TVLB Watch House Museum
24th Jan 2016
Last weekend I was invited to a live performance of a new radio play at the Watch House Museum in Tynemouth: Figureheads, written by Whitley Bay writer Noreen Rees, with readings from members of Whitley Bay's creative writing group Elementary Writers. The event was organised by Sam Levy, education officer at the museum and Rachel Cochrane of Listen Up North.
Elementary Writers have produced poems and stories inspired by Whitley Bay and St Mary's Lighthouse. The readings were lively and the range of subjects surprising - from a Russian love letter to a first football match.
Through a Prism a poem by Harry Gallagher
Famous Five at St Mary's Lighthouse by Moira Conway
New Year Resolution by Jean Laurie
Letter from Cholera Island by James Tucker
Wish You Were here by Jennifer Wilson
My Team by Mike Cockburn
St Mary of the Lighthouse by Harry Gallagher
Elementary Writers is run by Victoria Watson .
After a short break that gave us all the chance to see some of the interesting and intriguing artefacts in the museum, we sat back for the main feature: Figureheads tells of the fateful events on the 24th November 1862, when two ships ("The Stanley", a passenger steamer from Glasgow, and the schooner "Friendship") foundered on the notorious Black Midden Rocks with the loss of 24 lives, including members of the lifeboat crew who were attempting a rescue in the heavy seas.
The tale is narrated by eye witness, Brendan, who recalls the storm, and the sight of a strange figure up on the cliffs. It then unfolds through the eyes of four Figureheads from wrecked ships, as they try in vain to save the Stanley and the Friendship.
Each Figurehead has a tale to tell, and a different outlook on events, from the practical Lowestoft, to the lugubrious Rupert. The four characters of the Figureheads are brought to life in this original and touching play, and the actors make the events feel very real. Because this is a radio play the writing is very visual, aided by sound effects of sea and wind and the cries of the shipwrecked, it is a very atmospheric and moving experience - all the more so because of the venue and the tolling of the actual bell from the Stanley as the names of the lost are called at the end of the play. I highly recommend listening later in the year when it will be available online, and definitely find time to visit the museum to find out about the history and the on-going good work of the TVLB.
'Figureheads' was written by Noreen Rees
Lowestoft by Mary Pickin
First of May by Karen Traynor
Fame by Ann Ridley
Rupert by Penny Lamport
Brendan (narrator) by Ray Moore
Produced and directed by Rachel Cochrane
Available to listen as a radio play on listenupnorth.com in the Spring