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Festival of Remembrance at the Hippodrome Circus

A moving letter written by a young soldier from Great Yarmouth during WW1 which came to light this summer will be read during the Festival of Remembrance at the Hippodrome Circus on Armistice Day. A cast of over 70 musicians and performers will take part in the event which will see poppies flow down from the ceiling during the two minutes' silence.

Hippodrome Festival Soldier

Private Jim Watts from Admiralty Road  who was serving with the East Surrey Regiment was a member of the thriving Men's Service at St. George's Church. He vividly describes in a letter to one of the Men's Service leaders how he believed it was a voice from God which narrowly helped him survive being shot when the rest of his section were killed. The letter is part of an archive of material about the St. George's group which was stored in a house in Gorleston for years and only recently loaned to local historian David McDermott.                     

'It is an incredible letter which may not have been seen for a century. It will be read by 16 year old Scott Ribbons dressed in an authentic WW1 uniform from the Maddermarket Theatre wardrobe. Jim Watts probably wasn't much older himself at the time he wrote it.' said former Radio Norfolk broadcaster Tony Mallion who is directing and hosting the Festival. 'Around 480 young men from that St.George's group went to fight in the war and over 70 died. This letter is such an amazing link to all of this.'

As well as the letter and other WW1 poems the Festival will pay tribute to Edith Cavell, the nurse who was shot by the Germans in 1915 for helping at least 200 Belgian soldiers to escape. North Norfolk actor Judi Daykin is specially adapting a short part of her one woman show about the Norfolk heroine as she faces her execution.

Norwich bagpiper Simon Cater will play The Battle's Over to open the festival which will have a full youth orchestra, the Orchestrate! Project, and Norwich Voices choir under the baton of musical director John Stephens. Members of the Dance Estelle School will take part in the event which is being choreographed by their principal Estelle Clifton as well as the Winterton Marine Cadets who will march and create the Drum Head Altar for the Remembrance section. 'It makes it so special and relevant that it is young people who will play by far the biggest part in this huge spectacle; youngsters have even been involved in making some of the poppy leaves which will flutter down from the ceiling.' said Tony.

'We will also be marking the centenary of the Royal Air Force with stirring music. Great Yarmouth had such a significant role in its formation. There will of course be plenty of opportunity for flag waving and audience participation in favourites like Rule Britannia.

'This is going to be such a memorable event bringing to an end five years of marking the anniversary of WW1 with festivals previously held at St. George's. The Hippodrome played an important role in the war effort. We've been planning this for well over a year. Tickets are going well and we would like to see a full house - this is a one off, especially as it will be a hundred years before we can do it again !' said Tony. The Festival starts at 4.30 and will end around 6 pm giving plenty of time for people to move to the beacon lighting and fireworks near Joyland at 7 pm which will round off a day of commemoration.

Tickets for the Festival of Remembrance at 4.30 on November 11th are available price £10 from the Hippodrome box office or online.

Last modified on 21 April 2022

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