Autumn 2018: Janine Birkett, Grace Kirby, Sue McCormick and Stephen Tomlin toured five venues in the Tyne valley and Dumfries with Haunted; intimate readings of ghost stories penned by some of the greatest writers of the genre. Excited by this initial tour we set to work planning the next!
Autumn 2019: The company returned with three more literary ghost stories, drawing on classic, modern and contemporary narratives. Our portfolio of historic venues included the five venues who had so magnificently hosted last year’s event; The Vault Hexham, Hearth Arts Centre Horsley, The Sill, Northumberland National Park Visitor Centre, Bardon Mill Dumfries Theatre Royal Studio and the Lit & Phil, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. This year we added four more wonderful cultural venues to the tour list as well as welcoming fellow performer Alice Blundell to the demi-paradise family.
Cherryburn is the birthplace of world famous engraver and naturalist Thomas Bewick (1753 – 1828) now in the care of the National Trust. Bewick’s parents were yeoman farmers and colliers. The family loved to gather round the fire in the old farmhouse to hear ghost stories of a winter’s night. It proved the perfect spot to continue that tradition on Sat. 2nd November.
The Lord Crewe Arms at Blanchland is a medieval monastery turned luxury hotel. The 2018 Inn of the Year (Good Pub Guide) while The Sunday Telegraph dubbed it “one of the 50 most romantic hotels in Europe”. A perfect setting for Haunted, as readings took place in the C.13th gatehouse for a max. 14 guests as their post supper entertainment.
Dennis Kilgallon Gallery is in a converted farmhouse complex overlooking a wild and stunningly beautiful stretch of high moorland above the Allen valley in the North Pennines AONB. The brainchild of sculptor Dennis Kilgallon and his wife Brenda this light and airy gallery hosts top quality exhibitions of artists work every Spring and Summer.
The Cheviot Centre is at the heart of the attractive market town of Wooler. Situated in a former Victorian workhouse, it now houses the town’s library & visitor information centre as well as hosting start up businesses & community offices. Our entertainment was funded by the Northumberland National Park, as part of its community outreach work.
Janine Birkett (Reader at Lit & Phil, The Hearth & The Cheviot Centre) Janine spent her early career touring with Northumberland Theatre Company before joining the Northern Stage Ensemble and performing at Theatre by the Lake; New Vic Stoke; and the Stephen Joseph Theatre. In the 1990’s Janine was Byker Grove parent, Maggie Watson for three series; and played Jenny Elliot, Billy’s Mam, in the film Billy Elliot. Other TV and film appearances include: Poppy Shakespeare, Emmerdale, Hollyoaks, Holby City, The Royal, Inspector George Gently, and Coronation Street. BBC Radio drama includes the series My Uncle Freddie, in which she played Aunty Bella; and the Jarrow March play, A Woman’s Walk. Janine has also narrated over 40 audio-books including several by Vera author, Ann Cleeves.
Grace Kirby (Reader at Dennis Kilgallon Gallery, The Vault & The Sill). Grace has been an actor, director and teacher for over 30 years, working in film, theatre & television. Stage credits include Communicado’s Fringe First award-winning Carmen: The Play and performing alongside Stanley Baxter in one of his legendary Edinburgh pantos. Grace started her career with Dodgy Clutch community theatre in Newcastle and she has worked with Hexham’s Théâtre Sans Frontières on the research & development phase of a new production based on the Sherlock Holmes short stories. Grace recently completed a marathon tour of the nation’s libraries playing Mrs Tredegar in an adaptation of Quentin Blake’s children’s classic tale The Green Ship for Librarian Theatre.
Stephen Tomlin (Reader at all venues) Since qualifying as a teacher at the Central School of Speech & Drama in 1972 Stephen has worked extensively as an actor in a wide range of roles for television, theatre and radio as well as being a director, producer, writer/researcher and role player. Work for BBC radio drama includes The Archers, Homefront and Writing the Century; classic serials like Watership Down, City of Ladies and The Return of the Native plus many single dramas, voice overs and readings. In another life (as Stephen Allen) he was the 1991 BBC TV Mastermind champion.
Alice Blundell (Reader at Cherryburn) is a Newcastle based actor and musician, most recently seen in the smash hit play Clear White Light at Live Theatre. Graduating from the Academy of Live and Recorded Art (ALRA) in 2012 she went on to co-found The Letter Room, an arts council funded national touring company. Alice has also worked extensively at Northern Stage on their Christmas shows; Tallest Tales from the Furthest Forest, The Christmas Grump, Wizard of Oz, James and the Giant Peach and Alice in Wonderland andfor November Club in the award winning musical Beyond the End of the Road. Other theatre credits include The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart (New Vic Stoke), Far from the Madding Crowd (The Watermill) and Treasure Island (Queens Theatre Hornchurch). TV credits include Hospital People (Rough Cut TV/ BBC) and George Gently (Company Pictures/BBC).
Sue McCormick (Reader at Dumfries Theatre Royal) is a D-P associate director and actor based in Moniaive, Dumfrieshire. Sue has worked in theatres nationwide, including Royal Exchange, Library, Palace and Opera House in Manchester, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Chipping Norton Theatre, Oldham Coliseum, Bristol Old Vic, Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, The New Vic Stoke and The Dukes Lancaster. She has also toured extensively with Northern Broadsides and Hull Truck Theatre. TV includes Hollyoaks, Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Holby City, Casualty and Where the Heart Is. She has recorded several plays, features for BBC Radio 4 and BBC Learning Online. Sue also works as a theatre director and playwright.
WRITERS & STORIES
Amelia B Edwards (1831 – 1892) was a leading Egyptologist, travel writer and journalist as well as a successful popular novelist and short story writer. She was a friend and literary associate of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. The Phantom Coach (1864) with its atmospheric plot of a young traveller lost at night on the snow bound Pennine moors has all the ingredients of a rattling good yarn in the great Victorian tradition.
Christine Poulson was born and brought up in North Yorkshire, going on to enjoy a successful career as an art historian and academic before turning to crime writing. She worked as a curator of ceramics at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and curator for the William Morris Society at Kelmscott House, Hammersmith; taught for the Open University and was a lecturer in Art History at a Cambridge college. That city and the surrounding Fens feature in the first of her Cassandra James series of crime novels. Safe as Houses was included in Phobic, an anthology of contemporary horror stories published by Comma Press in 2007.
Elizabeth Jane Howard (1923 – 2014) wrote best-selling novels, many television plays, as well as books on food and gardening. Howard was married three times, most notably to the naturalist Peter Scott and fellow writer Kingsley Amis. A co-founder of the Cheltenham Literature Festival she also served on literary prize committees including the Whitbread and Booker and was awarded a CBE in 2000. Less well known are the distinctive and original ghost stories written in conjunction with Robert Aickman in the late 1940’s. The couple helped found and run the Inland Waterways Association. Three Miles Up is one of the six stories from that collaboration, published in 1951.