David Whetstone writes about arts & culture for the Newcastle Chronical, has done so for more than 25 years and has won many awards. He's also been one of the judges for the 2019 Young Writers' Award.
Lost, Found and Told
Fiona Ellis has worn many different hats, metaphorically speaking, during a career which she describes as more “a series of accidents… very happy accidents”.
Her most prominent role was as founding director of Northern Rock Foundation which granted many millions of pounds to North East good causes during her 11-year tenure.
The flow of cash (£27.3 million in 2006 alone) slowed to a trickle after the financial crisis of 2007-8 brought the downfall of Northern Rock and Fiona left the following year.
But one of her other ‘hats’ is as a writer which is why her name is now to the fore.
Her series of audio tales, “with some reference to old fairy tales but bringing them into a Northumberland context”, has been recorded and put on sale to help theatre company November Club through this tough time.
There is to be a special launch event for Lost, Found and Told: New Audio Tales for Northumberland on December 16 with Fiona, as the writer, on the platform with director Cinzia Hardy and other key members of the production team.
“I’m kind of thrilled,” admits Fiona.
“This was going to be a live show, Cinzia’s last (she steps down as founding director of the Morpeth-based theatre company at the end of the year).
“The original idea was I’d write the outline of the stories and the actors would animate them with puppetry and object manipulation and movement. There would be very few words.
“When it came to this Covid idea of producing them as audio tales I went back and wrote them with more consideration and more… well, I hope with a little more artistry.”
For theatre companies across the country, this has been a uniquely challenging year.
A tour of November Club’s new show inspired by the life of 18th Century Northumberland cook Hannah Glasse, Foods and Feuds: Two Cooks of Hexham, had to be cancelled.
Fiona had done the research and is credited as the writer.
But as she says: “Writers are always the ones tucked behind… because we’re not really the visible ones.
“The audience thinks the actors make it up themselves, the design is always very clear and conspicuous and the music very emotional.”
Sounding quite cheerful about it, she adds: “To be honest, I was always very happy with that.”
But a writer’s input should be acknowledged. As the Durham poet Anne Stevenson, who died in September, once remarked: “I think anybody who writes likes to have their work recognised.”
Re-imagining the seven stories of Lost, Found and Told as an audio work is something new for November Club and it makes Fiona’s role in the project rather more prominent.
Beguilingly, the recording’s introduction tells us: “There are stories of loss and finding; of courage, the fake and the true kind; of love and kindness in unexpected places; and of the strength and resilience of Northumberlanders.
“They’re not true – and yet they’re all true, as stories with magic always are.”
Fiona says you can listen in the comfort of home or outdoors in the landscape of the adopted county she has grown to love.
The collection of stories will appeal to adults and children age 8 plus, but younger children will also enjoy listening. Each tale lasts approximately 10 minutes, making them great for bedtime stories, or as the nights draw in, listening as a family.
Lost Found Told: New Audio Tales for Northumberland is available to buy as a digital collection. The collection costs £10 and is available on the music streaming platform Bandcamp. For more information and to buy the collection of audio tales visit: https://www.novemberclub.org.uk/Event/lost-found-and-told-new-audio-tales-for-northumberland
Lost Found Told: New Audio Tales for Northumberland has been created by:
Writer: Fiona Ellis
Composer: Katie Doherty
Director: Cinzia Hardy
Sound Designer: Matthew Tuckey
Assistant Sound Designer: Corrie Livesey
Production Manager: Simon Henderson
Graphics: Hannah Fox
Narrators: Janine Birkett, Phil Corbitt, Zoe Lambert, Jane Wade
Jane Wade sings She is
Ella Smith sings The Boy in the Tower
Khalil Abdulrahman (Tambur in Kindness to Strangers)
Lawrence Neale (Drums and Bodhran in Kindness to Strangers)
Andy May (Northumbrian Pipes in She is)
Recorded at The Old Church Studio, Thropton
She is and The Boy in the Tower: Original songs composed by Katie Doherty PRS/MCPS and supported by the PRS Foundation’s The Open Fund for Organisations
Greenland Whale Fishery Trad. Arr. By The Company
Felton Lonnen Trad. Arr. By The Company
The Collier’s Rant Trad. Arr. By The Company
Traditional Kurdish melodies arranged by Khalil Abdulrahman
A special thanks to Adam Forster (The Old Church Studio, Thropton) and Amanda Drago (Green Croft on the Wall) for their help during the recording process.
Lost Found and Told: New Audio Tales for Northumberland is supported by Arts Council England, Northumberland County Council, Great Northumberland 2020, Discover our Land, Blyth Town Council, The Joicey Trust, The Austin and Hope Pilkington Trust and PRS Foundation's The Open Fund for Organisations.
For more information on November Club visit www.novemberclub.org.uk
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