Bella Reay was ‘the Alan Shearer of her day’ scoring 133 goals in 30 matches between 1918/19, she also led Blyth Spartans Ladies football team to victory in the 1918 Munitionette’s Cup final in front of 22,000 people.
This is a remarkable story about brave, heroic women who worked 60 hours a week in dangerous occupations during World War One yet still found time to play football to raise money for injured soldiers, widows and orphans.
Brought to you by the team behind the hugely successful Hadaway Harry, Carrying David and The Great Joe Wilson, the play written by Ed Waugh, directed by Russell Floyd and starring Lauren Waine as Bella Reay, is an incredible story largely forgotten until now.
Ed talked about a special offer for ex-miners to come along to the show ‘Thanks to support from the North East Area Miners’ Social Welfare Trust Fund, ex-miners, their spouses and partners are invited to attend the incredible story of Wor Bella, the Blyth miner’s daughter who rose to fame as the superstar of World War One’s women’s football’.
‘They’ll be asked to pay only £5 for a programme to reserve their seat. To take advantage of this fantastic offer they have until 5pm on Friday March 18 when it closes. Either contact me on 0191 4550608 – please speak slowly and repeat your number twice – or email email@example.com’.
Ed added ‘We’re looking forward to seeing you and for a list of North East venues visit the Wor Bella website’.
Before acting, Cochrane’s game was fronting a Newcastle band from 2008-13.
It was great being in front of a live audience and the buzz you get off it. We had interest from an American label who said we had to change our name because ‘We can’t sell you over here called The Soviets’(laughs).
We done a single launch and one review said the ground was moving so we changed our name from The Soviets to This Ground Moves. We shot a couple of video’s and our track ‘Soldiers of Fortune’ got played on American TV series CSI New York.
All of a sudden we had some fans from the States and released an album in 2011. But unfortunately we split up six month later.
Fast forward to 2019 with Cochrane signing up for a new show ‘Carrying David’. North East writer & theatre producer Ed Waugh scripted a play about the McCrory brothers from County Durham. One severely disabled and the other became boxing’s Cruiserweight Champion of the world.Former Eastenders actor Russell Floyd was drafted in to direct the one man show.
I totally believe in the piece and think it’s a really important story to tell. Glenn was interviewed by Ed and he asked him just tell me everything what you remember about the fight. Glenn recalled what happened in each round and I do my best to perform that on stage.
First out was a short tour around the North East in 2019 and then we took it to Northern Ireland for a week. The very first night was in the Newcastle Tyneside Irish Centre. I really wanted the ground to swallow me up, but after that every show got a standing ovation. The responses we got were overwhelming and it’s a lovely feeling knowing the audience have enjoyed the show.
2020 was cancelled for obvious reasons. I was in such good shape for Newcastle Theatre Royal but then Covid hit and I was gutted more so for my family who didn’t get to see me there.
Ed was saying to keep in shape cos we don’t know how long this will go on. Two month later I was eating chips and drinking beer (laughs).
But I was really upset it was cancelled. Glenn rang me and said it’ll be fine because it’s an inspirational story, it’s about not giving up, triumph over adversity.
BROTHERS IN ARMS
When I first read the script I couldn’t believe it had happened, it’s remarkable. The defeats, the times he got ripped off, he was really rock bottom with nowhere to go.
Glenn’s disabled brother David was told he wouldn’t live beyond he was 15, yet he lived long enough to see his brother win a boxing World Championship.
It was his brothers bravery and courage to keep on living with a smile on his face that helped Glenn to come back. He put his head down and worked hard.
The final scene is the set piece with Glenn fighting for the boxing world title. I enter the ring as Glenn with boxing gloves and shorts on recreating all the moves talking about the fight as it happens.
I’ve been going to the gym cos if you walk on stage and you’re out of shape it won’t look good. I actually trained with Glenn at first getting his style right and how he threw punches. Added to that I had personal trainers for the weights.
