Stoke Performing Arts Group was formed in 2015 to produce a play on the 100th anniversary of the the start of the Battle of the Somme. After an initial success with that project, SPAG has gone from strength to strength providing the village with a programme of performances unique to this community. The Trust provides an umbrella organisation for Stoke Performing Arts Group.

SPAG website

SPAG Facebook

The core team of SPAG comprises:

  • Jeanie Augarde – Producer
  • Sharan Dance – Director
  • Angela Hodges – Playwright and Artistic Director

They have created an environment which has enabled SPAG to be a wonderful success story, with an amazing debut performance “And Grandsire Went Wrong” in 2016.

 

“And Grandsire Went Wrong” was written by Angela Hodges about Stoke sub Hamdon, its residents and the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme. This was a sell out for all three performances on the evenings of Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd July and a matinee on Sunday 3rd July. The National Trust was hugely supportive, allowing SPAG the use of the Tithe Barn and the Priory Grounds for three weeks before the event, for set-up and rehearsals and for a week after for take down and clear up. Putting on a performance in the Tithe Barn was not without its problems, staging had to be created, lighting provided and a sound system. However, despite a whole series of last minute problems, including having to change all the installed stage lighting from halogen to LED at the last minute, the event was a huge success and agin showed how well Stoke sub Hamdon as a community can pull things together. Many thanks to Stoke Working Men’s Club who provided the bar facilities in the Priory Grounds and to Stoke Band who performed period music in the grounds before each performance.

To download the full report, click here: SPAG And Grandsire Went Wrong Report

“The Charity Shop” was written by Angela Hodges and was a light hearted look at a charity shop and the characters involved with it in a village community. It was a sellout on two nights and nearly sold out on the third and was another successful story for the village. The play was performed in the Memorial Hall and Stoke Working Men’s Club provided the bar for the three performances.

To download the full report, click here: SPAG Charity Shop Report

Angela Hodges again wrote two short one-act plays “Auntie Marj Returns” and “All in the Mind” to be performed as two plays with supper in the Memorial Hall on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th September 2017. This again was a huge success with an excellent two course meal served by a very hard-working band of volunteers.

To download the full report, click here: SPAG TOAPs Report

“The Memory Stone” was another original play penned by Angela Hodges, which once again placed our village of Stoke Sub Hamdon, Ham Hill and its unique hamstone architecture at the heart of its story. Performed at the Memorial Hall over three evenings, the plot focused on the day to day routine activities of present day family living in a former mill house, whose lives are changed when their young son brings an unusual  piece of ham stone into the house. The ‘Memory Stone’ begins to have a dark influence over the usually cheerful and optimistic ‘Sarah’, causing the breakdown of the family relationships and events to unfold which lead her mother ‘Susilla’ to describe the stone as ‘evil’.

 

The “Pint Sized Plays” were short plays lasting between 5-10 minutes, specifically written to be performed in pubs and small informal venues, requiring 2 or 3 characters with very few props, costumes or scenery. Five plays were selected from an anthology of ‘Pint sized plays’ and two further plays were penned by our own playwright, Angela Hodges. As the plays are designed for a pub audience, SPAG decided that the most suitable performance venue for this production would be Stoke Working Men’s Club. Following the success of the performances at SWMC, SPAG was invited to undertake a reprise of the Pint Sized Plays, as part of the programme being offered by Hamdon Community Arts Centre for Somerset Arts Week in September. Moving the play and performing in the old URC building proved to be an interesting challenge, but the event brought a new audience to the show.

The second ambitious project for this year was a “Murder Mystery Dinner” hosted by SPAG. The plot and characters for this event were devised by Angela Hodges. The Memorial Hall was transformed into a glitzy dining hall for a reunion party to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of ‘The Widow’s Revenge’, a fictitious movie that used Stoke sub Hamdon as its film location. The guests were invited to ‘dress to kill’, whilst SPAG performers took on the roles of the larger than life characters from the world of show business, who had returned to the village for this special event. Mingling together with key local ‘extra’ characters from the past. Largely improvised, tensions between the characters were exposed as the plot unfolded around the audience leading to the inevitable dramatic murder scene. Following the interrogation of suspects by ‘Inspector Clueless’, everyone was invited to guess the murderer before the guilty person was finally revealed.

Through the course of the evening an excellent dinner was served to guests and performers alike, as the action took place around them. To thank Lyn Foley and her catering team for the huge efforts they had made to produce and serve such a fabulous meal, SPAG decided to make a donation of £500.00 to the ‘Save our Shop’ appeal, a community venture led by Lyn to save our village shop.

“Chicken House Chicks was first planned for 1st and 2nd May 2020 – but events got very much in the way and the play was cancelled because of COVID 19 restrictions. As Lockdown progressed it became increasingly evident that the impact of the restrictions placed on us all due to Covid 19, meant we were living through an extraordinary time in our history. 

As a response to this, the SPAG team came up with the idea of inviting its group members and the wider community to contribute their ‘Lockdown Reflections’ by making short video clips about their personal Lockdown experiences. These were shared initially through Facebook with the plan to eventually create a film to help provide a record for the future, of living through the pandemic of 2020 in our village. A SPAG Facebook request invited people to record their reflections using their smart phone or iPad, with the general idea, that they could talk about any or many subjects related to Lockdown and how this has affected them personally. The ‘Lockdown Reflections’ posted widely varied in length, content and style, but all have been recognised for their own merit and value. The project started in May and ran through to the autumn when despite encouraging more people to contribute both personally and via the Village Newsletter it became evident that the project had reached its natural conclusion.

Through the autumn and winter months, it became apparent that our plans for a Christmas show or even our traditional Carol Singing around the village were not possible, due to the COVID-19 restrictions. However, as we look forward to the possible lifting of these restrictions in the Summer of 2021, we are starting to make some tentative steps towards planning an outdoor theatrical performance, based on and around Ham Hill that could potentially take place later in August or early September.

“Chicken House Chicks” was penned by our own writer, Angela Hodges, about the land girls who were billeted at Castle Farm in Stoke during WW2. It was originally scheduled for production in the early summer of 2020, to coincide with VE Day celebrations, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was placed ‘on hold’. However, we were hopeful that 2022 being the year of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, together with the a new sense of ‘community’, which had at times been likened to the ‘war like spirit’, generated from the experience of living through Covid, would make it a popular choice with our village audience. And it is fair to say that the response was very enthusiastic! Three ‘sell out’ performances took place over the weekend of 21st and 22nd May at the Memorial Hall in Stoke sub Hamdon resulting in a profit of over £1000.00 for the group.

In the Autumn of 2022, we planned a Christmas Show. This had also been originally scheduled for Christmas 21 and deferred due to COVID-19. The show took the style of a ‘Revue’, with a mix of festive music and carols, short sketches, dancing, cracker jokes and lots of audience participation! The performances took place on the weekend of 17th and 18th December and they were not without their challenges due to cast illness and busy time of year stretching everyone’s time. But with ticket prices kept low to keep it affordable to all, we were, once again, well supported by members of the community raising nearly £300.00 in profit.

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