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Radio drama festival pulls in the listeners

Organisers of Herne Bay event promise another

FESTIVAL TEAM: MP sir Roger Gale with organiser Melanie Nock and friends
FESTIVAL TEAM: MP sir Roger Gale with organiser Melanie Nock and friends

HERNE BAY hosted the country’s first radio drama festival at the weekend and it went so well that plans are already in hand to hold another next year. The UK International Radio Drama Festival, which ran from Thursday to Saturday last week, was the creation of Moving Theatre and played productions from across the world to audiences at the Beach Creative gallery and the Vintage Empire Tea Room in the town.

“It went really, really well – we were very pleased,”

said Melanie Nock, the delighted development director of Moving Theatre.

“There were full houses every day and we had international, national and local visitors. Some would listen to as many plays as they could, while others would come in for a particular production, such as one from Russia. People came and went throughout the festival, so it was difficult to put a precise number on how many people came.”

Heart in mouth

With seating for up to 30 people at the team room and 40 at Beach Creative, it was standing room only for many of the productions. It was something of a gamble for the Moving Theatre team and Melanie admits that there was an element of “heart in mouth” as to how well the festival would be received.

“Sir Roger Gale opened it, which gave it that little bit more exposure – and he was a radio drama actor himself, which I didn’t know before, to be honest. And Beach Creative was having its own exhibition and craft fair; so people were going along for that and hearing the drama and wanting to stay for it. Some said they had never heard anything like it before.”

Visitors travelled to Herne Bay specifically for the festival from as far afield as the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia. There was also the small matter of prizes to be won, with a panel of eight judges – including three local people – choosing the best productions of the festival. Hilda, a tale of modern-day slavery from Slovenian national radio, took the £2,000 first prize in the long-form category, followed by a Czech production called The Maze, which had been inspired by the writer’s visit to Hampton Court maze in the 1960s, and then Big Broadcast: Snow, a BBC story about a crew putting together a production but being snowed in. The short-form category winner, with a £350 prize, was Against Democracy, from the Czech national station, in which a son is told by his parents that he was an “accident” and not wanted. So, will the festival be coming back to Herne Bay next year?

“Definitely,” said Melanie. “And it will be bigger. We’ll keep to the same time of year as well. Winter’s the perfect time to sit in and listen to the radio. It rained a lot here to prove the point.”

Herne Bay Times, March 4th 2015

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