THE Red Spider Amateur Dramatic Company, based in Lewdown, has been awarded £10,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to help fund the company’s upcoming production, All the Fine Young Men.

All the Fine Young Men is a creative re-imagining of the legacy of the First World War on a rural Devon community, being staged to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest battles in history. It was written by members of the Red Spider Company.

Awarded through the HLF’s First World War Then and Now programme, the project will focus on the social history of the individuals and families who lived and worked in the small, rural communities of Lewdown and Lifton during the period of 1914 to 1918, and will explore the lasting impact that this devastating conflict had on these communities.

To mark the Centenary of the First World War and the Battle of the Somme, starting in July 1916, the project will enable local people from Lewdown, Lifton and surrounding areas to preserve the memories and heritage of the people who lived through the conflict.

Volunteers from all age groups are being invited to participate in the project, which is made up of four interrelated activities, being a musical drama based on the lives of eight men from the local community; a creative writing project for children and young people called ‘Words Across the Years’; an exhibition of artefacts, images and memories; and the burial of a time capsule at the Forgotten Garden of Lewtrenchard, containing material collected for the project.

The drama will focus on fictional stories of eight young men from the Lewtrenchard estate, Lewdown and Lifton, and their families and friends caught up in the consequences of the war on the Western Front. The production will be interwoven with over 20 pieces of original music from the period, springing directly from real experiences of the war.

Additionally, children and teachers from local schools will participate in creative writing projects, using the researched material to create letters to and from the families and communities involved in the campaign, helping them to engage with the stories and experiences of people from their own communities during the dark days of the First World War.

As well as this, a group of members from the Red Spider Company are due to hold an exhibition of artefacts, pictures and recollections that will tour local halls, schools and appropriate events.

Finally, a time capsule recording the entire project, together with a DVD and other material, will be buried in the Forgotten Garden of Lewtrenchard, and the site marked to record this location.

Company chairman, Frances Girling, said: “We are anxious to ensure the legacy and details of this appalling war are valued and understood by future generations, and the Heritage Lottery grant will help us to produce a fitting tribute to all those who sacrificed so much, from even the smallest communities such as here, in West Devon.

“The Battle of the Somme is regarded as a defining moment in the war, and our production will focus on the farmers, skilled labourers, land owners and gardeners whose names feature on our war memorials, as well as those who survived. Our characters will, however, be fictional, but based on our research and recollections.”

The company has already received offers of help from Tavistock College, and a travelling version of the musical drama will also be visiting Mount Kelly, as part of the Tavistock Heritage Festival later in the year.

People will have the opportunity to watch performances of the play in a range of locations, but the first productions will be at the Lewdown Victory Hall from July 14 until July 16.