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Ghostly goings-on at village hall

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The advert is partly in Latin - fittingly, a dead language.

It is pinned to the notice board of Burythorpe church house, the community hall, and is not aimed at the general public, even though it has turned heads among the local populace.

Instead, promoter David Quick is looking to raise the spirits of a different kind of local with a “cordial invitation” to the village’s ghosts for a one-off theatrical performance of a ghoulish story this Saturday.

“Omnibus Manes: Invitari as Spectaculum hic XV/III/MMXIV,” the advert reads, roughly translated as: “A cordial invitation to all the ghosts of Burythorpe, you are welcome to attend The Ghost Hunter, here at the Church Hall on Saturday, March 15, at 7.30pm.”

David, who put up the advert, said: “Burythorpe is reputed to be a very haunted village.

“There is a well known and much observed ghost in our pub who we all call Alice. She seems quite benign and friendly but gets seen by a lot of people and then there is an old soldier who walks up the old Roman road, through the centre of Burythorpe road, and up to the Wolds.

“A lot of people say they see him at dusk - always walking up that hill.

“Some people say he is a medieval soldier and other that he is Roman - we will find out when he comes.”

He added: “I have heard Alice move around in the pub. I was sat at the bar and the kitchen door swung open and we all looked at each other and someone said, ‘that was Alice.’

“It sent a shiver down my spine but then I had drunk a beer or two! But there have been customers when they have been dining who have said ‘who was that woman sitting at the table on her own?’ There are a lot of stories like that. And then there are other ghosts!”

The tongue-in-cheek invitation to Alice, the ‘unknown soldier’ and the other ghosts of Burythorpe was the idea of David and his “mentor” Simon Thackray, dreamt up as a fun way of promoting Saturday’s performance of The Ghost Hunter.

It helps that the village itself is said to be haunted and that the intimate 50-seat church house, usually home to birthday parties or parish council meetings, can easily been transformed into something more atmospheric, thanks to a few candles, drawn curtains, a lit fireplace - and an eerie tale. The one-man show follows the tale of Richard Barraclough, a York Ghost Walk Guide, who tries to find a ghost and has a very scary shock, and the evening promises to be not for the squeamish.

“When we first thought about putting something on here, we thought ‘Oh, it’s just a tiny room,’ but then one of the things that came across was that it is intimate. You can put really good things on - being small, it’s a selling point.

“When people came to see (musician) Hank Wangford last year, they loved it and said what an amazing atmosphere it was. Performers adapt to an intimate setting - they have a different relationship when the audience is sitting four feet in front of them.”

Simon, who is best known for his work with The Shed music and poetry venue, is working with Rural Arts ON Tour and funded by Ryedale District Council, to help Ryedale’s promoters explore new ways of attracting audiences. He knows of what he speaks - The Shed is one of the UK’s most famous micro-venues presenting leading performers like comedian Stewart Lee (whose new series is currently on BBC 2), saxophonist Snake Davis and poet and Radio 3 presenter Ian McMillan.

Simon has presented shows in venues large and small, from the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Hall and Victoria and Albert Museum, London to Brawby village hall.

The Shed’s 20th anniversary in 2012 was celebrated with a special feature on BBC Radio 3’s Jazz on 3 and it is featured in the UK travel guide ‘Time Out’s 1,000 Things To Do In Britain’.

He has also been on hand to help Pickering Arts Group, who are hosting The Ghost Hunter in Pickering Memorial Hall on Friday and are encouraging audience members to share their own ghost stories with the audience after the play.

“Part of the remit of this project funded by Ryedale District Council is to encourage greater collaboration between the small arts projects and local businesses with a view to helping each other attract customers, which, after all, is what an audience member is.

“We want to attract audiences and customers from outside the district into Ryedale, to bring money into the Ryedale economy and help to create and sustain more vibrant communities”, said Simon.

Speaking from 20 years experience of running The Shed, high quality arts events will certainly attract audiences from across the country into Ryedale, but there is also another, often overlooked, opportunity for Ryedale which is available much closer to home.

“I am trying to encourage promoters to target people from ‘just over the border’ of the district, never mind the county. It might seem to be stating the obvious, but it is far easier and cheaper to attract people into Ryedale from Scarborough and York, than it is to pull them in from London or Leeds. Above all imaginative marketing ideas, the first lesson of promoting arts events that needs getting right is to inform as many people as possible. Today we have the benefit of the Internet and social media sites but these tools require backing-up with the distribution of good old-fashioned fliers and posters - and the hours of legwork that entails.”

Rural promoters, he added, will discover a world of difference just by widening their publicity net to include villages and towns within a 15 or 20 mile radius.

“Yes, we are trying to provide opportunities for local people to enjoy high quality arts events but from an economic perspective, it is most likely to be the person travelling 20 miles who will incorporate a meal in the pub or night at a local hotel or B&B.”

Saturday’s performance is just the beginning for David, who is promoting the show on behalf of Burythorpe Sports Centre, a registered charity.

He will welcome singer 
Edwina Hayes on Thursday, May 8.

“The village has been really enthusiastic,” he said. “A lot of people from the village have booked so far and like that we are using the hall more and in different ways. I would like to do two to three events a year. My ambition is to do a miniature festival where we make a real virtue of everything being small. A tiny village and a tiny venue - and that is in the planning stage.”

The Bay Horse Inn, Burythorpe (home of Alice the ghost) is offering a special discount on spirits on the night.

Tickets to see The Ghost Hunter at Burythorpe are available from David on (01653) 658057, and at Pickering Memorial Hall from (01751) 472791 or TV House, Pickering.

Alternatively, visit www.ruralarts.org

 

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