A celebration of Forest of Dean talent

The New Century Theatre Company perform Dennis Potter’s evocative play, Blue Remembered Hills.
The New Century Theatre Company perform Dennis Potter’s evocative play, Blue Remembered Hills.

The talent of the Forest of Dean comes to life this weekend at the Dean Heritage Centre. From Berry Hill born playwright Dennis Potter’s locally set story performed against the ‘blue hills’ of its title to the execution of the ancient craft of charcoal burning, the centre will celebrating the heritage of the Forest. 

7pm on Friday 27th August sees the curtain rise on Dennis Potter’s evocative play, Blue Remembered Hills. The New Century Theatre Company will be performing the story of a group of seven-year-olds on a summer’s afternoon in the Forest of Dean in Dennis Potter’s brilliant evocation of war-time childhood games where adults play the role of children. 

Jennifer Rigby, the play’s producer said, ‘The New Century Theatre Company has a tradition of seeking performances that appeal to wide audiences. We particularly enjoy performing Blue Remembered Hills as there is a real challenge to acting as children without making them into caricatures.’ The Dean Heritage Centre is the perfect place to watch the play as Jennifer explained, ‘The pastoral setting is obviously perfectly realistic and this has a soothing effect on an audience which then adds impact as the story builds towards its climatic end.’ One of the most interesting characters is Willy who Jennifer believes is based on Potter himself. She said, ‘Willy is the voice of the children’s consciousness and the play opens with him. Willy is the level character and makes the observations of the other children.’

Tickets cost £8 for adults and £6 for concessions. Gates open at 6pm for picnics and food will be available in the cafe until 7pm. Box office: 01594 822170.

On Saturday 28th a team of charcoal burners will be taking up residence to demonstrate their traditional forest craft. It takes three days to burn charcoal and the stack must be monitored at all times so there’ll be activity through until Bank Holiday Monday. See how the ancient skill is practised and learn why a charcoal burners stool only has one leg!

The Dean Heritage Centre is one of the few places in the UK where charcoal is burned regularly. Clayton Ryder, Site Manager of the Dean Heritage Centre and who will be one of the charcoal burners said, ‘95% of the charcoal used in this country is imported. It is impregnated with chemicals to prevent it catching fire whilst in transit which is why you need firelighters. Our charcoal doesn’t have this requirement and so it lights with just a lit piece of paper and then burns smokeless. It is much cleaner.’ This years’ charcoal burn is the last that will be using wood from off site. From May 2011, Clayton Ryder and his team will be using timber from the centre’s grounds. It may be a traditional craft but it has very modern values of sustainability and a move away from unnecessarily treated products! Charcoal products will be on sale.

Bank Holiday Monday is the Have a go at day where you can observe, touch and have a go at a host of crafts, traditional and modern. There will be bee-keepers, a batik silk painter, pole-lathe turning, archaeology activities and fire starting! Please note that the amount of participation will vary between crafts.


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