Music and theatre will bring village halls back to life
By Stuart Laundy - Senior Reporter
AFTER months of inactivity, village halls across the dale will be filled with the sound of theatre and music in the coming weeks.
With the further easing of Covid-19 restrictions, rural venues are preparing to welcome shows organised by the Highlights Rural Touring Scheme – the organisation dedicated to bringing top class entertainment to village halls.
However, shows organised prior to June 21, when the government hopes to further ease restrictions, will be staged to take into account social distancing.
For example, at Cotherstone Village Hall, capacity is limited to just 30 people – assuming they come in pairs – when The Adventures of the Captain of the Lost Waves is performed on Friday, June 11.
The one-man show, which combines folk music, cabaret and time travel, is Cotherstone hall’s first Highlights event for two years.
Local promoter Peter Collyer said: “It's going to be the first post-lockdown event of any kind – apart from the weekly toddler group – in Cotherstone Village Hall, so we’re excited at the prospect of having some live music in the village after such a long time.”
Highlights director Kate Lynch said the organisation was eager to bring some of the UK’s best touring companies and artists back into rural community spaces.
She said: “Last year we had to cancel far too many performances, so it was with an air of optimism over adversity that we programmed this season into early summer.
“We are delighted by the government announcement that from May 17 we can bring great arts performances back to our rural venues.”
But she cautioned: “Things will look different. Audiences will be smaller; venues might feel less intimate. But there will be a warm welcome and our artists will perform with the same heart and passion as always.”
The Cotherstone show is one of 13 events in seven village halls in County Durham, the first of which is a paper origami lampshade workshop at Mickleton Village Hall on Saturday, May 22, with paper art and origami specialists Cabinet of Curiosity.
Actor Neil Gore brings the 1914 novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists to life at Barningham Village Hall on Saturday, June 12, while the following day folk star Rowan Rheinghans stages Despatches on the Red Dress at The Witham, in Barnard Castle.
Other highlights include Old Herbaceous, a play exploring rural society of a bygone era told through the eyes of a retired head gardener of a country house.
Old Herbaceous pitches up at Mickleton Village Hall on Friday, June 18, and a week later at the Scarth Hall, Staindrop.
Also at Staindrop, on Friday, June 18, are the Dinosaur Detectives, who will combine puppetry, projection and shadow theatre in a show for adults and children alike.
The show will move on to the Utass building, in Chapel Row, Middleton-in-Teesdale, on Sunday, June 20, for a 2pm matinee.
Finally, one-time buskers Flatts and Sharp will bring the mix of bluegrass, folk and pop to Boldron Village Hall on Thursday, July 15.
Full details of all performances heading to the dale are available online at www. highlightsnorth.co.uk.
Should performances or workshops need to be cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions, ticket holders will be refunded in full.