TEAM WOR BELLA
Writer & Producer
With his marra and now internationally acclaimed author Trevor Wood, Ed co-wrote 14 plays (three remain un-produced) from 2002 to 2015, including the international hits Dirty Dusting (New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and ten UK tours, and three sell out runs at Newcastle Theatre Royal) and Waiting For Gateaux (New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and Belgium, UK tour and Newcastle Theatre Royal). Their other hit plays include Good to Firm (national tour), Maggie's End (Gala Durham and off-London's West End, UK tour), Alf Ramsay Knew My Grandfather (North East tour and Newcastle Theatre Royal), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Durham (North East tour), Amazing Grace (North East tour), Son of Samurai (North East tour and Latitude Festival) and The Revengers (national tour and London).
Their film script The Liquidator won "Best Comedy Script" at the Gotham Film Festival, New York, USA, in 2010.
Their radio sitcom It's Grim Up North was broadcast by the BBC in 2011.
For further details, visit edwaughandtrevorwood.co.uk
Ed's critically acclaimed solo plays include Dracula: Die Laughing (North East tour 2013 and Whitby Goth Festival, April 2014), The Accidental Activist (North East tour 2015, with additional stand-up material by John Scott and John Gibson), Hadaway Harry (2015, see below) Mr Corvan's Music Hall (2017, North East tour), The Great Joe Wilson (2018, see below) and Carrying David (2019, see below).
Joe Wilson Night (2016, 2017, Tyneside Irish Centre) and The Great Geordie Songbook (Vol 1) (2019, Sage Gateshead).
Sadly, Joe Wilson Night 2020 and a dementia-friendly Geordie Songs and Banter show as well as The Great Geordie Songbook (Vol II) - all at Sage Gateshead - have been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ed's comedy sketch The Geordie Nativity, which has been performed many times as a monologue and multi-part radio piece, has been developed into a full-length play (in ten sketches). Now, also an 85,000 word book (written over Christmas and New Year 2020/2021), the surreal Yuletide comedy is something for Geordies worldwide to look forward to.
Since its inaugural show in December 2013 at The Stand in Newcastle, Ed has also written at least 10 Laffalang [comedy] shows directed by Gareth Hunter and featuring the Laffalang Gang at Westovian Theatre, South Shields. In addition he has penned sketches for the annual Christmas at the Cathedral show in Newcastle and Sunday for Sammy sketches with Trevor (2012 and 2014) and as a solo writer (2016, 2018 and 2020).
His two radio sitcom pilots Where Did I go Wrong? and Stand Up For Middle Age - were performed at The Word in South Shields in May 2018.
For further details [see here].
Carrying David is about Glenn McCrory becoming the first world champion boxing champion in the North East. After a successful North East tour in 2019, it played Northern Ireland prior to the lockdown and received standing ovations.
Scheduled to play in London before a run at Newcastle Theatre Royal in April 2021 (it would have been the fastest-ever transfer to the region's premier theatre), it was pulled because of the Coronavirus nightmare. Plans are afoot for a tour in the not-too-distant future.
Carrying David was supported by Arts Council England and premiered at Tyneside Irish Centre in Newcastle as a one-hander starring Micky Cochrane on May 31, 2019.
"Superb... it has emotion and heart, you don't need to be a boxing fan to enjoy this" - Sunday Sun.
"Inspirational...McCrory's story transcends boxing... dripped with emotion to the final drop...the standing ovation came as no surprise" - Belfast Telegraph.
Hadaway Harry is about Harry Clasper, a forgotten Geordie hero. Harry was a former Durham miner from Dunston, who invented the sport of rowing as we know it today. Rowing was the sport of the working class before football, and Harry was the world's biggest star. When he died on 9th July 1870, 130,000 people (yes, 130,000) lined his funeral procession in Newcastle. The Blaydon Races was written for Harry's testimonial at Balmbra's in 1862! Sadly, even Newcastle fans don't know the history of their song. History is written and taught in schools about kings and queens, not the working class. Hadaway Harry will tour in June 2022.
Hadaway Harry was supported by Arts Council England and premiered as a one-hander starring Jamie Brown on Monday 29th June 2015, at The North East Marine Trust (Boathouse), South Shields. When it played Newcastle Theatre Royal in February 2017, the show starred Jamie Brown and featured Wayne Miller.
