Making history on the streets of Poole


History will be made on the streets of Poole this summer as Lighthouse hosts the town's first ever community play - with more than 100 local people taking part.

Produced by Lighthouse and created by Angel Exit Theatre, SALT is set between 1681 and the present day and shines a light on the Newfoundland trade that was at its height from the mid-17th century until the mid-19th century and saw Poole sailors bring salt cod from Newfoundland to the ports of Spain, Portugal and Italy, and return with salt, olive oil and wine.

By the end of the 17th century many Dorset families had settled in Newfoundland, economic migrants from rural and coastal poverty in search of new lives in a new land, and the play focuses on the first brave women who made the treacherous voyage to a hostile land to settle. The themes of what it means to belong and what it means to leave your homeland are woven into a story with contemporary characters developed by playwright Stephanie Dale through community workshops that overlaps with the historical narrative.

SALT will be performed promenade-style in the Concert Hall at Lighthouse and on the streets of Poole from Thursday 27 to Sunday 30 July.

Martha Earley, Creative Engagement Manager at Lighthouse, explains more…

:: What should audiences expect to see when they watch SALT?

SALT is unlike anything Lighthouse has produced before. It is a representation of the passion and creativity of Poole with a community cast of over 100 local people – actors and singers as well as many others helping out with costumes, staging and set building.

It will be performed in our Concert Hall, but it will not be a traditional staging. The audience will be immersed in the world of SALT starting the night on the Quay in 1681 where they meet the characters about to embark on a voyage across the sea to Newfoundland. This whole world will be created by large sets, costumes (created by AUB students) and some magical puppets.

We are so excited to be developing this with Angel Exit Theatre and the Poole community and we cannot wait so share it with the wider community!

:: What makes SALT a community play for Poole? 

At the beginning of this process Lighthouse and Angel Exit Theatre looked at the research into the connection between Newfoundland and Poole. There was such a rich history between these two areas that it was a perfect foundation for building a community play for Poole. Angel Exit were lucky enough to work with Theatre Newfoundland and they were struck by the Dorset twang that continues in the Newfoundland accent.

Stephanie Dale, who wrote SALT used many of the phrases, thoughts and feelings that came out of workshops that Angel Exit Theatre delivered with local people. The community in Poole continues to have an impact on the direction of the play as Stephanie has redrafted the script to include all the fantastic people who put themselves forward as actors.

There have also been many people who have put themselves forward to make costumes, build sets, help with the staging and the technical side of the show.

SALT is built on Poole’s heritage, but it resonates through to the community that lives here today. As a port town, Poole is used to people leaving or arriving to make a new home and SALT is proud to have a wide range of Poole residents from those who may have lived here all their lives, to others who have moved back to Poole or have come to make Poole their new home.

:: What did you learn about Poole in making the play? 

We have been overwhelmed with the generosity and creativity of our community. More than 70 people came to our casting sessions in March and we have had over 100 participants sign up and it continues to grow as the word spreads.

We have had participants sign up from communities that are familiar to us and many for whom this was their first connection with Lighthouse. We are more aware than ever that Poole is becoming increasingly diverse, and we are aware for some SALT is their first experience interacting with the arts in Poole or working alongside different communities.

All of which makes us excited to show off the talents and the diversity of Poole and its residents who are so welcoming and proud of their town, so we have no doubt that SALT will reflect all these qualities.

:: How does Poole benefit from a project such as SALT and will there be others?

Our main aims are to bring the people of Poole together especially those communities that may not cross paths on an average day, and develop the sense of pride in our community and our place.

Lighthouse knows and sees the creativity and talents that are in Poole and our hope is that SALT will show this off to the rest of the country and community.

Across this project Lighthouse is working with partners such as BCP, Activate and Arts University Bournemouth who are all working to the same goal to show off the talent and creativity that exists in this area.

We have been supported along the way by local companies who are working with us to help show off this area.

Beyond this project, these partnerships continue to grow and offer opportunities for local residents. We are already looking ahead to see what we can do to build on the work done by SALT. We know that we want to help build this momentum and we cannot wait to share future plans and partnerships.