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Caithness Arts Drama Festival

22nd August 2009

Photograph of Caithness Arts Drama Festival

Caithness Arts will be presenting a mini 'Festival of Drama' early next month. Grey Coast Theatre Company will be spearheading the festival with a new play from Caithness writer George Gunn. 'Fields of Barley' revolves around a love story between a female farmer from Lower Pultneytown and an Italian-American pilot and is set in Wick during the dark days of World War II.

The play, which will form part of the nationwide Homecoming Celebrations, will be directed by Edinburgh based drama student Iain MacDonald with young performers, Peter Gordon of Edinburgh and Sheila Smith of Murkle in the leading roles. Originally from Thurso, Iain is currently in his fourth year at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh where he is studying towards a BA (Hons.) in Drama & Theatre Arts. Before moving to Edinburgh, Iain worked extensively with both Thurso Players and Grey Coast. He was also amongst the first group of students to graduate from the North Highland College with an HNC in Acting and Performance.

His involvement with Grey Coast on this project has been made possible through sponsorship from the 'Shell Step' programme which allows for the placements of highly motivated students with small companies throughout the UK to undertake business projects during their summer breaks. The Highlands and Islands Step programme has been boosted this year, with businesses receiving 50% funding towards the cost of a student placement from Shell and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Working for small businesses gives students the chance to make a big impression, with projects that can deliver substantial rewards to their host companies. In 2008 a quarter of Step students added more than 15,000 worth of value to their placement's business, while two thirds added at least 5,000. This year's programme offers students a chance to apply their knowledge, develop their skills, and earn some money at the same time.

Early work involved in setting up the Festival has been undertaken and rehearsals will begin during the latter part of August with the performances taking place in both Wick and Thurso on 4th & 5th September. Thurso Players will also participate in the evening's entertainment with a showcase performance marking the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns. The performance will include an array of songs and poems from Burns as well as other artists ranging from William Wordsworth to Bob Dylan.

Representatives from Grey Coast will also visit secondary schools in Wick and Thurso with a view to encourage more active participation in the performing arts and give careers advice to students with an interest in further education covering all aspects of the arts. Iain said "This will be a wonderful example of how young people can engage and benefit from involvement in the arts. I am really excited and grateful for the opportunity I have been given."

The event is being supported by Caithness Arts, Shell, Grey Coast Theatre Company, The Highland Cultural Fund, Thurso Players and the Dounreay Communities Fund.
Performances will take place at The Old Parish Church, Wick on Friday 4th and The Mill Theatre, Thurso on Saturday 5th beginning at 7.30pm each evening. Admission to both events will be free although donations may be made at the door.


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