"A day at the races like never before...tour de force...edge of your seat...very clever stuff" - Hear the Boat Sing
"Truly amazing...[Hadaway Harry] deserves to be fondly remembered and talked about for a long time" - Evening Chronicle
The Great Joe Wilson is about "The Bard of Tyneside". Joe wrote around 360 songs and poems in his brief lifetime (1841 to 1875) including well known songs still sung today like Keep Your Feet Still Geordie Hinny, Sally Wheatley, Nae Work and The Chap That Knaas Nowt. A Geordie superstar who could pack music halls to the rafters, Joe died of TB in poverty and the copyright of his songs were signed away. Despite that, he leaves a legacy that still stands out today. Joe is one of our great songsmiths alongside Ned Corvan, Geordie Ridley and Alan Hull.
The Great Joe Wilson was a co-production between Wisecrack and Darlington Hippodrome. It premiered as a four-hander starring Micky Cochrane, Jamie Brown, Sarah Boulter and Jordan Miller (also musical arranger) on Friday 7th September 2018.
"Exhilarating" - The Northern Echo.
"Impressive...the banter is strong, the songs memorable, the harmonies tight and well performed - a fitting tribute to the man" - Evening Chronicle
Geordie Plays (Volume 1) & Wor Bella
Playwright Ed Waugh's new book of plays is now out!
Published by Tyne Bridge publishing, Geordie Plays (Volume 1) comprises Carrying David, Hadaway Harry and The Great Joe Wilson.
For more details about the launch and the book click here.
From one Geordie to another
AC/DC's Brian Johnson, a Dunston-born lad (the same as Harry Clasper) and keen historian, sent a message of support to Ed.
"I can’t wait to read the Geordie Plays. I think it's important that we remember these great characters. My personal favourite name is Hadaway Harry. "
"While the songs Joe Wilson wrote are still loved by us older Geordies today, I hope the young can learn from these past Tyneside heroes of music, comedy and sport and carry on our proud traditions."
"Many congratulations on the book and much success."
And on WOR BELLA...
"What a story! It's a shame more people haven’t heard of this wonderful woman. I wish you all the success with the show. Long may it run. Bella Forever!"
Preserved for Future Generations
We are delighted that Newcastle Cathedral have included a copy of Geordie Plays (Volume One) in the time capsule they buried in June 2021.
Exciting new developments are happening at the Cathedral in Mosley Street (at the bottom of the Bigg Market), including the creation of a performance space in the wonderful building that has been at the heart of the city of Newcastle for more than 900 years.
As part of the cathedral's National Lottery Heritage Fund project, Common Ground in Sacred Space, the team buried the capsule so Geordies of the future will learn about our wonderful city’s past - from the last five minutes to the past 2000 years.
Stories, images, poems and other memorabilia were included in the capsule that was buried under the site of a new dedication stone in the Cathedral on June 11, 2021.
Rachael Rickwood, Newcastle Cathedral Learning and Activities officer, said: "The response was tremendous and we had loads of really varied and exciting responses. Unfortunately, we could only put a small number of items in the capsule, and we picked a selection including works by locally based artists, plans from our builders HPR and Geordie Plays (Volume One). We selected Geordie Plays (Volume One) because it encapsulates the Geordie spirit."
The capsule will be opened in 2121.
But don't wait until 2121 to read it. Geordie Plays (Volume One) can be ordered from www.tiny.cc/TyneBooks
Image: Rachael Rickwood with Geordie Plays (Volume One)
Russell directed Hadaway Harry to huge acclaim for the premiere tour in 2015 as well as the sold-out London and Newcastle Theatre Royal productions in February 2017.
In 2018 he directed the hugely successful The Great Joe Wilson.
Croydon-born Russell is himself an acclaimed theatre, film and TV actor best known as EastEnders market manager Michael Rose (1996 to 1999) and The Bill's DC Ken Drummond (2002 to 2005).
He has appeared in many TV shows, BBC Radio 4 productions, numerous films and theatre productions including the London production of Maggie's End (Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood) and Forget Me Not with Eleanor Bron at the Bush Theatre, London.
Between 2015 and 2018 he toured the UK's major theatre venues (including London's West End) playing Sharon Osbourne's thuggish dad in the Small Faces musical All Or Nothing.
