Denbigh schools' hospital play
On Wednesday, 13 April, 150 primary school pupils from Ysgol Heulfre and Ysgol Frongoch performed a brand new play based on memories of the North Wales Hospital at the Town Hall in Denbigh.
The play was the culmination of a three month project, managed by ContinYou Cymru, with local writer Polly Snape that allowed local pupils and members of the community to work together. Year 3 and 4 pupils from both schools spent six weeks researching the history of the hospital by asking local people to share their stories. This involved trips to the library, a drop-in at a local supermarket and visits to schools by ex-members of staff. Pupils also received memories sent by email from as far away as Australia. The result of this research was displayed at an exhibition in the Town Hall in March.
After visiting the exhibition, Year 5 and Year 6 pupils spent six weeks working with Polly to devise and perform a story based on the memories of both staff and patients. The title, “Somebody’s Baby”, was inspired by something that an ex-nurse, Sister Dorothy, was known to have said: ‘They were all somebody’s baby once and no matter what happened to them after that, or how they behave, we should try to remember that. They deserve our best.’
Each class acted out scenes from a different era at the hospital – from when it was first built until the present day. Sports days, Christmas, holidays and May Day celebrations were all featured, as well as the fantastic dances that almost everyone in the town remembers. The play was watched by all pupils that had been involved in the project, as well as 100 special guests. The children’s drama work was outstanding and there have been many requests to see it performed again so that the whole town can enjoy the story.
Some of the comments received after the performance follow:
‘This was a moving and energetic performance that brought children from two local schools together. ContinYou Cymru is delighted that this project, aiming to further links between local schools and their community as part of community focused schools development has worked so well. Well done to all those involved, including Polly for her enthusiasm and commitment and to Denbighshire LEA for funding support.’ Pam Boyd, Executive Director ContinYou Cymru
‘The children were brilliant. It brought back many memories. Well done pupils of Ysgol Heulfre and Frongoch. It should be put on for the people of Denbigh to see what went on behind the walls of that once great hospital.’ Roger (ex-member of staff)
‘I saw it this afternoon and it was superb, very moving, really first class!!’ Colin Hughes (Denbigh Councillor)
‘It was a wonderful production, excellent in every way. It was really lively throughout and gave lots of children the opportunity of performing. They did really well. What a great way to teach and present local history in a series of scenes, each portraying an era.’ Stan Morton (cousin of an ex-patient)
‘The play was excellent. The pupils did so well and it was very moving. I think it is good for them to learn about such a place that is now only memories for people.’ Cathy Howatson (Denbighshire County Council)
‘I thoroughly enjoyed it and was very impressed with the work from each school.
It was obvious that the children had connected with the subject matter and could empathise with the residents and workers at the hospital. Everyone that I spoke to really enjoyed the show.’ David Phoenix (Denbighshire County Council)
A group of ten pupils in Year 7 and Year 8 at Denbigh High school have also worked with Polly to create a new book for children about the hospital. This will be available to buy from mid-May.