Ed has a few other projects on so I took over the production and rang a few theatres to see what’s available. They were all keen to put something on so I got in touch with a few contacts who stepped up to help finance the show.
My sisters company, Sunhealth, a Swedish business owner who saw the play in Belfast, plus the conservatory company that Glenn does a TV advert for came onboard. It’s all come together.
During North East dates in September we are visiting excellent venues in Newcastle, Blyth, Durham, Barnard Castle, Hexham and Alnwick.
Plus the London dates in the Canal Café where we are looking to get a few producers along to hopefully take it on a national tour maybe this time next year.
SEND IN THE CROWDS
I was in panto in June at Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre that had been rearranged from last Christmas, I enjoyed it but there was still a few restrictions like the bar being closed and you couldn’t congregate near the stage. It was nice to be back on stage but it was a bit surreal.
This one man show is a test of endurance, it’s a challenge keeping fit and being able to bring the audience along with the story. It’s very energetic, there’s no lull, there is sad moments – I just want to do the story justice.
There is still a little uncertainty out there with audiences thinking should they go to the theatre, is it safe enough ? It’s a hard time and people will have it in the back of their mind what has happened – but now is the time for Carrying David to take off the shackles. I’m in shape for this tour and ready to go.
A new book released by the Wisecrack team – Geordie Plays, is a compilation of North East scripts from successful plays Hadaway Harry, The Great Joe Wilson and Carrying David written by Ed Waugh.
‘In our small way, Wisecrack Productions try to give a voice to our forgotten heroes who have given us so much yet barely mentioned today.
We are taught at school that ‘our’ history is about kings and queens. Rubbish! It’s the working class who create the wealth in society and yet our real history is ignored by the London-centric educational establishment’.
‘One example is children are taught about the Great Fire of London in 1666, yet the great fire of the Quayside in 1854 is never mentioned. That fire started in Gateshead and spread across to Newcastle and laid waste to both quaysides’.
‘Around 700 working people were made homeless and many dozens died. This loss was much greater than the Fire of London but how many Geordies know about our fire?
A script featured in the book is about a former Durham miner, Harry Clasper, the story follows his journey from working class pitman in Jarrow, to rowing Champion of the World.
‘When you tell people about Harry Clasper who invented the sport of rowing that we know today – people can’t believe it. Nor can they grasp that 130,000 people attended Harry’s funeral in 1870’.
Waugh has also included the story of North East singer and song writer, Joe Wilson.
‘Joe chronicled working class life and supported workers on strike, yet he doesn’t appear on the educational curriculum, even in the North East where he was a superstar.The Scots celebrate Burns Night annually. We should be celebrating Joe Wilson Night every year’.
The third script in the book, Carrying David, focused on two McCrory brothers, one severely disabled and the other who became boxing’s Cruiserweight Champion of the world.
‘Glenn’s story about becoming a world champion is incredible but add in the inspiration he got from terminally ill brother David, and you have something special.Rocky 1 is a great film but Carrying David, about a ‘Country Durham Rocky’ is better’.
‘To be champion of the world at anything is a tremendous accomplishment but as a boxer, that takes dedication and skill. David was the one pushing Glenn to bounce back when it looked like his career was over. An incredible, heart-warming, funny and emotional story’.
Both Hadaway Harry and Carrying David are touring North East theatres, Carrying David in September 2021 and Hadaway Harry in June 2022. Both are planned to be hitting London stages.
The Geordie Plays book launch will be held on Saturday October 16, in Newcastle City Library at 2pm & 7pm. The afternoon show will be a free illustrated talk, evening tickets priced £3 will include songs and entertainment from the cast of the plays.
Ed added ‘Obviously, this is subject to what happens with the pandemic and could change but we are very confident the talks will go ahead on that date’.
Volume One of Geordie Plays can be bought from Tyne Bridge Publishing website, online at Waterstones, Blackwell’s, WH Smiths, Amazon, Wordery and Foyles.
