02 Aug 2021
As a drama loving schoolgirl in Keswick back in the early 90s, I was lucky enough to be plucked from my English class and asked to rehearse lines with a visiting actress who was starring in a production of Shirley Valentine. The actress was Paddy Navin, the venue, the Century Theatre and the accent of the day was lilting ‘scouse’. The theatre was housed in a little ‘blue box’ permanently lodged in the car park of the current theatre and my experience set in motion a lifetime love of theatre and an eventual career in arts marketing.
Fast forward almost 30 years (and exactly 60 years since the original Blue Box arrived in Keswick) - and that trailer theatre is back!
Theatre by the Lake, in partnership with English Touring Theatre and Northern Stage, is set to welcome ‘Trailer Story’ to Keswick this very weekend.
This 4-day festival of spoken word, theatre and comedy runs from Thursday 5 August to Sunday 8 August and promises a weekend-long programme of outdoor events with performances and workshops in National Trust’s Crow Park, Keswick.
Performances will be housed in a touring truck, reminiscent of the original ‘Blue Box’, usually used to tour production sets around the country, but now reimagined as a space for artists and audiences to meet.
The programme features a diverse range of artists and acts from across the country, including workshops, plays, spoken word events, beatboxing and even a comedy club for kids.
There’s also an afternoon showcase platform for local artists and several interactive activities including A Rain Walk and a Story Trail. Mornings are suitable for families with small children, followed by shows of a more challenging and thought-provoking nature as the day progresses.
Grouped into morning, afternoon and evening slots, all the events can be unlocked through festival passes available from Theatre by the Lake priced at £5 each. Each pass unlocks 2 or more events or activities. For those who are still a little cautious about public events, tickets are being sold in socially distanced bubbles. The full programme and schedule of events can be found by visiting www.theatrebythelake.com/trailer where you can also find access information.
The project is inspired by Theatre by the Lake and ETT’s origins – Century Theatre. Century Theatre, founded just after WWII, was a collective and toured the country in a pop-up space pulled by trucks called The Blue Box. The Blue Box eventually broke down on Lakeside car park where it remained for many years, leading to the campaign for the creation of Theatre by the Lake and a permanent home for theatre in Keswick. It hosted many shows, including the aforementioned production of Shirley Valentine…
Liz Stevenson, Artistic Director of Theatre by the Lake said: “When I first heard about this idea I was overjoyed. Locally people have such fond memories of the origins of TBTL and the story of The Blue Box. This is such an exciting project to be part of, bringing our communities together and allowing a platform for national as well as local artists to showcase their work.”
Richard Twyman (Artistic Director of ETT) and Sophie Scull (Executive Producer) said: “Trailer Story is a project that harnesses ETT’s rich history, transformed and re-invented for the present day. Our touring truck is inspired by the company’s origins – touring to towns and cities in a fleet of trucks converted into performance spaces – but responds to the impact of the pandemic on our communities. We want to provide a safe and joyful space to come together and celebrate the return of live arts, and the immense diversity and talent of our country’s artists. We hope to make Trailer Story a platform for national and local theatre-makers, performance artists and musicians to share their work with audiences outdoors – empowering communities and celebrating imagination.”
And me? Well, I’ll be bringing my 12-year-old daughter who has inherited my love of theatre and is desperate to see live shows again after the enforced drama drought brought about by Covid.
Pop along and check it out for yourself. Who knows what adventures, passions or career paths the trailer truck might inspire when it rolls into town this time round…
This blog was originally published on Cumbria Tourism website in Aug' 21.