16 April 2024

Performers gear up for folk opera premiere

By Rebecca Hannant

The newly formed Beggar’s Folk Music Foundation are gearing up for a community stage production that will premiere in Withernsea next week.

Sarah (Life Turned Her That Way) tells the intriguing story of Sarah Kelly, who was born in Kent in 1801 before she was seduced and abducted to Ireland, where she became a wealthy landowner before being murdered in 1856.

Kevin Young, organiser of the group as well as the weekly Beggar’s Folk Club at Ottringham Village Institute, said he was inspired to produce the play while on tour with the folk band Sword in the Stone in 1990. He was given the book the Strange Story of Sarah Kelly, written by Vera Hughes of Co Westmeath.

Kevin said: “I was fascinated by the story so much that I contacted the author to ask her permission to allow me to use her book as a basis for a folk opera.

“Permission was given, but the time never seemed right to start work on my interpretation of the book. Years passed and in 2022, through the Beggar’s Folk Club, which I run, I was able to bring together a team of talented and enthusiastic artists, who were willing to give their time and skills to create this production. This was also the year that Vera sadly died.

“Through Song, music, dance, drama, narration, art, video and photography we have brought this remarkable story to life.

“Some of the material is of the period – 1800s, some is from the wealth of contemporary Irish songs, and some have been written and composed by the cast. In my mind I am certain that we have a performance which is worthy of being staged at any principal theatre both nationally and internationally.”

The cast are of all ages ranging from six to 86.

All the performers are local including members Colleen’s Fancy, Oakleas Rise and children from local musical theatre group Stagemates.

Sarah (Life Turned Her That Way) will be performed on Friday, March 8, and Saturday, March 9, at St. Matthew’s Church in Hull Road.

Tickets are free and seats can be reserved by ringing Kevin on 07710 049123 or emailing [email protected].