Gunter’s Farm performed at King’s School, Gloucester

The F.W. Harvey Legacy, Kings School, Gloucester 27th October 2012

A play not heard in 77 years was performed by the F.W. Harvey Society at King’s School Gloucester on Saturday morning. An appreciative large audience turned out to hear the story of Gunter’s Farm, the first part of four plays written by the poet in 1935 to bring the culture, dialect and story of a Gloucestershire farming family to a radio audience. The play’s approach to telling the everyday story of a farming family was followed in 1950 by the BBC commissioning the Archers. The script of the play was discovered as Gloucestershire Archives prepared for the cataloguing of a collection of papers donated by the late poets family; a mammoth task that will be made possible through a Research & Enterprise in Arts & Creative Technology (REACT) postgraduate scholarship awarded by the University of Exeter to a doctoral researcher. The play was preceded by the launch of the project at which Professor Tim Kendall, Head of English at the University of Exeter said: “Harvey was significant in his own right as a poet, memoirist and broadcaster, and his correspondence with friends like the poet-composer Ivor Gurney provides a crucial insight into the cultural life of the region in the early part of the century.”

There was an excellent talk from the Deputy Head of King’s School, Mr David Evans who provided a remarkable insight, complete with pictures and actual uniform, of daily life at the school in the time of F.W. Harvey and his friend Ivor Gurney. The Play that followed featured remarkable performances from Eric Freeman, Carole Warren and her sister Sharon Thomas, Geoff Davis, Eric Nicholls, Amanda Deeks, Teresa Davies, Marie Fraser Griffiths and Anthony Boden playing the part of the poet. Several of the parts were written in dialect and had very funny lines that caused a great deal of laughter and enjoyment. Steve Cooper was particularly amusing as the police constable enforcing animal hygiene laws, not much different to those that exist today. The background to F.W. Harvey’s extensive broadcasting career had been addressed in the Forest of Dean Local History Society’s latest edition of their Journal, New Regard and members of the Local History Society were on hand with information about this and their work in the Forest. A delightful selection of photographs of farming scenes and life on the River Severn were also on display and enjoyed by participants including the late poet’s daughter Eileen Griffiths, his granddaughter Elaine and her husband Peter.

The family of F.W. Harvey and the organiser of the event Teresa Davies of Woolaston were thanked; Teresa was especially thanked for her work in initially assessing the archive of papers before they were handed over to Gloucestershire Archive and for her work in making the day a success. Eric Freeman, the leading man and a connoisseur of cider was given a selection of local brews by David Price, landlord of the Railway Inn at Newnham-on-Severn. A report on the event will be included in Vernon Harwood’s, BBC Radio Gloucestershire programme ‘Country Matters’ (10.00am-12.00pm) on Sunday morning 4th November.

Grant Repshire is the doctoral researcher who was awarded the postgraduate scholarship by the University of Exeter. This is the link to his blog.

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