After directing The Great Joe Wilson, Crystal Palace fan Russell headed straight to London's West End where he starred in The Mousetrap for nine months. Did he do it? He's not allowed to say!
In 2018 Russell played the lead actor in Offensive which won best film at the New York, Spain and Italy film festivals. In addition, he was nominated as Best Actor at each event. A recent appearance was on German television in a Rosalind Pilcher adaptation which was shown all over Europe.
Carrying David (2019) was Russell's third major success as a director with Ed Waugh.
Wor Bella will be the duo's fourth collaboration.
We are delighted to have Lauren Waine on the team to play Bella Reay in our one-woman show, Wor Bella.
Lauren is a brilliant actress and will continue the success of our other hugely successful "one-hand" shows Hadaway Harry and Carrying David.
Lauren, 25, has a wealth of experience on stage and screen. Starting her career as a young teenager learning her craft treading the boards and singing in Sunderland, South Shields and Newcastle, Lauren was accepted onto the prestigious Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts (LIPA) in 2014. Such is her talent, she was awarded a Laurence Olivier Bursary.
The Sunderland-born actress' theatre credits include: The Snow Queen, The War of The Worlds (Northern Stage); The Importance of Being Earnest, Snow White, Robinson Crusoe (Gala theatre, Durham); Skellig (The Nottingham Playhouse); Wormtown (The Customs House and Alphabetti Theatre); Dr Faustus (The Sam Wanamaker Festival, The Globe); Pericles’ (Brighton Open Air Theatre); RENT! (Paul McCartney Auditorium); Three Jumpers (Unearthed Theatre/ Edinburgh Fringe); Dracula: Die Laughing, The Thirteen Streets, Allo Allo, Charlie’s Aunt, The Laffalang (ION Productions); The Great Geordie Songbook (Sage Gateshead).
Lauren's TV credits include: Fee (The Dumping Ground, CBBC/BBC, Season 7), Molly (Vera, ITV, Season 8).
Her other credits include: The World’s Worst Dinner Party (Channel 4/ Roundhouse Pictures), CoppaFeel Spokesperson (TV & Radio Commercial), Petra (The Infirmary, Audible Audiobook/Amazon).
Von Fox Promotions
Media, Marketing & Stage Management
Wisecrack are proud to have a long-standing working relationship with Von Fox Promotions, a media company from the North East, consisting of Richard Flood and Sophie Teasdale. They specialise in promoting artists, shows and local companies through the media of video, photography, social media and graphic design.
Von Fox have worked on a number of Wisecrack Productions; they have produced trailers, publicity images, flyers, websites and other promotional material for Carrying David, Mr Corvan's Music Hall, The Great Joe Wilson, Hadaway Harry, and The Great Geordie Songbook, as well as stage managing and offering technical support.
They have created work for North Tyneside Council, Mortal Fools, Curious Monkey, Live Theatre, Northern Stage, Kitchen Zoo, Ballet Lorent, Age Concern Tyneside South, LocknCharge, The AC/DC Experience, Washington Arts Centre, Bonnie and The Bonnettes, Newcastle University, and more.
Please visit vonfoxpromotions.com for more details.
Richard has more than 30 years experience in theatre and project management, having begun his career as stage crew for On the Twentieth Century at Her Majesty's Theatre, London not long after graduating from Mountview Theatre School. He worked in the West End for 15 years. Richard is a talented video editor, having worked on numerous film projects over the past decade.
Sophie is a celebrated photographer, having been awarded by the Royal Shakespeare Company for her theatre photography. For the past decade Sophie has been documenting images of performers in their dressing rooms, which she will be self-publishing into a photo book later this year (2021), photographs from the book include the likes of Christopher Eccleston, Niamh Cusack, Alan Cumming, Samantha Bond, Tim McInnerny and more.
Von Fox are delighted to be producing the 5-star hit Hadaway Harry (Ed Waugh) in Spring/Summer 2022
Technical Stage Manager
We are delighted to have Andrea Scrimshaw on board as the Technical Manager for the tour. Andrea came highly recommended and fitted immediately into the Wor Bella team.
Since graduating from Northumbria University with an MA in Theatre and Performance, Newcastle-based Andrea - a freelance Stage Manager and Technical Stage Manager - has worked with a variety of theatre and dance companies in various stage management roles throughout the UK.
