Story of conchies heads to Fringe

Conchies EMN-181207-162935001
Conchies EMN-181207-162935001

A play about life in rural Lincolnshire is set to take the Edinburgh Fringe by storm this year.

However, this is no every day tale, this is the story of people united by their revulsion at the violence sweeping Europe during World War Two and their desire to show a different way of living was possible.

They were Conscientious Objectors who aspired to do so much more than just object.

‘Conchies’ performed to sell out audiences at The Broadbent Theatre in Wickenby last December and one special performance had an audience full of descendents of the CO community.

One of those descendents is Oscar-winning actor Jim Broadbent, who described the play as an ‘amazing’ production.

He said: “Really moving, very informative, a very complex and interesting piece of theatre. “

Musician Damon Albarn was also in the audience and said: “A powerful evocation; there was honestly not a dry eye in the theatre when I went with my family to watch it.”

Legsby resident Ian Sharp spent four years researching the pacifist communities at Holton Cum Beckering and Bleasby to write the play.

“It is a remarkable story,” said Ian, a former drama teacher and playwright.

“Young men and a few young women, from different parts of the country and from different backgrounds - artists, accountants, clerks, journalists, book-binders, out of work painters and decorators, and even a bespoke shirt cutter - left their city lives to farm rather than fight.”

Conchies!’ tells of the journeys of five of the COs, mainly in their own words, using transcripts from the interviews they gave over the years.

They emerge as principled and courageous but also flawed and very human.

The play is performed by A Certain Demographic, ‘their children’, all members of the Baby Boomer generation, who have never been forced by world events to turn our lives upside down.

One of the cast is the son of two of the original COs and for 50 years, man and boy, he has farmed the land where the conchies set up their Community Land Training Scheme.

Don Sutherland played himself in a cameo role and hopefully he will do the same in some of the Edinburgh performances and, if he does, it is certain that at 99 he will be the oldest performer at this year’s (possibly any year’s) Fringe.

Don said: “As perhaps the sole survivor of pacifist farming communities in Lincolnshire in the last war, I’m grateful that Ian has drawn the strings together in the performance ‘Conchies!’ at this Edinburgh Festival.

“I say this with great sorrow for those who fought and never came back.”

‘Conchies!’ will be at Venue 40 from August 13 to 18, at 6.15pm.

Before heading north, there will be two performances at The Broadbent Theatre - on August 5 and 8 at 7pm.

For tickets call the box office on 0300 400 0101 or broadbenttheatre.org