Silchester Players (SP), Helping Hands – Basingstoke Community Radio (HHBCR) and Basingstoke Music and Arts Festival (BMAF) have each been required to adapt to changing circumstances as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic. They are now performing again, but not in a conventional way!
First of all, a brief explanation of how these innovative local voluntary groups came to collaborate together. In 2019, BMAF’s Creative Writing Section Secretary, Tony Corbin, and Helping Hands’ Basingstoke Community Radio Station Manager, Christine Rowley, herself a keen writer and previous entrant to BMAF’s Creative Writing Competition, hatched a plan together. The result was the creation of an audio e-book entitled ‘Local Lines’. This comprised 18 selected entries from the 2019 BMAF Creative Writing competition. Sales raised over £300 for the respective charities.
Suitably encouraged, 2020 ‘Place to be Proud Of’ award winning HHBCR added a new weekly programme to their schedule ‘Poems for Pleasure’. This is hosted by another BMAF Creative Writing Competition entrant and past winner, Stephen Bibby. He and Tony soon came up with the idea of reading a winning entry from the 2020 BMAF Creative Writing Competition at the start of each weekly broadcast (currently between 1 and 2pm on a Tuesday).
The readings have been well received and have spawned further ideas. One is the ‘Bards of Basingstoke’ initiative. This offers budding writers across the Borough the opportunity to read (or have their work read) on radio. Stephen Bibby takes up the story.
‘It was not as simple as it might at first seem. Come the lockdown, my study became a remote studio where I record my weekly programme. As a result, all contributions come to me as computer files, either as text or as a reading by the author. I then produce the programme which then has to be uploaded and the file format changed so that it can be broadcast ‘as live’ on the radio. So all it takes for any budding Bards in the Borough is an email sent to me, via the station firstname.lastname@example.org , attaching your verse or if a reading, attaching it as an M4A file’.
But the tale doesn’t terminate there. Stephen is also a member of Silchester Players who in the ‘old normal’ would have been busy producing and performing their annual panto and three or four other stage productions. Again, the pandemic has thwarted SP’s efforts. That was until Stephen came up with an idea, not just to read the BMAF Creative Writing Competition winning play entry on air, but to perform it instead!
Of course, as with all plays, auditions had to be held. These took place in a large local garden with strict social distancing measures being put in place. Normally the physical appearance of actors and actresses is a consideration but, on this occasion, the primary concern was the voices.
So, make a note in your diary for 1 o’clock on Tuesday 29th September. This is when the play “The Litter Picker” written by Chineham resident, Ann Stonehouse and now adapted for radio, will be performed. Ann commented, ‘It’s wonderful that my play is going to be performed by accomplished actors. It has meant some extra work, but I’m really thrilled and can’t wait to listen in’.
To hear the play, go to www.hhcr.org on your computer, tablet or mobile phone and click on ‘Listen Live’ Alternatively you can ask Alexa or Google hub to find it. More on Silchester Players can be found on their website: www.silchesterplayers.org
For more details of the 2021 Basingstoke Music and Arts Festival Creative Writing competition please contact Tony Corbin (BMAF Section Secretary) via email at BMAFCW@kempshott.plus.com . Full details of the BMAF 2021 Festival will also be available on the website www.basingstokemusicandarts.co.uk when it is formally launched in mid-September.
The Creative Writing section of the Festival invites entries of poems, short stories and articles as well as plays. If you are successful you could find your play being performed by Silchester Players, in a radio version or, if the Pandemic allows, on stage on 21st March 2021 at the annual BMAF Creative Writing Competition Awards Ceremony. The entry deadline is Monday 14th December 2020.