The Horseman's Word project was developed by the Field Theatre Group, Littleport and was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Babylon ARTS led the publicity, event planning, record keeping and youth club workshops. We also managed the volunteer support for film screenings and exhibitions.
The aims of the project are to:
- Record memories, stories and information about Fenland heavy horses and the important role of horsemen in the working life of the area.
- Provide opportunities for local children, community groups, families and individuals to volunteer and take part in making a drama documentary, written and produced by the Field Theatre Group. Inspiration taken from stories and recollections from older people, horse keepers and trainers living in the area today.
- Promote the way of life and cultural traditions of the fenland area so that there is increased understanding and knowledge about how the local community has been shaped.
- Provide an insight into the hidden histories of horse keeping as a traditional skill.
- Show new ways heavy horses are being bred and used today.
A living history day was arranged with Millfield Primary School, in partnership with Ely Museum, Prickwillow Drainage Museum and Green Farm, Prickwillow. This involved ploughing demonstrations with heavy horses, role play, re-enactment, music and craft.
The film produced as a result of this project, was screened at final celebration events in Littleport Village Hall (27th September 2015) Babylon ARTS (17th October 2015) and at Prickwillow Ploughing Festival (3rd and 4th October 2015). The film screenings were seen by 150 people at these events with a further 450 people visiting the exhibitions as part of the ploughing festival.
Please visit www.horsemansword.org.uk a home for all the material collected, throughout the duration of this project.
Feedback from partners and participants
'Teachers and adult helpers were very clear that it was a good day and that children had learnt a great deal about their local area. Also about healthy eating and vegetables grown in the Fens. It was fully thought out and discussed with the farmers and Museum. This resulted in something different and special for the school.' - Sally, Austin, Learning Officer, Ely Museum
‘It’s important to keep these traditions alive between generations about a way of life that no longer exists. Heavy horses were so important to the land and the work of the horseman is little known before tractors came along. We are proud to have had the film and display and hope to incorporate some part of the project in our permanent exhibition. The stories need to be shown to people especially younger people - it helps people recognise what has gone before.' - Chair of the Prickwillow Drainage Museum
'It was wonderful - youngsters gained an insight into what had happened in the past and the drama brought them out of themselves. Young people realised that this was not just a story but it was people's lives on the land. Older people also seemed to gain confidence talking about the past and reliving their childhood and young adulthood. The group included some people who had lived here all their lives and also newcomers and they were sharing their own stories afterwards for quite some time - it was fun!' - Carol Nicholas – Letch (Stoke Ferry)