Celebrating what makes Calderdale special - The People’s Fair and Calderland musical showcased this weekend at Halifax’s Piece Hall

Calderland, the musical which will debut at the Piece Hall, Halifax, in rehearsal at Hebden Bridge. Picture: Sarah Mason
Calderland, the musical which will debut at the Piece Hall, Halifax, in rehearsal at Hebden Bridge. Picture: Sarah Mason

Final rehearsals were taking place this week for the Calderland performances which introduces and then is part of The People’s Fair showcase at The Piece Hall, Halifax.

During the day on Saturday and Sunday, September 30 and October 1, there will be a range of free entertainment in the historic, fully restored building, followed by evening performances (all starting at 7pm) of the new folk opera Calderland.

Genre-bending theatre company Pif Paf bring their infamous travelling machine, The Flycycle, to the Piece Hall, Halifax, as part of The People's Fair

Genre-bending theatre company Pif Paf bring their infamous travelling machine, The Flycycle, to the Piece Hall, Halifax, as part of The People's Fair

Calderland - which is free but tickets need to be booked in advamnce online at www.thepiecehall.co.uk or directly from the Piece hall box office - debuts on the evening of Friday, September 29 (also 7pm), in the hall’s striking piazza.

Inspired by the people and landscape of Calderdale and performed by a community choir and band of musicians, Calderland is written by the award-winning playwright Mike Kenny (‘The Railway Children’, ‘Blood and Chocolate’) and with a score from Richard Taylor, former composer-in-residence at West Yorkshire Playhouse and twice UK Theatre Award winner.

The hour-long piece will take audiences on a musical odyssey that traces the valleys etched by water, through the Industrial Revolution that attracted people and trade to the area, to the devastating floods of 2015 and their aftermath. Calderland will explore how the community has responded to adversity in ways that are heroic, human, personal and complex.

Characters featured along the way include writer Daniel Defoe, who visited Calderdale during the Industrial Revolution, the inventor of Yorkshire Mixtures, Elland sweet maker Joseph Dobson, Todmorden’s two Nobel prize winners Sir John Cockcroft and Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson, Mytholmroyd-born Poet Laureate Ted Hughes and playwright Sally Wainwright, alongside contemporary valley dwellers talking about their personal relationships with water, both good and bad.

Calderland, the musical which will debut at the Piece Hall, Halifax, in rehearsal at Hebden Bridge. Picture: Sarah Mason

Calderland, the musical which will debut at the Piece Hall, Halifax, in rehearsal at Hebden Bridge. Picture: Sarah Mason

Calderland will be performed by a community choir of over 150 local singers, recruited at workshops across the valleys and including four choirs from nearby primary schools St Chad’s, Brighouse, Bradshaw, Old Town, Luddenden and

All Saints CE (Halifax), under the guidance of choir director Em Whitfield Brooks.

A core band of local musicians will perform Taylor’s new score.

Alan Dix, who heads up the creative team, commented: “Calderland is more than an opera. It is a shared musical journey created with local people who will tell the tale of the places and the valley they live in. Calderland is a poetic, emotional and powerful exploration of those things that make the Calder Valley so very special. The making of this production – a people’s opera – has shown how extraordinary the valley is and, despite the floods of Boxing Day 2015, how much it is loved. Calderland is a homage to a very special place and the amazing people who live there.”

The digital backdrop specially created by artists Fabric Lenny and Shanaz Gulzar.

The work is the centrepiece of Landlines and Watermarks, a major creative programme taking place throughout Calderdale during the summer and autumn of 2017.

Commissioned by Calderdale Council and the Community Foundation for Calderdale from leading Yorkshire-based company 509 Arts and supported by Arts Council England in response to the area’s recovery from the Boxing Day floods of 2015, the programme of works created for Landlines and Watermarks commend the spirit and soul of the Calder Valleys and the resilience of the market towns that were affected.

Six Landlines and Watermarks productions will form part of The People’s Fair at the Piece Hall from 11am to 5pm.

The People’s fair also includes parades and processions, street theatre, market stalls, exhibitions, food - and the entirely unexpected - for Landlines and Watermarks’ epic finale.

In a celebration of the resilience, imagination and friendship displayed by local people in the face of water-born adversity, The People’s Fair is an invitation, open to everyone and free for all, to experience the best that Calderdale has to offer.

A street market will include local food producers, artists and community organisations from across the Valley. In addition, there will be plenty of quirky events taking place for the whole family to dive into. Genre-bending theatre company Pif Paf bring their infamous travelling machine, The Flycycle, to ‘The People’s Fair’ to transport visitors on a journey of their wildest dreams; and street theatre gurus Plunge Boom will be cooking up a feast in the Troll’s Kitchen. Visitors can enjoy Mr Wilson’s Second Liners musical adventure show for families.

The six Landlines and Watermarks creative commissions that will be presented at The People’s Fair include:

- ‘Gurgle Splosher’ by Stephen Summers/Noisy Toys, which is a playful, interactive sound-sculpture, which combines elements of Victorian pumping stations with modern domestic guttering systems, made with the help of young people from schools in Mytholmroyd;

- ‘Shout!’ by Thomas Carter Projects, which is a half-hour film replaying the sounds of Hebden Bridge and stories from the community as they shout out into the sky their thoughts and feelings, in particular when it rains.

- ‘Landed’ by Two Destination Language, which comprises short performances by local people from Elland who share their stories of life in the town in the year of its 700th anniversary.

- ‘Laughing at Water’ by Fire & Water, which takes inspiration from the geese that wander the streets of Sowerby Bridge, where Fire & Water will parade a giant goose around the Piece Hall with Morris dancing, chefs, eggs and jets of water.

- ‘A Happier Valley’ by Freedom Studios with North Park Pictures and Imran Ali, which is a short film by the people of Brighouse will uncover how their lives have been shaped by water.

- and ‘Grow with the Flow’ by Incredible Edible/Handmade Parade, a stunning piece of participatory puppet art to celebrate, explore and commemorate the many narratives water has in the town of Todmorden.

Calderdale Council’s Leader Coun Tim Swift Tim Swift, said: “We want to send a clear message across our region and beyond that our towns are open for business and to visitors.

“As part of the flood fund, we have commissioned cultural events throughout Calderdale to celebrate the strength of our communities.

“The People’s Fair will be held in the stunning setting of the transformed Piece Hall, and we hope that local people and visitors will support the businesses and attractions and be part of this celebration.”

The CEO of the Community Foundation for Calderdale, Steve Duncan, which has provided much flood relief work in the weake of the disasters, said: “For millennia water has played a pivotal role in shaping Calderdale and, although the floods of 2015 were devastating for many, the Calderdale communities have responded with creativity and resilience, to produce a positive legacy for the whole region to experience.”

Alan Dix, festival director, said: “The creative team has been working together with hundreds of local people of every age and all levels of experience across Calderdale and The People’s Fair is a showcase of all the creativity and community spirit that the Valley displays.

“Expect a family-friendly mix of Festival, Marketplace and Street Party!”