Also available from high street shops Waterstones, Meander, The Baltic and Newcastle City Library.
Posting soon a new interview with Micky Cochrane who stars in the one man show ‘Carrying David’ in theatres during September 2021.
Ed’s company Wisecrack Productions have booked a November date at The Sage in Gateshead. The show features classic North East songs and comedy…
Not much working class history is documented so we try our best to help in a little way said Ed.
The Great Geordie Songbook is a celebration of local songwriters including Lindisfarne’s Alan Hull and Billy Mitchell, 19th century concert hall entertainers Joe Wilson and Ned Corvan…
Ned would have been great to talk to. I think I would of got on really well with him. In the 1800’s he had his music hall next to the old South Shields ferry landing on the river Tyne.
Apparently it was a den of iniquity and the magistrates were constantly trying to close him down (laughs). But yeah he was a fantastic singer-songwriter and it’s brilliant being in this game because you come across some great stories.
How did the songbook idea come about ?
I was approached by Ray Laidlaw of Lindisfarne and Brian Mawson boss of Windows music shop in Newcastle. Brian has a real passion for Geordie comedy and songs.
The Geordie heritage really comes across when you talk to him. He has recorded all the stand up comedians like the Little Waster himself, Bobby Thompson.
They had just seen my play Hadaway Harry about the rower Harry Clasper. After the show they asked if I’d heard of Ned Corvan and Joe Wilson, both singer-songwriters performing in the North East during Victorian times. Much to my shame I hadn’t and they asked would I write something about Ned.
How much research did you do for the project ?
For the Ned Covan play I done about 40 talk’s with Dave Harker, he’s a North East historian who wrote a book Catgut Jim. The play was based on that. I couldn’t have done it without him. His research was fantastic.
Ned’s songs had great lyrics like the Cullercoats Fish Lass and Mally by the Shore, these were testaments in the 19th century to working class women. He also wrote songs about workers on strike supporting seafarers.
Songs with lyrics about day to day working class life. The more research we done we found it was a good story and it’s all about the story isn’t it.
It was a huge success and got a fantastic response which led us onto a play about Joe Wilson. That toured last September and that also got a great response. Both Joe and Ned shows played at The Sage so after the success they asked us ‘what you got next ?’
The Great Geordie Songbook was put forward, along with a tribute to Alan Hull so there will be a few Lindisfarne songs.
The show features some of the region’s biggest theatre stars,Micky Cochrane, Sarah Boulter and Jamie Brown who all appeared in The Great Joe Wilson with Jordan Miller from Sunderland band The Lake Poets.
Top musician Rachael McShane from English folk band Bellowhead who also appeared in Mr Corvan’s Music Hall plus musical comedy from Gavin Webster and Josh Daniels.
We work with top professionals, we have a really good team and work well together and enjoy it. To be fair we don’t have the time or the money to muck about. But yes it’s a laugh from start to finish.
Our last show was Carrying David about the boxer Glenn McCrory. I told him it was really good to work on a play about someone who isn’t dead (laughs).
Off the back of all this we worked with Newcastle Council and got some blue plaque’s put around Newcastle. They’re all about leaving a legacy for what was achieved.
There is one for Harry Clasper on the Guildhall over-looking the Tyne, one for Joe on Stowell Street where he was born and a plaque on the Central Station where 2,700 people came to see Ned at the Olympic Theatre. That was the venue where Joe saw Ned, where he was inspired to write about working class life.
When the chips were down they really nailed their colours to the mast. We want to keep their legacy going for young people and for the next generation to be inspired. I think for protest songs young songwriters will go and raid the songbooks of Alan Hull, Joe Wilson and Ned Corvan. And that’s what we want, we need to hear those great songs again.
Tickets for The Great Geordie Songbook are on sale now only £20. There are two performances on Sunday 3rd November 2019 with the first curtain up at 4pm and then 8pm.