Her most recent credits include: Stage Manager - Tree, Alphabetti Theatre; Assistant Stage Manager – Robin Hood, Gala Durham; Technical Stage Manager - Drag Me to Love (National tour), Bonnie and the Bonnettes; Stage Manager - The Lost Happy Endings (National tour), balletLORENT.
Nationally Renowned Cartoonist
Blyth-born cartoonist David Haldane is proud of his hometown. Raised in Hunter Avenue (not far from Croft Park) he attended Crofton infants and junior school, then Blyth Grammar school, and still lives in Northumberland
David's cartoons have appeared in the likes of Private Eye, Punch magazine and The Times. He also wrote for Spitting Image back in the 1980s (when it was good). He is the go-to cartoonist for BBC Look North and his work featured on BBC Inside Out.
David, who worked in the art department of the Shields Gazette from 1977 to 1983, produced cartoons for Hadaway Harry, a previous Wisecrack production, and was only too happy to contribute another for Wor Bella, as seen here.
"The story of Bella Reay and the Blyth Spartans Ladies is incredible," said David. "It really is time the whole world knew about the tremendous sacrifices of not only the selfless women from Blyth, of which I'm extremely proud, but also all of the Munitionettes generally."
Who is David Haldane? Well, we'll let David tell you himself.
"At nine years old I had my first bit of luck. I contracted scarlet fever and was confined to bed for several weeks. It was then that I discovered cartoons; a family friend was a merchant seaman and he provided me with piles of “Funnies".
These were the comic sections of American newspapers he brought from overseas and they introduced me to the cartoon characters Popeye, Krazy Kat and Nancy.
As I grew older, the cartoon bug never left me. I was inspired by the great cartoonists in newspapers and magazines including Punch which was the most celebrated.
It soon became a goal to have one of my own cartoons accepted for publication. After much rejection (something freelance cartoonists have to put up with almost on a weekly basis) my first cartoon was published in January 1978.
Thus began a long and fruitful association with Punch magazine which lasted until its closure in 1992.
In a career spanning over thirty years my work has appeared in books, national newspapers, satirical publications (Private Eye and The Spectator) advertising campaigns and on television in Spitting Image.
Until recently, I was the daily pocket cartoonist for The Times, often featuring on the front page.
As well as continuing with topical work, I now produce several ranges of greetings cards.
My recovery from scarlet fever all those years ago was down to penicillin. Without antibiotics I wouldn’t have survived so, you could say Sir Alexander Fleming was instrumental in kick-starting my career. History remembers Sir Alexander Fleming. Surely the likes of Bella Reay, Blyth Spartans Ladies and the Munitionettes should likewise be remembered."
Crafting a Working Script
By Ed Waugh
After the months and months (years even) of research, the first draft of a script is a daunting but highly exciting and enjoyable task, at least it is in my case. The following words are a purely personal take on scriptwriting and getting the script into shape for rehearsals.
The job in hand it to dramatise around half a million words you've read in research, the multiple exciting stories you've listened to and the many tens of thousands of words you've written in your notes. The key at this stage is to get something down on paper that can then be crafted into a script, just as a potter puts a slab of clay on the wheel and gradually creates a piece of (hopefully) fine art.
All writers are different and have different approaches but I like to initially create a start and a half way point. Then I find the end scenes flows from that.
I always work to a structure that I've painstakingly outlined. This preparation takes a long time (weeks, months even) but it means the dialogue and action can be written quite quickly because I never get "writer's block".
I've heard "writer's block" described as "God telling you that you can't write". I fundamentally disagree with that because I believe everyone can write, and that everyone has a story to tell but the time taken to develop that story is the all-important painstaking, tedious work. Like any craft or skill, it is a on-going process that means you can never afford to stop learning.
So, in my humble opinion, a thorough understanding of the historical context and the personality of the character(s) ie research is vital.
I write down the start to finish in a point to point way. That is the structure. It can change, of course, as you write but it's a crucial guide in the first stages of writing a script.
The structure takes into account aspects like: how do you get your character(s) into the story? How do you tell the back story while constantly moving the story forward? How do you define the important moments that act as a catapult into a new and more exciting stage of the narrative? And, how do you do all this for a one-person play when the actor has to change clothes and play other parts?
