July 6th, 2016
Derbyshire playwright, Louise Page developed a keen interest in the effect the First World War and the spread of anti-German feeling, had on the German community at the time living in Great Britain. She was particularly interested in personal stories such as the sensitivity that people felt about their German names, and on the continuity of such attitudes towards other people today.
With initial support from the Derbyshire Lives Through the First World War project, and with the help of Hidden Histories and Nottingham Trent University, Louise wrote and developed her play, Hidden Strangers. Written for and working with Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Youth Theatre, Louise explored this area of our hidden history and how people who had built a life for themselves in Britain suddenly became the enemy.
Hidden Strangers looks at the lives of those German, Hungarian and Austrian families, who lived in and around Chesterfield and were judged, condemned and vilified during the First World War. In Hasland there were riots against local pork butchers. At Buxton the subscription band who had played for bank holiday makers on August 3rd, immediately became enemies on the declaration of war the next day and were put into police cells.
But the play also shows the better side of human nature. A young Englishwoman defies her mother to volunteer as part of Violet Markham’s relief organisation which clothed those in need and Quakers help to ensure the wellbeing of German children.
The play has just been premiered at Chesterfield’s Rose Theatre, earning critical acclaim for the eighteen strong cast. If you’d like to see it for yourself then there will be another performance in Lincoln on July 15th which forms part of their outdoor event Green Fields Beyond, for which Louise has also written the script. The play is at Judge’s Lodgings, Lincoln at 6pm and admission is free