BAKEWELL: Scriptwriter is hunting for wartime evacuees

Sharon Holland Taylor with the steam train at Peak Rail
Sharon Holland Taylor with the steam train at Peak Rail

Professional actress Sharon Holland Taylor is appealing for help to track down wartime evacuees.

She is keen to hear recollections of their experiences of being moved to safe havens in Derbyshire when Britain was at war in the Forties.

Sharon, who lives in Bakewell, will be working the stories into a script she is writing for a musical called Sparrows which will be staged at a Peak tourist attraction.

“Sparrows is the story of evacuees coming from Yorkshire to Derbyshire during World War Two,” said Sharon. “I’m hoping for this piece to be as historically correct as possible. In order to do this I am trying to compile real stories of evacuation from people in the area.”

Responses to her appeals so far have included the tale of Audrey Jones who went on to become the Lord Mayor of Manchester and that of a Manchester evacuee who stayed in Bakewell for years before going off as a soldier and dying the first week he was in action.

Sharon said that 450 young evacuees arrived at Hassop and Rowsley train station on September 1, 1939. “The school they came from practised evacuation for weeks and one day just put them on a train to bring them to Derbyshire and didn’t tell their parents until they had gone...incredible, I can’t imagine what that must have been like,” she added.

Sharon has chosen Peak Rail in Matlock as the location for the musical which will be staged in August as part of a summer school for young people.

She said: “I approached Peak Rail because I thought the station had the right authenticity for the piece. I also believe to really inspire youth theatre we need to be using venues like this and not just restrict drama to a traditional theatre environment.

“When I suggested using a steam train I thought I was pushing the idea too far but apparantly not, I was on the right ‘track’ and the lovely people at Peak Rail thought it was a great idea.

“The production will be staged partly inside but some scenes will involve the audience feeling very much part of the action and will be performed on the station platform. I daren’t risk the whole event being outside after last year’s washout!

“The idea of collating authentic stories for the project takes the drama piece to a whole new level. We are now in a position that the last of the population that remember these events are available to tell their individual tales.

Sharon, who has a wealth of stage, film and television credits including Coronation Street and Emmerdale, set up Act On It production company 18 months ago, The company’s debut poduction, Dirty Laundry which Sharon co-wrote and co-starred in , raised £11,000 for charities in the county including Bakewell-based Helen’s Trust and Derby Hospital breast unit.

l Anyone with wartime evacuation recollections or those who want to sign up for the summer school, which will be run by Act On It and starts on August 5, should contact Sharon on or 01629812388