With the world premiere of his play ‘Heaton!’ at the People’s Theatre now little over three months away, things are hotting up for the writer, Heaton History Group member, Peter Dillon. The show is a multimedia production and Peter has been filming scenes that you’ll see on a big screen behind the stage. He takes up the story:
‘Film making takes you to some interesting places, and I don’t necessarily mean the upper reaches of the Amazon, or somewhere in distant Nepal, but rather in our own back yard. Unless I was making films (for ‘Heaton!‘ and the ‘Brains, Steam and Speed’ exhibition at the People’s Theatre in July) I’d never get to see the engineering splendour inside the Siemens heavy machinery shop on the Fossway or even on a smaller scale the dusty cave like interior of the upholsterers on Cardigan Terrace. Not a big one for gyms, I doubt I’d have been shinning up the stairs of Gold Star (courtesy of Raj and Wendy) on Heaton Road. Off to the Morpeth Gathering, where we captured the exhilarating Heaton based Tynebridge Morris Dancers giving their all in the procession down Newgate Street. Luckily we caught the best of the weather: as the dancers approached Bridge Street, the rain began.
Another recent highlight, thanks to the present owner Ann Brough, a visit/recce to Holeyn Hall, Wylam, the mansion where Charles Parsons and family lived during arguably the engineer’s most productive years at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. It was a thrill to enter the impressively large hallway and looking up the grand stairway to see a framed photograph of the Turbinia on the high seas. Arrangements were made to film in the hall’s grounds and at what’s locally known as Parsons’ Pond for a short film featuring Charles Parsons and his daughter, Rachel, which will play in the exhibition.
Onto Neville Hall, the Mining Institute on Westgate Road to shoot filmed scenes for ‘Heaton!’ and also Lord Armstrong, in the form of People’s Theatre actor Andrew De’ath, for a film about the Shieldfield born entrepreneur, another one for ‘Brains, Steam and Speed’.
The grand Gothic library was the site of one of Armstrong’s speeches and doubles perfectly for both a Cragside interior and a gentleman’s club, where a couple of architects and an engineer discuss Ove Arup’s involvement in the construction of Sydney Opera House. They say the camera doesn’t lie – it lies (on behalf a greater truth, we hope) all the time.
Another exciting development of ‘Heaton!’ (July 17 – July 21: the box office is open. Book your tickets now!) are the number of the show’s principle characters’ relatives, who have emerged – members of theatrical entrepreneur, George Stanley and structural engineer, Ove Arup’s families – and who hopefully will be attending. Not forgetting the intrepid work of Ruth Baldasera from Siemens, who is raising money to restore Charles and Lady Parsons’ grave at Kirkwhelpington – not too late to contribute.
Ruth has now tracked down Lily Callender, a female employee who worked at the Cremona Toffee Factory and in the Parsons coreplate and insulating shops: in the latter it was so hot they had to work barefoot.
Here’s hoping the show and the exhibition help unearth even more fascinating events and characters from Heaton’s history.’