At first the words aren't perfect, they are a means to get from one point to another, but writing a script, be it a play, book etc is, in essence about re-writing, constantly trying to tighten everything up.
Having started work on developing an outline in May 2020, I began working on the raw script from May to July 2021, and it came in at 15,000 words. By contrast, Hadaway Harry is 12,000 words and Carrying David is 13,000. Given it's incredible subject matter, the optimum number of words for Wor Bella was 14,000 so I was looking to cut around 1,000 (approximately six minutes' stage time).
After leaving the script for a few weeks, I revisited it with a critical eye - any sentences that slowed the action down were deleted. After this edit, the script came in at 14,600 words. Still 600 words (approximately four minutes) too long.
With a one-person show you can't afford the audience not to be totally absorbed or engaged for a single second. Four minutes of stage time is, in effect, an eternity!
A modern play script should be around 45 minutes each way, plus a few minutes of extra time at a stretch. Long gone are the days when people would spend hours and hours watching Shakespeare in the manner that people would watch sporting events today. People today don't want long, tedious "entertainment" - we are competing against many other forms of leisure today, sadly the internet has reduced these to "highlights".
However, the thrill of live action for 90 minutes, seeing a story unfold on stage, identifying and empathising with the characters played by excellent, well-directed actors, is still the greatest form of entertainment, in my opinion.
And so, with a script of 14,600 words, Lauren (Waine) and I had a read-through on Tuesday, August 17. Hearing Lauren bring to life the words I'd outlined and written over the past year or so was tremendous; we could judge intonation, character, dramatic impact and length. A huge advancement for the script.
A conversation afterwards between Lauren, myself and two invited guests concurred that we felt we had something special but it was still slightly too long and needed a bit more work on characterisation.
I then set about making more edits - cuts to lines that were superfluous or didn't move the action on - and adding character traits
A week later, we had a script that was solid enough to face a read through with director Russell Floyd. It was called a "workshop script" and came in at 14,500 words.
Lauren, perusing the "workshop" script
Russell getting ready for the read through
On Sunday, August 29, Russell and myself listened to Lauren read the workshop script. This gave us an even closer look at the narrative, characters and movement.
The key here was to go through it page by page with a director's eye. By that I mean what can Bella be doing as she is telling her story and how can she get from point A to point B on stage while narrating the lines and acting out what she is doing? It was a long session!
As a writer you can't be too precious about your words; the bottom line is that they serve the action, narrative and character. If anything is repetitive or cumbersome then it has to go.
Some lines were cut but there were places where we actually needed to add lines either to enhance and bolster a specific aspect of the drama, a character or to provide continuity.
On August 30, I took Russell, who lives in Brighton, to see - for the first time - the geographical delights of Northumberland. A drive to Bamburgh Castle and the scenic road home via Seahouses, Walkworth and Amble gave us time to talk about life in general and the script, although in Amble it hoyed it down and we had to run past drenched and disheartened staycation tourists eating their fish and chips in the rain as we rushed back to the car. Welcome to the volatile North East weather, Russell!
In between talking about football (Croyden-born Russell is a Crystal Palace fan), politics, theatre and laughing at our collective stories, we threw in ideas about Wor Bella, which were further dissected and discussed at the pub in the evening.
Working with actors you personally like, respect and trust to deliver the goods is hugely important but working with a director you trust implicitly is essential for a playwright. Both parties have to totally believe in the play and what you are creating.
Having first met and worked together on a play Trevor (Wood) and I wrote called Maggie's End for its London run in April 2009, when Russell, a top actor, played a smug New Labour Home Secretary, we have become close friends and trusting collaborators. I think that tight relationship is reflected in the strength and high quality of the work we produce.
The excellent reviews of these plays and the standing ovations in the North East, Northern Ireland and London are indicative of this - also of the quality of the actors, technicians and whole Wisecrack team.
Since the days of Maggie's End at the 450-seat Shaw Theatre (off London's West End), Russell has already directed four of my solo plays - The Accidental Activist (2015) - in which he also acted; Hadaway Harry (2015, 2017); The Great Joe Wilson (2018); and Carrying David (2019 and 2021). The three latter plays comprise my book Geordie Plays (Volume 1). He also directed the first Joe Wilson Night I produced in 2017.
