The Lower Kersal Young People and Community Group has performed and developed their “Keep Calm and Carry On” stage show for over five years, but wants to expand their audience further by reinventing it as a radio drama.
Set in the Second World War, the play follows a group of Salfordanians as they face the bombings that took place throughout the city, focusing mainly on those that happened around Christmas.
What originally started out as a 20-minute play with just a few characters has since extended to last an hour and features 30 actors. Project manager Thomas Lever M.B.E, 66, said: “When we interviewed people after the play they said: “We loved it, it was great!” The problem we had was it was only short; it was only 20 minutes. It wasn’t enough and we wanted more of it.” It was after the initial premier that more scenes were written and characters added.
Sean Massey, 26, works behind-the-scenes and will be assembling the radio play, recording voices and incorporating sound effects. Despite the familiarity of working on Keep Calm and Carry on, he said: “The radio play is a completely new project – we’ve never done it before so it’s outside of our comfort zone, something new that we’re hoping to expand with.”
When discussing the sentiment of the radio show, Mr Lever said: “We’ve lost a couple of characters now through Covid and different things and my biggest concern is that there’s a possibility in the future we could lose more characters.”
He went on to mention the importance of the project; “Because we’ve got no proper recordings or archives of the show, I wanted to record it this way. I think it’s very important that everyone who is involved with it now is captured.”
Keep Calm and Carry on has been performed on stage in multiple venues throughout Salford, including The Lowry at Media City, the New Adelphi Theatre and Salford Arts Theatre. It went on to receive 5-star reviews on Salford Online and the Salford Star and has been seen by audiences containing as many as 450 people. The group invested a lot of time into researching the Second World War and how Salford residents lived to make the play as authentic as possible.
In its five years, the play has been funded by multiple organisations including The Heritage Lottery and Awards for All. Salix Homes, a not-for-profit charitable organisation that provides social housing in Greater Manchester is funding the radio show project.
Rehearsals for the live production would often be met with the issue of not everyone being able to attend and learn their lines at the same time. Thomas’ Wife Lesley, 62, is a project assistant for the group and plays the role of Mrs Bell. When discussing the contrast in the production process, she said: “I think the radio play will be easier- everyone will be coming in on different days at different times. Hopefully Sean can do his magic and slot everything together.”
Thomas Curran, 81, who plays ARP Warden Tommy Maguire, lost his wife to Covid last year and anticipates how the radio show will provide him with somewhere to go and talk to people. He said: “I still talk to her every day, every night. The idea of doing this will give me something else to do now at night. When we go on the radio, it’s fascinating.” Mr Curran was heavily involved in the live version of the show playing his leading role, he said: “I would have loved to have gone back on stage and done it one last time.”
Martin Hazeldine, 65, plays Walter in the play and talked about how the radio experience will be different when compared to performing on stage; “I think there will be a lot less nerves – when we do it on the radio there will be a chance to stop and go back if you forget your lines. Not only that but you’ll have your script in front of you so it’s a lot easier.”
Mr Lever has considered the prospect of taking the show even further, possibly turning it into a film one day. He expressed: “The play has been a big part of our projects over the years, it’s a big part of our community.”
Keep Calm and Carry On is set to be broadcasted on Salford City Radio in the new year.