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Songline for Doggerland - the new village show telling the story of ancient land lost to the sea

PUBLISHED: 12:58 13 January 2018, Eastern Daily Press

Rowan Mantell


The latest spectacular show from the villagers of Bergh Apton includes long-lost lands lying just off-shore and ancient stories overwhelmed by new discoveries

All around our coast are drowned villages, lost to the sea. Our folk tales are of church bells still tolling beneath the waves and our history emerges from the ocean – a wooden temple built, around an upside-down tree 4,000 years ago and, far further back, footprints on Happisburgh beach, made by a family more than 800,000 years ago and the oldest human footprints ever found in Europe.


It was comparatively recently, a mere 8,000 years ago, that we were still connected to the continent by a vast swathe of low-lying land now dubbed Doggerland.


That land is the focus of Songline for Doggerland, to be performed in Bergh Apton, near Loddon, over two weekends in February.


The community project is the latest in a series of events in the village which began with sculpture trails through gardens and continued with ambitious drama productions, based on Bible stories and folk customs and taking audiences on a journey around the village as stories from the Creation to the Resurrection were staged in fields, gardens, woodland and the parish church.


This latest production will be performed in Bergh Apton church and explores natural forces and new ideas, the ebb and flow of religion and science, the impact of humans on how the world is shaped and reshaped.


The drama is in three parts, the first telling the story of the inundation of Doggerland, the second set in the 19th century when old beliefs were being challenged by the new science of geology, and the third looking at the modern-day climate change, rising sea-levels and melting ice-caps.

Participants come from surrounding villages, as well as Bergh Apton itself, and over the last few months they have taken part in writing workshops, made clay lanterns based on fossil designs to light a pathway to the church on the evening of each performance, created prints from pressed flowers and leaves which might have grown on Doggerland and built a sand sculpture on Mundesley beach.


This vast sculpture of a seal and a human, made of sand, shells, pebbles and seaweed, all swirling lines and flailing limbs, took shape on a summer beach. It survived just hours before being destroyed by the rising tide. But the creation and destruction of the sand-art was filmed and sections will be incorporated into Songline for Doggerland, the imagery of sea rising over the land a central theme of the show.


The story will be told in words, music, pictures and film. Pat Mlejnecky, who is part of the team behind Songline for Doggerland, said: “These events we put on are immersive theatre and are quite different from staging a play. They involve a range of disciplines where words, singing, music, acting, lighting, staged both inside and outside and visual effects all come together to weave a magical experience.


“Two ideas this time were the discovery of footprints in mud at Happisburgh and the ‘drowned’ lands all round our coastline. These ideas finally focused on Doggerland. Research has found it was an area rich in wooded valleys, hills and rivers with lagoon and marshes full of fish and fowl. It is thought that about 8 000 years ago an earthquake off the coast of Norway caused a huge tsunami and this landbridge was engulfed.”


The area was named for Dutch fishing trawlers and today we know the name from the shipping forecast, but next month in Bergh Apton the spirits of this drowned land, and the spirit of human adaption to change, will be recreated, for just four nights.


Songline for Doggerland has been created by the Bergh Apton Community Arts Team, working with storyteller Hugh Lupton, artists Liz McGowan and Georgina Warne, director Charlotte Arculus, and musical director Mary Lovett.


It will be performed in Bergh Apton church on Friday and Saturday February 2-3 and 9-10 2018.

Song for Doggerland tour guide Phil McCallum. Picture: Christopher Meynell

Song for Doggerland tour guide Phil McCallum. Picture: Christopher Meynell

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