Updated: Feb 15
Villagers are making their way to the church hall. Excitement is in the air.
It's the opening night of a new play about Charles Dickens by Bonchurch playwright John Goodwin.
As they enter the hall the audience hardly recognise the building which has been converted into an in the round theatre with its own raised seating and spot lights.
‘Well I never.’
‘Lucky to get a ticket.’
‘Last one went weeks ago’
House lights fade out. Spot lights shine through the gloom. A prostrate body lies on the floor.
Sombre music fills the air. The play has begun with the funeral of Dickens. Poor and rich alike
bow their heads. Lights suddenly blaze bright. What follows are key episodes in the life of Dickens seen through the lens of the books he wrote.
A County Press reporter has this to say having been in the audience
‘anyone who watched the two hour play could not fail to have been impressed by the quality of the writing, acting and direction and by the end of the play the whole audience was shouting for more’
‘it was riveting from start to finish and one of the best productions I have seen’
The festival week continued with Morris Men Dancers in the courtyard of The Bonchurch Inn, a classical music concert in the Parish Church featuring Bonchurch musicians Frances Mason and James Halsey and a Barn Dance at Westfield Mansion. The results of a poetry competition concluded the week judged by John Edwards, Senior Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth. Richard and John at The Pond Stores published a book of all entered poems and organised a Friend of the Festival scheme to support the finance required for the festival. The week also celebrated St Boniface Day and villager Jeanne Snudden organised a magnificent display of flowers in thanksgiving in the Parish Church.
Were you there ? As Linda and John Goodwin look back over the 20 years that have elapsed since the festival sounds have disappeared they wonder at how much happened in the village in a single week.
John also very kindly passed on a County Press report by Rachael Rosewell. The photograph was taken outside the Old School House building and the editorial was published 11th June 1993.
I recently discovered that twenty-nine years ago there was a week long Bonchurch Festival held at the beginning of June 1993! Digging a little deeper I tracked down John Goodwin who in those days chaired the Bonchurch Community Association and asked him if he had any information to share.
With many thanks for John’s recollections of his Charles Dickens play. The play was staged for three evening performances in the school that later became the Village Hall, now a private residence.
Many villagers took part in the performance including Alfred Tedman the Vicar of Bonchurch Parish Church, who played Dicken’s father.
This was the debut of the Bonchurch Theatre Company. The company performed original plays in Bonchurch and beyond for over 20 years. Many explored local themes. The popular performances meant that limited number of tickets were snapped up very quickly.
Richard Paramor and his partner John who used to run the Pond Stores, founded ‘Friends of the Festival’ that was hugely successful raising the finances to run the festival and publish the book of poems.
Jeane Snudden and Linda Goodwin were also part of the small team that organised this