back in about 2 seconds flat with the professional exclamation, “I don’t like it, take it away!” But I pushed myself to have three attempts. The plane really responds to the smallest movement. It was a lot trickier than you might think just keeping it level (though the instructor made it look ridiculously easy!)

I have to say, although I was so anxious, the time passed pretty quickly. Soon we were turning round and heading back towards the airfield. I think landing was the part I’d been dreading the most but actually it was fine. We did a large rectangular circuit over the airfield before slowly descending. It felt almost like gliding (though before anyone asks, if you ever think I’m going up in something without an engine, you can think again). It was a BIG relief to be back on firm ground. There were more checks to complete upon landing before heading back to the aircraft’s stand.

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I felt relieved and elated and sweaty. People kept asking if I’d enjoyed my flight. I’m not sure enjoyed is the correct word. It was definitely a great experience that I’m so glad I managed to persuade myself to do. But there was also so much fear and anxiety, not just during the flight, but for the days leading up to it.
Once I’d handed in my headset and collected my certificate, I headed over to the Trafford Centre and treated myself to an immense Belgian waffle. The sugar was very much needed, partly because I’d not eaten much all day and partly because I was buzzing so much!

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The lesson taught me a lot and gave me plenty to think about regarding early aviation (such as in my character’s day). The smaller, slower planes must have been so wobbly. The slightest gust of wind must have been catastrophic. And the pilot’s themselves must have been so fearless to the point of being a bit mad! Imagine doing something so risky for the first time, without an established set of rules and guidelines. Aviators wouldn’t have known what to check before and after take off until something went wrong on someone else’s flight and they learned from the consequences.
On top of that, if you were a woman back then, you were also fighting against everyone’s prejudices and expectation that you were going to fail at such an ‘inappropriate’ endeavour. Truly, I have so much for those early pioneers of aviation, especially the women.

You can catch Clouds at The Pankhurst Centre in Manchester as part of the GM Fringe on Thursday 25th July and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Friday 2nd – Saturday 17th August at theSpace on the Mile.

Time & Again Book Club: The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

Wild Air

To bring our plays to life, we find it invaluable to immerse ourselves in books, exhibitions, films and documentaries all about the era and context in which our stories are set. As we prepare to take to Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019 with Clouds, a story of women rising up in 1913, we thought now would be an excellent time to invite you to join us in reading up on this exciting era of early aviation and women’s suffrage!

For this first instalment of Time & Again Book Club, we decided to read historical novelist Rebecca Mascull’s The Wild Air. Like Clouds, the story is set in Edwardian England and follows a young woman with a burning desire to take to the skies in these new fangled flying machines.

fionaFiona Primrose who plays budding suffragette Sylvia Lovejoy in Clouds enjoyed an introduction to the world of early aviation.

‘It’s reminded me of what a huge event flying used to be. These days the novelty has worn off with thousands of successful flights happening every day, but back then it really was a spectacle and I’ll be looking to bring some of that excitement (and probably trepidation!) to our performance. I also loved the references to Shakespeare too.’

We’re no strangers to a bit of Shakespeare, our debut show Greyhounds was closely entwined with the bard’s Henry V. Thus, a reference or two will never go amiss with us.

lauraLaura Crow was also particularly taken with the insight into flying the novel gave her. Laura is the writer and producer of Clouds and also plays Freddie Baxter, who is determined to become the first female pilot to fly around Britain in an air race so this was very pertinent to her character development!

‘The descriptions of early aviation and flight was so well researched and detailed. It definitely helped me think about what Freddie would go through each time she took her Blackburn up; the cold, the fear, the excitement, the tempestuous nature of early machinery! 

I loved the descriptions of pre-war Hendon too. It really gave a window into the ‘last glorious summer’ type feeling of the Edwardian era.’

We recently visited Hendon on a trip to London’s RAF Museum. It was particularly exciting to see where parts of the novel were set and see photographs and memorabilia of Claude Grahame-White, who has quite the cameo in the book.

catherineCatherine Cowdrey, who plays Lady Sara Fitzmaurice whose focus is on hosting the perfect garden party, found the characters a big part of the delight of the book.

‘Rebecca Mascull has done a fantastic job of creating a set of vibrant, strong female characters. Aviatrix Della definitely knows her own mind and is not afraid to break the rules. Similarly, her sisters and aunt manage to carve their way in what is perceived to be quite a repressed society. I think this is something we can definitely engage with and explore when we discuss our characters and their motives.’

Clouds director Jacqueline Wheble liked how the author evokes that feeling of being trapped in a small town like Cleethorpes with no future at the start of the novel. The way this then blossoms into the delight of kite flying with that special Auntie who opens up the world to her is really delightful. Cultivating convincing family relationships like this is something which will be key for Clouds as we meet Freddie and her brother Theodore who share a similarly special bond. Jac also thought that the character of the father in The Wild Air, Pop the damaged actor, is very well drawn, bitter and demanding, withholding praise to control his children. Rebecca Mascull’s characters are clearly very carefully considered.

All in all, this page-turner was a big hit with Time & Again Theatre Company’s bookworms. Rebecca Mascull paints a stunning picture of Edwardian England and its aviation scene, one which will certainly inform how we take our Clouds characters to the stage.

Have you read The Wild Air? Let us know what you enjoyed about the book if so! Keep your eyes peeled for the announcement of our next read very soon.

Rural Touring in Kent & East Sussex!

For the past month Time & Again have had a wonderful time performing our show, Greyhounds, for rural communities in Kent & East Sussex, in association with Applause Rural Touring! This was our first experience of rural touring and life on the road, and it couldn’t have been more fun! We loved getting the chance to perform Greyhounds in actual village halls as the first act of the show is based in the fictitious Shuttlefield Village Hall so it leant itself perfectly to small local venues.

We were very excited to hit the road in our trusty VW Crew Van!

During our first leg of shows we were based in the lovely town of Tonbridge, near Tunbridge Wells. Our apartment was really nice and just a stone’s throw from the ruins of a castle (how great is that?) We explored Tonbridge during our time off, visiting a cat cafe for hot chocolate with some feline friends and having drinks in local pub The Humphrey Bean! We even managed to make it over to Tunbridge Wells for a wander along the Pantiles.

Kent gives the perfect G&T based advice…

Our shows were at Blackham Village Hall, Crowhurst Village Hall, Bredhurst Village Hall and Shoreham Village Hall (which was also near the Shoreham Air Museum. Obviously we had to drop in for a cup of tea and chat with the museum’s owner Geoff!) All the promoters made us feel very welcome, providing us with copious cups of tea and biscuits, and even a full picnic lunch.

Give us food and we’re happy. We like food.

It’s been really interesting having to adapt the show to different spaces and stages, with the entrances and exits all in different places. We’ve also become very quick at packing and unpacking all of our set into the back of the van! We also felt very proud of ourselves for cooking up a good meal before each of the shows (#adulting)!

Shoreham had pictures in the village hall from their VE Day parade!

We’ve just finished our final show at the 1000-year-old Allsaints Church in Allhallows. It was a wonderful way to end the tour. We got so many feedback cards filled in with wonderful comments and the promoters even bought us fish and chips for dinner!

We got to visit some really beautiful locations.

We’ve had so much fun on the road, a lot of laughs and hi-jinks, and it was amazing to perform our show to such friendly, engaged audiences. Thank you so much to Applause Rural Touring for organising everything – we hope you’ll have us back again soon! We’d love to return to Kent and East Sussex next year with brand new show Clouds!