Wor Bella will be Russell and my fifth full play together and by now we know each other's style, humour - and foibles! His genius of seeing a play on paper and knowing how the scenes link together and will play out is just incredible.
So on Tuesday, August 31, with scripts and pens in hand, Russell and I formally discussed further edits and a few days later I produced another re-write. This time it was 14,000 words, approximately 45 minutes each way. Spot on!
This is what we call the "rehearsal script" - the script that will be used in rehearsals in March and in the book of the script that will be printed as an educational tool for the project.
Just as an aside, in an effort to "make a name" for themselves I've heard stories of how some directors fancy themselves as writers - and want huge re-writes from the playwright. Some of these re-writes change the tone and style of the play from its original intention. To me, this would be totally unacceptable. It begs the question why the director (paid to direct a specific play, not co-write) took the job in the first place! Hardly a team player.
Russell's outlook and directorial motivation is to put my vision on stage by adding his unique touch. That's why when we have agreed on a rehearsal script I only attend rehearsals for the initial read through, take any questions and then let the director, the cast and technical team get on with the business of creating a fantastic play that is true to my original vision but with their invaluable input.
Russell is the type of director who listens intently to ideas by the cast and encourages them to touch depths in their acting they have never before reached, or even thought they were capable of reaching - but the final decision always rests with him. It has to be that way; good plays can't be directed by a committee or spoilt by a gobby, self-important actor - the polar opposite of proper teamwork, whereby actors are allowed freedom, encouraged to suggest ideas and try new things.
During rehearsals there will be tweaks to the script when Russell and Lauren actually start to act it out (in theatre parlance, "blocking the play"). It may even need the odd line moved around so the dialogue and action flows easier, or a line just doesn't work, or a word changed here and there - depending on the beat of the piece - or I might be asked to write a new line so that Bella can move from one dramatic action to another but, by and large, our rehearsal script is the final script.
Incidentally, any changes recorded on the rehearsal script will be added/amended so that we are left with the "post-show script". That will be the starting point for the next run of the show - but that is in the future.
If I'm needed for anything during rehearsals I'll pop in - or if I'm passing their rehearsal space I'll briefly say hello but I consciously avoid rehearsals - they bore me rigid!
The play is put together at a different tempo and pace each day, and while the actors tend to be good friends of mine, having the writer there is perhaps intimidating and could mean them holding back from offering ideas and suggestions. That reticence is the last thing I want, so I make myself scarce. Truth is, I have lots of other important things to do.
In reality, rehearsals are a process between cast and director so my brief time there is usually spent eating biscuits and cake - another incentive not to stick around, this time for health reasons.
I do, however, eagerly await the crack every night from Russell, usually over a pint. I always marvel at his invention, initiative and enthusiasm. Of course, not everything goes smoothly and we iron out problems together.
As I have explained, preparation is the key to a successful show. I've heard horror stories of the script actually being re-written during rehearsals by the writer - and in some cases the cast! - which doesn't make for a pleasant experience for those involved nor does it generally make the production any good. Although, in the cinema world Casablanca is a very rare exception.
All this stems from lack of preparation, and truth be told, a lack of professionalism. This shoddiness isn't fair on the ticket-buying public who spend their hard-earned money to come to shows and are entitled to see a top-professional production. People may come once to see an under par show but there won't be great word of mouth - by far the best marketing tool to advertise a show.
Like life, everything stems from the top ie leadership. When there is incompetence or weakness at the top, everyone else suffers. This reinforces the importance of the writer/director bond when it comes to theatre.
It's now early September 2021 and my personal rehearsal script will lay dormant for six months until rehearsals start. I won't hear it again until the read through on the first day of rehearsals. In that way it's easier to come to it with an more objective perspective. It's also a huge relief that my writing job is almost done - the onus is now on the cast and director to work together to produce the quality of work that will continue the rave reviews and standing ovations of the other plays.
Of course, I could keep looking at the script every day - tweaking, tweaking and tweaking some more - but the old adage is that you don't finish a script, you abandon it. Ask any writer and they'll tell you, if you don't take a break, a script will drive you mad!
Rehearsals for Wor Bella start in early March, 2022. The countdown has begun!
Learning Lessons of Our History
By Lynn Gibson, Co-Founder, Women's Banner Group
The Women's Banner Group (WBG) was founded in November 2017 to gain recognition for the women of the Durham Coalfield that history has forgotten.
