About fifty people gathered together for this entertaining evening. June Lewis-Jones gave the background to the Son et Lumiere, the purpose of which was to raise money for Fairford Cottage Hospital, over £1000 was raised. Oral recordings had been made of participants and Geoff Bishop introduced snippets of their contributions which jogged people’s memories. Brian Routledge then facilitated a panel of participants: – Trevor Hing, Maurice Jones and Gretchen Langford who talked about their memories with contributions from the audience. There was then an opportunity to look at the displays of photos and articles from the play; have a convivial drink and talk to other people. Leo D’Elia had made a cine film at that time and had lent it for FHS to convert from video to DVD for people to watch in the Heritage Room.
This event in St Mary’s Church in October 1978 was the first secular event to be held in St Mary’s Church; there had been an influx of newcomers into the town and as so many people took part it brought the town together. June Lewis-Jones wrote the script and as far as possible actors played the same role throughout the 1000 years of history and in some cases their real role in life. Maurice Jones was the town crier; Trevor Hing, the reeve or justice; Peter Juggins, the stonemason; June Lewis the shepherd with real sheep, they had been lambs when planned which had grown to sizeable animals by the time of the performance. The amount of costumes and props that had to be organised – many people had multiple roles which involved many costume changes in the semi-dark in the chapels. There was over a mile of cabling for the lighting and the most beautiful music and sound effects. The play lasted almost three hours with no break and although cushions had been hired the pews were very hard and the audience deserved a plaudit as well.
Everyone remembered ‘the Cross Keys’ the pub referred to throughout the play which historically had been thought to be sited at Montacute House opposite the Church. There was a barrel of beer in the Centre available to participants at 30p a pint. There was an outbreak of warts which grew more prevalent throughout the week ( rice krispies or puffed wheat glued on to people’s skin); tricks were made to make Trevor Hing as Justice of the Peace laugh during the sentencing of the culprits of the Swing Riots – a most serious event. Diana Lee Browne was crouched under the lectern as prompt during the whole of the performance. David Niven and Peter Ustinov had made recordings for the play and June had written to the RAF Fairford and Brize Norton to ask them not to carry out any NATO exercises over Fairford during those weekday evenings!
It was a wonderful community event and its importance is shown by the fact that it is still remembered. A thousand years of Fairford’s written history were encapsulated in a few hours. The play showed the continuity of life in a small country town, its social structure and how it was affected by national events.