Lottery grant brings Bede story to life

HERITAGE FUNDING ... writer Ken Reay, far right, watches actors perform his play at Bede's World.
HERITAGE FUNDING ... writer Ken Reay, far right, watches actors perform his play at Bede's World.

A NEW play about internationally renowned scholar the Venerable Bede will be performed in South Tyneside this week after winning lottery cash.

Bede Productions has received £5,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to bring the famous saint and his Anglo-Saxon times to life.

Actors will use a backdrop of exhibits at Bede’s World museum in Church Bank, Jarrow, when they present the historical play to local schoolchildren.

The new play, called Bede – Out of the Darkness, will be premiered as plans move forward to make the joint monastic site of Wearmouth-Jarrow a World Heritage Site, putting it on the same historic footing as Durham Cathedral, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.

Performing a specially written script by South Shields-based playwright Ken Reay, the actors will perform the play for groups of youngsters from primary schools in South Tyneside and Sunderland, before travelling out to schools to deliver their show to a total of 220 pupils.

Bede Productions hope the entertaining and interactive format will bring to life the rich and important heritage of Anglo-Saxon life between the Tyne and Wear 1,400 years ago.

Writer and director Mr Reay, who praised the award of the grant, said: “The play is centred around a 30-year-old Bede, who is a newly-ordained priest and has already written two books, but will go on to write such famous works as his Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

“This production is written for children, but Bede Productions hope to present a full-length play next autumn at venues such as St Paul’s Church, Jarrow, St Peter’s Church, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland, and Durham Cathedral.

“This is a project I’ve had in mind for a long time and I wanted it to coincide with the World Heritage Site bid, so it was fantastic to secure lottery funding.

“I grew up 50 years ago in Sunderland, near St Peter’s Church, and I remember my father telling me stories about the monks and Bede, in particular, how brilliant he was as a writer of English history and how many discoveries he made, such as the moon controlling the tides.

“We will be telling the same stories to all these young people and in the fantastic setting of Bede’s World at Jarrow.”

Co-director Val McGregor said: “Working with the heritage educational staff at Bede’s World adds immense value to the event.

“The children will see and hear the actors recreate the past and then take part in Anglo-Saxon calligraphy and candle-making sessions.

“We could not have done this without the support of the HLF.”

Ivor Crowther, head of HLF North East, said: “We at the Heritage Lottery Fund are pleased to be supporting this fantastic project.

“Through creative and interactive performances, Bede Productions will introduce young people to their local heritage, lifting it out of the history books and bringing it to life.

“It is important that this part of our history will not be forgotten and will be passed on to the next generation.”

Local primary schoolchildren will see performances of Bede – Out of the Darkness, tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday.

Contact Bede’s World on 489 2106 for more details about the play.

Twitter: @terrykelly16