In June this year, I was delighted to receive the Mary Stott Award for my play writing. The plays are for all-female casts and are hired by NWR and other women’s groups.
It is wonderful to be able to combine my hobby of writing with raising money for two of my favourite charities. I’d like to thank the NWR groups around the country who hire the plays and keep them circulating by posting them on to each other.
The system works very well. As you would expect from NWR, the organisers are mostly very efficient and, contrary to popular belief, so is the postal service. Only two parcels have gone astray – one turned up three weeks later, goodness knows where that had been. The other ended up at an empty house near its destination, the Local Organiser having had a senior moment and given the wrong number for her own house.
Talking of senior moments, one booking disappeared without trace from my first computer system – I received a worried email to say that the meeting was tomorrow and they had not received the pack – not my finest computing hour. Thankfully the group was very forgiving and I now have computer system mark two, cross-referenced with a good old fashioned hard copy.
There have been other problems – floods, storms, deep snow and even sadly, deaths have led to postponements, but we have always managed to make another booking at a later date.
Ladies only eat one biscuit
When I finished my first play, Ladies only eat one biscuit, I didn’t envisage that five years down the line the plays would have been performed about 350 times by over 160 groups. The first group to do the play was Hawarden back in July 2010. It was a real thrill the day that booking came through.
After doing Ladies only eat one biscuit, several LOs emailed to say, if the title is true, there are not many ‘ladies’ in their group.
I am often asked where that particular title originated. When my son was about four, he was watching me put out the biscuits for an NWR meeting. When he asked if he could have one, I said if there were any left over he could have one in the morning. He counted the biscuits and said ‘ladies only eat one biscuit’. Later I found him at his bedroom window counting the ‘ladies’ as they arrived to work out if there would be any biscuits left for him. This became a tradition and he was usually right.
I am also asked where I get the ideas for the plays. Like the first play, each one has an event which really happened and I build up the story around this. I won’t give away any more details – I don’t want to reveal the plot for people who haven’t done them – so I’ll leave you to guess which bits are based on real happenings.
Our own Miss Bertram
Congleton group had a hilarious evening trialling the second play Our own Miss Bertram. It happened that three ladies ended up sitting side by side on a low, rather soft settee. The group had decided to act out the play so some movement was needed. At one point the stage instructions came thick and fast and one or other of the trio on the sofa seemed to be getting up all the time – or should I say trying to get up. The play ground to a halt several times as they struggled, fell back, collapsed laughing and ended up being pulled to their feet by one of the other actors.
It was an unexpectedly hilarious evening but I thought the stage instructions had better be altered to cut down on the getting up and down.
Play number three False alarm contained a sound effect on CD for which I had to do a bit of basic sound editing, a first for me!
Play number four is now out. It is called the Semitones. As you can guess from the name, the characters are members of a singing group – but don’t worry, you don’t actually have to sing.
After doing a play, the organisers often email or send a note saying how much they have enjoyed their evening – which is lovely for me. They tell me if they guessed the murderer, or sometimes, that the outcome was a complete surprise! Some comment on the hidden acting talent revealed – sometimes in the most unexpected of people. The smaller groups have to double up on parts causing great hilarity when someone ends up having a long conversation with themselves.
Why I write the plays
Writing the plays gives me great pleasure and I enjoy the contact with NWR groups up and down the country. It is also very satisfying to think that people are having fun acting them out – that’s what they are for.
On a more serious note, I would like to mention the charities who have received the money – the well-known Oxfam and Practical Action, a charity that is less well known. Its activities are inspired by the work of EF Schumacher who wrote Small is Beautiful a book promoting simple low-tech solutions to problems in the developing world. He believed that the people in need should be taught to make and maintain vital equipment so that eventually they become self-sufficient.
This philosophy has now been adopted by most of the big charities including Oxfam.
Last year the money I sent to Practical Action paid for basic things like building eco toilets (£40 each) and bore holes for clean water. I find it appalling that in the 21st century so many people lack these basic facilities. Providing decent sanitation is particularly beneficial to women and girls. For instance, providing eco loos in schools greatly increases the level of attendance of older girls who otherwise miss five or six days every month.
Providing a bore hole not only stops the spread of water borne infections from contaminated sources, it also can save women hours a day carrying water from a distant stream. This extra time is used to grow crops and earn money to pay for education for the children.
So thank you again for hiring my plays, I hope you had fun and will continue to do so in the future. Thank you for helping me to support these worthwhile causes and thank you for giving me the Mary Stott Award.
Anyone wanting to hire a play can contact Linda at [email protected].
Read about Mary Stott Award 2014 winner Carol Crane.
Photo: Linda Messham accepting her Mary Stott Award from NWR trustee Gill Chivers