Family-friendly Bacup show will display the 'essence' of travelling life in 30 minutes

An interactive, free family-friendly show will premiere in Bacup capturing the essence of travelling life in a 30-minute dance and musical drama.

The show is based in and around a traditional Bowtop horse-drawn wagon, which was built by Bacup Cultural Consortium in 2022 and has appeared at the This Here Festival in Bacup and at Bacup and Stacksteads Carnival last year. The Old Time Rags Travelling Show has been written by Laurence Marshall and Phoebe Douthwaite from Raggle Taggle Arts, a touring production company.

As they are not from the Romany community themselves, the couple sought advice from Richard O’Neill, a Romany story writer, before devising the show. Phoebe said: “We will be using the Bowtop Wagon as a centrepiece for our family-friendly street show and it will have percussive dance, clog dancing, along with music that we have written ourselves.”

Laurence said: “We will be teaching the audience how to play the spoons as one of the things we will be talking about is reusing found items. It is trying to instil that idea of looking at different techniques and ways of making music.


“We will be using the Bowtop throughout the performance and we will be playing a banjo and a fiddle sitting on the steps of the wagon. When the 30-minute show is finished we will allow the audience to take photographs with the wagon.”

The show will be premiered at the This Here Festival on Saturday, June 8, in Bacup town centre on Irwell Terrace and it will then be shown as part of Waterfoot Wakes on Saturday, July 13, at the Horse and Bamboo Theatre in Waterfoot.

Phoebe said: “It will be like a variety show with moral tales about people’s views of the travelling community and what it is really like to be a traveller. We have spoken to older folk musicians and combined everything together in the performance, brought things up-to-date and made it so the audience can relate to it.

“Laurence and I live in a van so, although we are not Romany, we have a bit of an idea what it is like.”

For the last 10 years the couple have lived on the road taking their touring productions to different communities – which is exactly where the Horse and Bamboo Theatre owes its origins. Horse-drawn vehicles would leave Rossendale taking local shows to the rest of the country.

Phoebe added: “Our aim is to take this show nationally too.”