Nottingham 2019 meets Nottingham 1847 in a time travel history adventure. An original musical written by Brian Lund.
In a corner of Nottingham’s Arboretum stands a statue of a man with a parchment in his hand. Most people walking by hardly give him a second glance, and those who look rarely take in the significance of the structure. Few people in Nottingham have heard of or know anything about the man with the parchment, who was a member of parliament for Nottingham from 1847-52 and an inspiration for people nationwide, during his lifetime and afterwards. He has been largely airbrushed out of the city’s history.
But now, over a century and a half later, that man – Feargus O’Connor, and the parchment he is holding, the Chartist petition of 1848 – is celebrated in an original musical looking at his philosophy and achievements, linking it to contemporary Nottingham and the love lives of four students.
The all-singing, all-dancing show, Feargus The Musical is based on the attachment to this period in history of present-day university student Adam, who travels back in time, intrigued by O’Connor and the Chartist movement and becomes entangled in the dangers inherent in Chartism, the first working class national political movement.
There are some parallels to this in the experiences of the writer of this musical, Brian Lund (minus the time travel!), from Keyworth, who studied history at Nottingham University and included a module on Chartism in his studies. He said,
“I always thought Feargus O ‘Connor was a great piece of Nottingham’s history, but he has never been in the city’s consciousness – long been forgotten despite the importance of what he stood for”.
Local history publisher and songwriter Brian went on to say,
“I intended to write a biography of O’Connor over the years but there were too many other distractions. The idea of Feargus The Musical just came to me in 2017 in a sudden flash of inspiration because I thought some songs I’d recently written would fit in well once I’d thought about setting it in the present with students as central characters. The rest is history…”
The city of Nottingham is the focal point of the musical, along with some London scenes, as the present day and 19th century meet though a web of fantastic characters. There are plenty of moments of comedy and drama included, and Brian has written the complete script and songs himself. Nottingham’s most famous landmarks, people (including icons Robin Hood and Brian Clough!) and even the tram network, are acknowledged in the show through its catchy numbers.
Feargus The Musical, was premiered in the South Nottinghamshire village of Keyworth in November 2018 and proved to be a big hit with local audiences during its four-night run.
Audience feedback included;
“It captivated me with its mesmerising all-singing, all-dancing cast”
“A phenomenal achievement and a superb history lesson”
“Excellent cast and music. Learnt a lot about local history and in a fun way”
“The direction, acting, singing, music, dance and choreography were excellent”
“Time travel, romance and a big heaping of history blended together in a tale that surprised as much as it entertained”
“The feedback was so encouraging that the city of Nottingham was of course the next port of call for Feargus The Musical”.
The original cast are returning, this time to the Nottingham Arts Theatre, George Street, Hockley on 8th and 9th November 2019, including acting talent with an age range from 11 to 72, a RADA-trained actor and a Shakespearean veteran, as well as new-to-acting performers. Dancers are from Keyworth School of Theatre Dance and a brilliant live band supplies the music. Director is Ros Jones, who has vast experience of directing stage plays, including Shakespeare dramas, and musicals.
Chartism and its significance have featured heavily in the media recently, particularly around the 200th year anniversary of the Peterloo massacre in Manchester (which partly inspired the Chartist movement), and has been brought to a mainstream audience through ITV’s Victoria and BBC1’s Gentleman Jack. Even comedian Jack Whitehall has got in on the action when he discovered through BBC 1’s ‘Who Do you think you are’ that his ancestor was a prosecutor of Chartists after the 1839 Newport Rising. And as the musical reveals, Chartism has many parallels with the politics of today.
The musical celebrates in dialogue and music this long-forgotten hero. Feargus O’Connor’s funeral procession was accompanied by tens of thousands of people before his burial in Kensal Green Cemetery, London. A statue to him was erected in the Arboretum here in Nottingham, its unveiling attended by vast crowds, despite the opposition of the town corporation. O’Connor’s role as an inspiring campaigner for political reform and his ideas for improving the lot of the poorest in society deserves much more recognition, especially here in Nottingham, than it has ever received. Feargus The Musical is helping to restore what should be his legacy. If you want to see his charismatic charm recreated then don’t miss this show!
Tickets for the show on 8th and 9th November are available from The Nottingham Arts Theatre https://nottingham-theatre.co.uk/ and the Nottingham Tourist Information.
Ticket price: £14 (concessions £11, groups of 10 £9 pp)
Further information can also be found on the Feargus The Musical Facebook page: @FeargusTheMusical