Harpenden school bases play on 1917 edition of the Herts Advertiser

Aldwickbury School pupils rehearsing for the school play. Photo supplied by the school.

Aldwickbury School pupils rehearsing for the school play. Photo supplied by the school. - Credit: Archant

A Harpenden school has based its Christmas play on articles written in the Herts Advertiser during the First World War.

Aldwickbury School pupils rehearsing for the school play. Photo supplied by the school.

Aldwickbury School pupils rehearsing for the school play. Photo supplied by the school. - Credit: Archant

Aldwickbury School pupils’ performance is set in the town during 1917.

Head of drama Bernie Stewart said: “Because it’s the anniversary of the last Christmas of WWI, we can tell the story of what life was like for children during the war, as most of the narrative about that time is focused on men in the trenches.

“When the idea of using a chorus piece to mark the centenary of the last Christmas of the Great War first popped into my head, I didn’t know where it might lead.

“Thanks to the National Archive and dedicated staff at Herts County Archive, I discovered a local take on a worldwide story, and the 1917 editions of the Herts Advertiser gave a very powerful sense of life in our town one hundred years ago.”


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Passages from the paper will be spoken in chorus during the play, including instructions about when to turn off car lights and draw blinds at night.

The paper also had a story about women canvassing Harpenden homeowners about voluntarily rationing their food to as little as 85g of bread a week.

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Players will also quote extracts from the 1917 Lewis Report into adolescent education.

“One of the big issues of the time was adolescent education,” Mrs Stewart said.

“Boys were leaving school at 12, and going to do jobs. But they knew after the war there would be a flood of young men wanting work, leaving them nowhere to go.”

The play follows two boys who are looking for gainful work as they are not going back to school in January.

Mrs Stewart hopes the attendees find some relevance in the play.

“Whenever we make a new piece of work that visits the past, there is a subconscious questioning of its relevance and resonance today.

“At the beginning of this process, it hadn’t occurred to me this piece might ring out louder than any other from the past: Again, we look to Europe, face many changes, and ask ourselves, what could we be? What should we be?”

To find out more about the school visit www.aldwickbury.org.uk or @aldwickbury on Twitter.

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