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Ashgill Forest Theatre

setting | Fashion in the Forest | Accomplice | opening day | Origins

Theatre Origins and Development

   The theatre began life when some Bulgarian students, here as part of our projects as Grampus Heritage, recognised the natural ampitheatre qualities of the area.  As the photos show, this took some recognising, so overgrown was the whole place.
   At present agencies like the Forestry Commission are trying to get woodland owners to diversify in the land use of their woods.  This is because British timber is becoming less viable and often small pieces of woodland like ours is unsuitable for the industry anyways.  So through a "Forest Futures" grant, we obtained the resources to really start work on theatre, showing a radically different aspect of woodland use.

An overgrown, damless stage
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Steps and terraces
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Pre Boardwalk, to the theatre
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   At Grampus Heritage, we promote traditional skills and local sustainability.  With this in mind, we felt we should construct the venue, as far as possible with local materials and using traditional techniques.  The following photographs show examples of this.

Pulling Bracken
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Using Bracken to thatch roofs is a traditional way of using local resources.

A Celtic roundhouse. A ticket booth!!
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Bracken thatched roundhouse masquerading as our ticket office

Planking winblown oak, Gelt wood, Carlisle
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The chainsaw mill lets us plank wood on site. This is for the terrace stairs

You want steps...
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Using the sawn oak to construct the theatre steps. A job that just goes downhill

Digging the terraces
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A hard task. The barrels are used as seat foundations, better than not degrading in landfill.

Making Fences
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A traditional Slovakian way of weaving fences using willow and hazel.

   The bulk of the constuction work was carried out through the spring of 2004.  Quite often in the rain, more often just me, my friend and our spades.  Sometimes it was brutal, back breaking work, no time more so than using naturally washed through gravel to spread on the terraces, lifted from our pool below those terraces.  But we feel that the work was worth it and that a quite beautiful and atmospheric venue has been created.  We can only hope that you agree.

The dam, the pool and the stage
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On clear days the newly created pond reflects the tree canopy

The new terraces
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Environmentally friendly gravel and traditional willow weave fronts

Before
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The stage area before work began

After
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After lots of hard work, a vibrant, alive venue that we are proud of. Come see for yourselves.

   Because of the nature of our organisation, the influx of students that we host and the potential of the site itself, it is unlikely that the theatre will remain the same.  Already we are constructing an Anglo Saxon herb garden on the damn and we are planning a walkway around the whole site.  There is ample room for more terraces, we have tentative ideas about expanding the stage area with tiered layers.  We think that this is an asset to the theatre, it will never just be the same old place, it will evolve and develop and have the unique stamp of everyone who contributes to it's growth.  We are limited only by our own imaginations.

  I have frequently mentioned that we are Grampus heritage and Training.  This theatre is only one aspect of our work and projects.  If you are interested in knowing more about what we do here and in Europe then visit our Grampus website at
 
 

www.grampusheritage.fsnet.co.uk

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