Dartmoor in World War One was an eighteen-month Young Roots project investigating the effect the First World War had on Dartmoor and its communities. Working in partnership with the National Trust at Castle Drogo, Dartmoor Prison Museum and Moretonhamsptead History Society, MED Theatre enabled young people to conduct research into life on Dartmoor during the Great War, interpreting their findings through creating drama, a film and an exhibition. The project commenced in April 2013 with an intensive period of research conducted by MED Theatre’s Young Company. The research unearthed a wealth of information about Dartmoor’s past, from the internment of conscientious objectors in Dartmoor Prison, to the halting of the building of Castle Drogo. Inspired by their findings, the young company went on to devise, script and perform their own play, Road to Nowhere, first in Moretonhampstead Parish Hall, then as a site-specific performance at Castle Drogo in partnership with the National Trust. Alongside the play the young people also created their own short film, Williamson and the Otters in response to how a traumatic experience in the trenches led author Henry Williamson to write his seminal book Tarka the Otter.
March 2014 hailed the second stage of the project in the form of MED Theatre’s annual community play. Entitled Chasing Kitty Jay: The Creation of a War-Time Myth, the play was written by playwright Mark Beeson in collaboration with MED Theatre’s education officer Abby Stobart and three teenagers, investigating the origins of Dartmoor’s Kitty Jay myth and its roots in World War One. The play toured village halls across Dartmoor, including the parishes of Manaton and Widecombe near to where the mythical Kitty Jay is buried.The ‘Dartmoor in World War One’ project concludes in Autumn 2014 with an exhibition, ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, at Greenhill Arts Centre in Moretonhampstead. The exhibition marks the National Centenary and is a collaboration between MED Theatre’s young people and Moretonhampstead History Society. It will include photographs, films and audio, showcasing material that the young people have been researching and creating from over the last year.
The Dartmoor in World War One Project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.