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Penny Plain performers bring Dales legends to life

[Monday 24 April 2006]

THE germ of an idea to start a fringe event alongside the internationally renowned Grassington Festival has grown into an innovative new travelling theatre company.

A casual suggestion last year by local amateur thespian Mark Bamforth to come up with a light hearted alternative to the main annual Festival was taken up with enthusiasm by cohorts Andrew Jackson and other friends, who promptly sought the ear of Grassington Festival director, Amelia Vyvyan for some sound advice.

Penny Plain with their 'Awards For All' grant certificate
Penny Plain with their 'Awards For All' grant certificate

Backed by funding from the National Lottery's community initiative, Awards For All, the 'Penny Plain' company was born and will perform at open air venues right across the Yorkshire Dales.

Andrew, who will play local villain Tom Lee in the company's first production this summer, explains:

"When we first suggested that we'd like to write and stage an outdoor performance in the Square as part of the Festival programme we learned that the committee's constitution dictates that any individual or company which performs has to be a professional one.

"They wanted us to perform, but needed us to meet the criteria first."

Undaunted, Andrew and wife Angela - fresh from her role as Morgan Le Fey in the local panto - got together with the aid of Craven District Council arts officer, Catherine Johnson to form a company that meets the Festival criteria.

"We were excited to find that we would be eligible for grant funding, and after a lot of hard work behind the scenes, Penny Plain was born", added Angela.

With their remit to perform plays based on local Dales stories and legends, the Penny Plain performers have recently started rehearsals in the Jackson's home for their first show, based on the legend of Tom Lee; the local brigand was hanged in York in 1766 for the murder of local Doctor, Richard Petty.

Last week the fledgling company were rewarded with news that their grant application for £5000 from Awards for All has been successful.

The company are delighted that the project now has the resources to fund the production to a professional standard, including purchasing and adapting a flatbed truck which will serve as a stage, publicity, buying and hiring authentic period costumes and props, and paying the musicians and other professionals involved.

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