And so – the process has begun!
On Monday 14th September, John Retallack, who will be writing and directing the piece arrived in Margate – 14 years after he last visited the town to research the script for the original play, Hannah and Hanna.
The main purpose of John’s visit was to connect with people recently arrived in Margate as well as those who had spent their entire life here – plus to re-acquaint himself with the town and how it had changed since he was last here.
We visited Arlington House, one of the locations for the first play, and talked to social artist, Dan Thompson, whose knowledge about the history of the building was invaluable. This was followed by a return to Theatre Royal, where John refreshed his memory of the venue that hosted the premier of Hannah and Hanna.
During his time in Thanet, we met members of the Czech and Slovak community at the Salvation Army church, spoke to people from the Dreamland team (as well as the Fun Fairers, their resident performance company), visited the Margate Museum, talked to Sarah Bottle, Thanet’s Community Outreach Librarian (who told us that 58 languages are spoken in Thanet), spoke to Anna Symes who, amongst other things, runs tea dances at the Winter Gardens, and talked to young women in the town who were around the same age as the characters he is creating. Our final meeting was with the inspirational Jenny Cranstone – chair of the Dalby Square Project, Dalby Square being host to many of the diverse communities represented in the town.
And, of course, we walked the streets of Margate and Cliftonville where much has changed since John’s last visit in 2001 – but what was most notable, was how up-beat everyone was. There was a real sense of excitement and optimism from everyone we spoke to.
Next month, John goes to Pristina in Kosovo to do further research for the play, then it’s back to Margate in November to follow up the many conversations and to make new contacts. We are on our way!
Jan Ryan, Producer
UK Arts International