Straight from the horse’s mouth - Heritage Lottery grant to unlock hidden horse heritage

The Field Theatre Group are celebrating an award of £44,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to finance their major new project entitled The Horseman’s Word. This will explore the social history and folk practices of the legendary ‘horse whisperers’ of East Anglia.

The Horseman’s Word will document the history of heavy horse keeping in the Fens and will offer participants the opportunity to engage in a wide range of exciting activities. These include gathering stories, research, local history gathering, documentary drama workshops and the chance to participate in the making of a documentary film. Local people across the Fenland region are invited to take part. As with all The Field’s previous projects, participation is free and open to residents of all ages.

The Field Theatre Group will also be staging an exhibition that will tour the Fenland region and an online archive will be produced as a resource for others to enjoy and learn from.

The grant will enable The Field to work in partnership with museums across Fenland bringing together a highly professional and experienced team, including archivists, local historians, photographers and heavy horse experts. The project will be managed by Zoe Davidson of ADeC (Arts Development in East Cambridgeshire) and experienced community practitioners Jennifer and Deborah will be key members of the project team.

Field Theatre Group producer, Jennifer Stevens said: “This is fantastic news for The Field and for our region. The Fenland area is fortunate to have a rich cultural heritage related to horses and horse keeping. From prehistoric times to the present-day the Fens have always been horse country. Horses and horsemen have helped to shape the landscape that we now inhabit. As well as documenting the social history of horse keeping, we aim to investigate the myth, magic and drama of the golden age of the heavy horse. With the aid of our Heritage Lottery Fund grant this fascinating strand of rural history will be documented and preserved for future generations by The Field and our project partners.”

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said: “We at HLF are delighted to award a grant to The Field Theatre Group. Heavy horse breeding and showing is still undertaken in the Fenlands and this project will enable the local community to explore the heritage of this practice, whilst also preserving the fascinating stories and traditions related to this.”

The Field Theatre Group would like to invite as many members of the community as possible to undertake this journey of discovery with them. People will be able to contribute in a number of different ways, whether as individuals or interested groups, and volunteering tasks will range from helping with research, making a documentary film, admin, exhibition and archive tasks. Additionally, the Group would like to hear from you if you have a good story to tell about working life with heavy horses.

So come on, take the bit between your teeth and get involved.

The Horseman’s Word will launch in Littleport this spring.

See their website. www.fieldtheatregroup.btck.co.uk or e-mail thefieldtheatregroup@hotmail.co.uk for updates and further details.