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Events commemorate 80th anniversary of terrible night
One of the stars of TV hits Ghosts and Call the Midwife can be seen in a critically acclaimed theatre production being streamed online from November 14 to mark the 80th anniversary of the Coventry Blitz.
Charlotte Ritchie, who played nurse Barbara Gilbert in Call the Midwife and appears as Alison Cooper in Ghosts, takes the role of teacher-in-training Katie Stanley in One Night in November, one of Coventry Belgrade Theatre's most successful productions to date. Written by Coventry playwright Alan Pollock, it follows the story of one family's harrowing experience of the Blitz, examining the idea that Winston Churchill may have had advance warning of the attack on the city.
During the Blitz, on the evening of November 14, 1940, more than 4,300 homes in Coventry were destroyed and around two-thirds of the city's buildings, including the cathedral, were damaged. An estimated 568 people were killed in the raid, with another 863 badly injured and 393 sustaining lesser injuries.
The version of One Night in November being streamed between November 14 and 30 via the Belgrade Theatre's website www.belgrade.co.uk was directed by Hamish Glen and recorded at the theatre in 2013.
In the production, Charlotte Ritchie's Katie encounters Michael, played by Jason Langley, an Oxford lecturer who is stranded at a railway station while awaiting the all-clear signal after an air-raid warning. What could have been a straightforward love story is actually a much more complicated affair. Unknown to Katie, Michael has been forced to turn his linguistic skills to deciphering German codes at Bletchley Park… and knows what a terrible threat Katie and her family are facing.
Tickets to watch the screening online are priced from £10.
Set to premiere online at www.coventrycityofpeace.uk at 8pm on November 14, the film features the voices of two Belgrade Young Company members – Semilore Kaji-Hausa and Georgina Gibson – and three volunteers from the Lord Mayor's Committee – Paul Maddocks, Pru Poretta and Rhys Davies.
The idea for the project came about after the committee published a book on behalf of Coventry Cathedral last year. The publication, Ruined and Rebuilt by Provost Howard, tells the story of the night bombs fell on Coventry and how Provost Richard Howard and three other men ran through the cathedral, trying to put out the fires. The next morning, the Provost resolved that the cathedral would be rebuilt, and it was largely through his vision and leadership that Coventry was established as a city of peace and reconciliation.
Originally, the committee had planned to host readings from the book in the ruins of the old cathedral on the night of November 14 but the idea developed of telling the story in a different way, with Dean John Witcombe reading the words of Provost Howard, alongside perspectives from other people from the city.
Committee chairman Philip Brown, who narrates the film, said: "We think it is important to get young people involved in the work of the committee. In our daily lives, most of us seldom give any thought to how lucky we are to live in a time of peace and tend to take it for granted, but we all need to be aware that it is fragile and its loss can lead to terrible consequences.
"It is the purpose of the cathedral ruins to remind us of this fact, and the 80th anniversary of the Blitz is a time when we can reflect on this and strengthen our determination to live in harmony and friendship with our neighbours and people in other countries.
"We hope that the engagement of young actors from the Belgrade Youth Theatre, speaking the words of young people who lived through the war, will stimulate other young people to reflect on this."