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Axbridge Pageant 2020

The finale of the pageant in 2010

In 1963 the former Cheddar Valley Railway often called The Strawberry Line was closed after almost a century of use. A few years later the line above the town was turned into the bypass ending the traffic jams that had dogged the town for years. To celebrate a pageant was proposed to chart the town’s history in the square soon after.
It was a huge success prompting further pageants in 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010. Each time the Square was turned into a vast arena and stage – to portray the long and extraordinary story of the town through drama, music, poetry, spectacle and pageantry. And so we gather once again in August 2020 to maintain this tradition – that in its own way has also become part of the town’s history. The website will carry news, views and features about the pageant and will carry photos of the past productions.

Take part

Rehearsals take place in the lead up to the event in August

Recruiting is underway

If you would like to take part either behind the scenes or as a walk on part or as an actor or musician then send an e-mail to production@axbridgepageant.com with the following details:

  • Names of other family members who would like to take part
  • Whether you/they would like speaking or non-speaking parts or either
  • Any particular parts or scenes you/they would be interested in
  • Any backroom/backstage roles you/they may be interested in (eg. Fund raising, marketing, costumes & props, design & construction, etc)

You may have missed the recruitment days or the chance to complete a form and leave it in the Post Office – it’s not too late – email your details and prepare to be part of the town’s biggest and most famous event this summer.

The scenes include the Romans and Celts, the battle of Saxons v Danes, Normans, founding of Christian Axbridge, Queen Henrietta Maria’s visit, Bull Baiting, The Lady Day Fair, Hannah More and the fighting vicar, Victorian Axbridge, Edwardian scene and World War One, Inter war years and World War Two, plus post war and the late 20th century.

Rehearsal dates announced

The important dates are:

Saturday 22nd August – collection of costumes

Sunday 23rd August – dress rehearsal in the Square

Saturday, Sunday and Monday 29th, 30th & 31st August – three performances commencing at 3pm daily.

Pageant rehearsals will take place on Sundays during the 10 week period leading up to the dress rehearsal. These will be in various venues including the town hall – although sequences involving actors and the narrators are already underway.

For more details email the producer John Kendall on
production@axbridgepageant.com

History

Some background

In the 1960s the Cheddar Valley Railway (often known as The Strawberry Line) was finally closed after almost a century of use. The railway had taken Axbridge’s people and produce out into the wider world. It had been an escape to the seaside, to the shops of Wells and a means of getting to work for generations of workers. And it had placed the valley’s famous strawberries onto teatime tables from Scotland to Cornwall.

Then the age of steam had come to an end, and the motorcar was now king.

At the time Axbridge was a bottleneck for traffic with its narrow streets – with no alternative route. When the Axbridge bypass opened in 1967, heavy traffic ceased to pour down the High Street and through the Square. The traffic jams had been legendary with long tailbacks to Cheddar in one direction and Cross in the other.

Crowds would gather outside the Lamb Inn to witness the chaos as lorries and buses backed up in order to squeeze past the medieval houses.

Peace descended as the traffic roared past on the new road that ran along the old railway embankment – and the town was able to breath a sigh of relief. To celebrate, the community held a pageant in the Square with hundreds of residents embracing their inner Roman, Tudor and Victorian personas.

The two hour long drama immortalised the community’s history in a moving tableau representing many of the town’s key moments in time. From the era of the Roman Empire to Queen Victoria, the charters, fairs and personalities were brought to life by ordinary members of the public.

It was a huge success prompting further pageants in 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010. Each time the Square was turned into a vast arena and stage – to portray the long and extraordinary story of the town through drama, spectacle and pageantry.

Media

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