We campaign at both the Durham Miners' Gala and beyond.
The WBG stands up for women's rights, human rights, dignity at work, period dignity, the right to choose, body autonomy, body neutrality, LGBTQI+ rights, refugees and asylum seekers.
We also stand against intolerance in all its forms: racism, homophobia, sexism, ageism, misogyny, greedy capitalism and selfishness.
The WBG believes in educating young people in debate and that their voices matter, and that they should be seen and heard, that all people should be encouraged to learn their own history and learn lessons from that.
We firmly believe women's histories should not only be remembered but taught and recorded. This and so much more. We don't just make banners!
Wor Bella appeals to the WBG because one of our founding reasons was to gain recognition for the historically important women of the Durham Coalfield who history has forgotten.
Sadly we are becoming more and more aware of just how much working class women’s achievements have been missed out of recorded history.
The way the heroic munitionettes were treated was shocking: from playing football to crowds of tens of thousands during WW1 (the 1918 final in Middlesbrough attracted over 22,000 spectators) to an FA initiated ban in 1921 that disallowed women's football games from taking place on the grounds used by its member clubs. That ban remained in effect until July 1971.
We are delighted Ed has written a play about this and that the incredible efforts of the millions of women who stepped into male roles in the munitions factory during WW1 and played football to crowds of thousands (to raise money for wartime charities) is being remembered.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Women's Banner Group please contact us via our website https://womensbannergroup.org.uk/
KIM'S LOVE OF THEATRE AND FOOTBALL
Kim Hoffmann is the Head of Learning at Newcastle's prestigious Theatre Royal. A position she has held since 2013. Her role involves delivering, developing and overseeing the exceptional Project A, a full-time actor training company for 18 to 25 year olds.
Aberdeen-born Kim, age 37, played football for a number of "boys" teams until the age of 12, before being told she could no longer play in "boys" leagues as it was “inappropriate”.
Kim went on to play for Aberdeen Ladies and Cove Rangers Ladies, also representing Scotland until 1999.
Kim and Newcastle Theatre Royal are enthusiastically supporting the Wor Bella project. Her tremendous support and enthusiasm were instrumental in getting the project off the ground. We asked Kim why she is so supportive.
What does Wor Bella mean to you personally and professionally, and why
are you involved?
When Ed told me about Bella Reay, I was at first incredibly impressed that she too had flown the flag for women’s football, so long before I had done in the 1980s and ‘90s. I was then quite sad to think that so many years on, I too had faced adversity in simply being good at and enjoying the game I loved.
I think it’s so important that girls and women can have access to football (and anything else for that matter) that boys and men do and I’m grateful that the tide is slowly turning and women can now make a career form being a professional footballer player.
How are women's football and theatre compatible?
Football is the beautiful game. Theatre is a mirror back into our society. The two are intrinsically linked not only by their beauty, but by their ability to unite and provide freedom of expression.
Blocking of a performance is like setting out your formation, the coach directing the action on the field after weeks of “rehearsal” on the training pitch. It’s all about reading the game in the same way you would read a script and then ensuring a balanced stage in the same way you would a balanced playing field. There’s something both mathematical and scientific about both.
What have you and Newcastle Theatre Royal done to support the Wor Bella project?
We have provided rehearsal space, have provided some marketing support, ensured that Wor Bella is on the front of our winter Schools newsletter and shared it with schools across the North of England and beyond. We will also host three performances of the production as well as support educational workshops for school and community groups.
Who do you hope to attract to the show, and why?
I hope the show will attract anyone with an interest in football and the history of the region. Specifically young girls and women who have never quite felt confident enough to play, or even share their interest in football. It is also so important that young boys see the show too, so that they can appreciate that what is generally a game they are invited to play from toddlers, is something which isn’t as (or hasn’t always been) accessible to girls their own age.
What do you think people will learn from Wor Bella?
I think people will learn that there have always been strong female role models and ambassadors out there, flying the flag for equality. It is so important that people get the opportunities that are available to them based upon age, skill and experience, not because of who they were born as.
Kicking a ball around is one of the most accessible and liberating things anyone can do. A single ball and some open space is all that is needed – you don’t have to play competitively to enjoy it.
