As East Riding Theatre (ERT)gears up to its Spring production Beryl by actor and playwright Maxine Peake, the Beverley located theatre is working in the local community to celebrate a host of inspirational Yorkshire women.
The production will span the period the Tour de Yorkshire races through the region. In celebration of all things Yorkshire, it seemed fitting for ERT to present a critically acclaimed play about a major Yorkshire sportswoman to complement the major sporting event.
Sir Gary Verity of Welcome to Yorkshire says “The timing of the show, during the fifth edition of the race, couldn’t be better as Beryl’s qualities of skill, spirit and determination are very much embodied by the race today.
But the Tour is so much more than a bike race; it’s a perfect vehicle to showcase our great county and all it has to offer from its stunning coastline and countryside, world class food and drink to the very best attractions, heritage, culture and of course our brilliant theatres and performing arts. The play itself is a legacy of the Grand Depart being held in Yorkshire, having been commissioned as part of the Arts Festival which marked the event.”
The play tells the remarkable story of Yorkshire cyclist Beryl Burton, ‘the greatest woman on two wheels’, using a great dollop of Northern wit to bring to life the incredible and inspirational achievements of an ordinary Yorkshire mum.
The theatre has been working on an exciting project with local school children at Molescroft, Keldmarsh, Tickton and St Mary’s Primary schools looking at the stories of 5 inspirational Yorkshire women.
Director Marieke Audsley says ‘I'm thrilled to be directing Maxine Peake's exquisite play about the exceptional Beryl Burton. Beryl's story is truly inspirational. It will be a delight to share this fascinating, funny, moving and uplifting celebration of a legend with audiences in Beverley.’
Still seen as the ‘the greatest sportswoman who ever lived’, Beryl faced more than up-hill cycling challenges in her struggle against poor health and the barriers faced by women in sports. But her remarkable story was largely forgotten – until now!
When Beryl Charnock met keen cyclist Charlie Burton she was smitten, not only with Charlie but with the thrill and freedom she found on her bike. She would out-work the men in the rhubarb field, she could out-class the cyclists on the road and still find time to knit young Denise a cycling jumper – though it wasn’t meant to come down to her knees!
With husband and daughter at her side, the determined Beryl defied the world embarking on a journey that led to true sporting greatness. She dominated cycling throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, becoming five-time world champion and best British all-rounder for 25 consecutive years. And she still made it home in time for tea!
During drama workshops, led by East Riding Theatre’s all-female Company in Residence, She Productions, children explored the lives of Beryl Burton MBE/OBE (World cycle record holder) Nicola Adams OBE (British Boxing Champion), Dora Thewlis (Yorkshire Suffragette), Dr Karen Briggs MBE (4 x World Judo Champion) from Hull) and Lisa Muscarella (2nd female firefighter to join West Yorkshire Brigade).
In the next stage of the workshops, local artist Emma Garness helped the children use the stories they’d discovered to paint artwork on petal shaped canvasses which have been sewn together creating a celebratory Yorkshire Rose mural.
Flemingate Shopping Centre has been instrumental to the display of the mural which will remain in place until 20th May. Graham Tait, Flemingate Centre Manager, said: “We’re delighted to host the mural and enable thousands of people to enjoy the amazing work of Beverley schoolchildren which has been inspired by pioneering Yorkshire women.” He adds,
“It’s wonderful that East Riding Theatre’s production of ‘Beryl’ has generated so much creativity and community spirit.”
The mural, fixed to a wall close to the Creative Lab in Flemingate, will be officially unveiled on 8th March, ‘International Women’s Day’ at 1pm. The artwork will remain in situ until 20th May.
ERT is thrilled at how much the community has been behind the project with initial funding raised via a Christmas Raffle when local shops and businesses provided generous prizes.
A contribution from The Beverley Arms Hotel has supported the project, General Manager Chantell Dickinson comments “When we heard about the play, we were delighted to support it. We are very fortunate to have many inspirational women from here in Beverley, never mind Yorkshire, and it is something worth celebrating. In fact, we are so proud of the inspirational women linked to our area that we had a picture of one, Mary Wollstonecraft, projected onto the side of our hotel just last year. We wish everyone involved in the production of Beryl the very best.”
Wilkin Chapman solicitors also supported the project and Partner Lesley Archer says ‘It is Wilkin Chapman’s pleasure to support ERT’s excellent Community work, educating young people about the lives of inspirational, ordinary Yorkshire women whose determination led to successful and fulfilled lives’
ERT invites you to the unveiling of the mural at Flemingate by Dr Karen Briggs MBE (4 x Judo World Champion) on 8th March at 1pm. Bring along mobile devices to access a selection of the recordings via QR codes located near the mural.
Be sure not to miss the tour de 'Beryl' at ERT!
25th April – 18th May 2019
Tickets £12 - £17.50 Tel: 01482 874050