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From Barking Tudor manor house to enchanting Hallowe’en fair

PUBLISHED: 15:41 30 October 2014 | UPDATED: 15:41 30 October 2014

St Ethelburga's Hallowtide fair will take place at Eastbury Manor from October 31 to November 2

St Ethelburga's Hallowtide fair will take place at Eastbury Manor from October 31 to November 2

Archant

A national theatre company spent its summer collecting stories about Eastbury Manor. Anna Silverman finds out how they inspired this weekend’s Hallowtide fair.

Punchdrunk theatre company's Katy BalfourPunchdrunk theatre company's Katy Balfour

Enter Eastbury Manor House with caution this Hallowe’en.

Behind each door or curtain you could find yourself immersed in a haunting story of the past.

Since the beginning of summer, theatre company Punchdrunk has been beavering away to recreate a legendary Hallowtide Fair that visited Barking every October in the 19th Century – but has long been forgotten.

“It’s about uncovering secrets and myths and seeing the house in a new light through music, dance and storytelling,” said Katy Balfour, 33, an associate artist in Punchdrunk’s “enrichment” team.

“We’ve got a few professionals and more than 30 members of the community taking on different roles throughout the house – some rehearsed and some free-flowing, where the audience are just sprung into the action.

“You might just find yourself going into a room where something incredibly theatrical is happening – it’s very inclusive.”

St Ethelburga’s Hallowtide Fair has been created for, and by, the community through workshops that began in July.

About 20 Barking and Dagenham College performing arts students are involved in the project, too, and have worked with professional actors to create the theatrical event.

One student, Qudus Bufari, 25, said: “We’ve been learning how to interact with our audience and it’s changed the way I see theatre.

“I was blind before.”

Another, Bernice Ayling, 17, added: “I’ve never done anything like it. We’re being taught how to perform in a naturalistic way.”

After sharing their memories of the local area and their responses to the building, the students’ stories have inspired the Hallowtide event.

“These facts provide an anchor for the experience,” said Katy.

“It’s a celebration of Barking’s rich history with the aim of getting people involved in the arts who wouldn’t usually be involved.

“This is an opportunity to experience a different type of theatre that doesn’t pop up around here that often.

“It’s also about celebrating this incredible building by opening its doors and welcoming people in who may live close by but have never visited.”

The fair is part of a three-year project called Creative Barking and Dagenham, designed to engage people in creative activities.

It’s set to be a Hallowe’en celebration like no other – but will it be scary?

“It’s not going to be ghouls, witches and ghosts – more about remembrance of the past, particularly people who have passed on,” said Katy.

“So we’re taking that element of remembering the past with a sprinkling of magic in the air.

“The stories of the past start to infiltrate the present – that’s the angle we’re going for.”

The fair takes place from October 31 to November 2. Tickets are available on The Broadway theatre’s website: thebroadwaybarking.com.

Read more: Nando’s stabber from Barking faces years in jail


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