Barbara Taylor Bradford and Alan Bennett sat down on a bench overlooking their childhood town of Armley, sharing memories of their old school and thanking their lucky stars that their writing talents had done them very nicely, thank you.
They didn’t really. There’s no evidence that they’ve ever met up or shared a bench in Armley or anywhere else, except maybe when they were both in the same class at Christ Church C of E School. But if they had, their conversation could have gone something like the play performed yesterday in an old mill just down the road.
Barbara and Alan was one of six 15-minute radio plays recorded live at Sunny Bank Mills, Farsley in a return visit from the I Love West Leeds Arts Festival. Festival Director Jane Earnshaw had commissioned Objects and Curious Tales, a series of images and and performances about treasured objects belonging to local people, setting it in an old part of the mill. Wow, said Jane, how atmospheric. Wouldn’t it be great to come back here and record radio plays? Yes, we all agreed it would. And so it turned out to be.
Barbara and Alan was written by Boff Whalley, lead guitarist with the band Chumbawumba who was also there as part of the house band for the other five plays.
In front of a sold out – er – house, or rather mill floor surrounded by decades of dust and debris, punctuated with creaky floors and wobbly chairs, the Slung Low theatre company performed the specially-commissioned plays, all with the West Leeds connection.
For a mere £5 a head we were treated to an afternoon of quality writing, excellent acting, fascinating sound effects and great cake. Noel, who isn’t one to emote, in fact his email signature is ‘I don’t emote’, felt the need to tell the caterers that the carrot cake was the best he had ever tasted. Praise indeed, I suggested to them they had a plaque made, the Noel Mark of Approval.
The plays, once edited, will be transferred to CD and given to local communities and added to the I Love West Leeds website for everyone to enjoy, free.