What we did
From September 2014 – March 2016 Festival on the Moor’s Shoots & Roots youth group researched the gripping and dramatic story of the wreck of the hospital ship, HMHS Rohilla wreck, off the Whitby coast in October 1914.
One of the biggest and most daring of all rescues in the history of the RNLI, where six lifeboats were involved, it led to the widespread introduction of motorised lifeboats as a result of the wreck and failure of the usual rowing boats used at the time.
For our research, we visited the site of the disaster, the RNLI Museum, Whitby Museum, the memorial to the crew who lost their lives in the cemetery, and the commemorative plaque in town. The Curator of the RNLI Museum delivered slide shows and a fascinating talk to all of us involved in the project.
Working with local heritage experts, the Festival’s heritage officer, writer and musician, Richard Grainger plus scores of other musicians, singers and actors, the young people produced a play and accompanying CD, entitled ‘Stormbound’, telling the story of the wreck and the rescue in narrative,drama, music and song.
The play was first performed on 1st November 2014, at St Hilda’s Church, Whitby, during the Centenary commemorations of the disaster. There was an audience of more than 500, many of whom were direct descendants of the crew and medical staff on board, or the lifeboatmen who helped to rescue them.
The cast was made up of Shoots & Roots members plus young people from Whitby schools – Caedmon College and Eskdale and a large group from Whitby Music Centre. In support were professional musicians and actors from the town’s Amateur Dramatic society as well as professional singers and actors.
During rehearsals a CD was recorded featuring all of the new songs, music, poems and snippets from the narrative and dramatic scenes. 50 of the CD’s were donated to the RNLI Museum in Whitby and all participants were given a complimentary copy. Proceeds from the sales of the remaining CD’s goes to the Festival on the Moor, to help fund future heritage initiatives.
Listen to ‘Rohilla and the Rock’ from the Stormbound CD
Listen to ‘Gale Force 9’ Part 2 with Ivan Hall and Monkeys Fist
To purchase CD check out http://www.festivalonthemoor.co.uk/tickets/index.htm
An abridged version of ‘Stormbound’ was performed during Whitby Sea Festival in July 2015 for a new, primarily non – local, audience attending the town’s annual maritime festival.
In March 2016 the full play was staged again, this time at the Pavilion Theatre in Whitby. We decided to do it again for various reasons. The first play was created very quickly to be ready for the Rohilla Centenary commemorations and all those involved felt it was all over with too quickly and wanted to look further into the subject and find out more about it. The schools that took part enjoyed the experience and wanted more students to be involved, find out about this aspect of their local heritage and help to create a musical play about it. We also wanted to stage it for a local audience, as hundreds of people had to be turned away from the first show after it sold out. The show featured a different group of students from Eskdale School, who brought exciting new ideas to the production. Introduced by Hon Curator of the Lifeboat Museum, Peter Thomson it was attended by around 400, mainly local, people.
The Shoots & Roots group have since written a ‘school’s version’ of the play, plus a promotional flyer, aimed at primary school age children. This is an introduction to the Rohilla disaster and can be performed by anything from 3 people upwards and can last from 40 minutes to 1 hour. It is intended as an introduction, which can be followed up in school with further research and activities, as appropriate.