So for women like me, even if it doesn’t happen in our life time, Bella helps to demonstrate that change is possible, thanks to people like her.
Do you still play football?
At 23, I decided to go back to football. I’d always continued to kick a ball around but stopped playing competitively when I moved to Newcastle for University in 2000.
I got myself match fit and I was in talks with the coaching team at Newcastle United Ladies to return to playing. However, I had also begun a new career in Theatre and met the man who would become my now husband.
Two days after I got the green light to train with Newcastle, I found out I was pregnant. With twins! So, that was definitely the end of my playing career!
I take my son to his training and matches and have definitely raised a few eyebrows, flicking the ball back on to the pitch or knocking out a few keepie-ups in my work outfit, standing on the side-lines. It’s the raised eyebrows that I hope shows like Wor Bella will help to get rid of, so that regardless of your gender, you can get stuck into what you enjoy without feeling judged. (Though the raised eyebrows are also a bit of a compliment – especially when the dad’s realise I’d beat them on the pitch!)
Kim [Hoffmann] playing in the Aberdeen schools cup final in 1993.
Her school won but the score is unknown. Sadly, at the age of 12 Kim, like all girls, was not allowed to play in ”boys” leagues as it was “inappropriate”.
OUR THANKS TO TONY PLATTEN, CHAIRMAN OF BLYTH SPARTANS FC
The Wor Bella team would like to put on record our thanks to Blyth Spartans FC chairman Tony Platten for his personal, tremendous support for the project.
In addition to his financial commitment, Tony has been enthusiastically on board from the first time we mentioned the potential play back in 2019.
Tony has selflessly offered rehearsal facilities and marketing provision. In addition to ensuring our printed materials have been distributed among Blyth Spartans FC supporters, Tony has personally placed two large vinyl "Wor Bella" banners in Croft Park, and wherever possible has encouraged people to attend the play.
Alnwick's new theatre boss nails colours to mast
Damian Cruden, the new Artistic Director and CEO of Alnwick Playhouse has made a statement about his love of theatre and local stories by endorsing Wor Bella.
Alan Shearer to make theatrical debut
Alan Shearer is to make his theatrical debut in a play called Wor Bella, about munitionette footballers during WW1.
The Geordie football superstar and TV pundit has filmed a to-camera piece that involves him talking about Bella Reay (Wor Bella) the Blyth Spartans Ladies centre forward who scored an incredible 133 goals in 30 games between 1917 and 1918.
Shearer's analysis is set against the backdrop of the Munitionettes Cup final in May 1918, which was attended by 22,000 people. Blyth Spartans Ladies beat Bolckow Vaughan of Middlesbrough 5-0 to win the cup that involved dozens of women's teams from throughout the North East of England
Bella Reay scored a hat-trick in the final.
Ed Waugh, writer and producer of Wor Bella, explained: "In latter days Bella has been described as "the Alan Shearer of her day", so who better to ask for his half-time analysis of cup final than the great man himself.
"It is a massive coup for us."
The 1996 UEFA Golden Boot winner holds the record number of goals for Newcastle United (148 in 303 matches), and as a Premiership player for Southampton and Blackburn Rovers he also notched 135 goals in 256 games. His tremendous record included 30 goals for England in 63 games.
Ed continued: "Alan has been tremendous. As soon as he heard about the story he came on board and provided his time for free.
"To thank Alan for his support, we are delighted to do post-show collections for the Alan Shearer Foundation. The Foundation was set up to directly support the Alan Shearer Centre in Newcastle which is run by St Cuthbert’s Care and provides a range of specialist respite, residential and social facilities for people with complex disabilities and acute sensory impairments.”
Alan said: "The story of the munitionettes who saved the WW1 war effort - working 60 hours a week in dangerous and physically demanding conditions - and still found time to play football for wartime charities, is both incredible and inspirational.
"I'm proud to be part of this excellent project and play."
Wor Bella, starring Lauren Waine as Bella Reay, will premiere at Blyth Phoenix Theatre in Northumberland on Friday, March 25, before touring the North East, taking in Hexham Queen Hall, Newcastle Theatre Royal (studio), Alnwick Playhouse, Playhouse Whitley Bay and ending at South Shields Westovian Theatre, South Shields on Saturday, April 2.
For further details about the Alan a Shearer Foundation visit https://www.alanshearerfoundation.org.uk