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Last September I happened upon some very unusual and wonderful goings on inside a shipping container on Watchet's East Quay. A little hesitant at first, I admit to being blown away by the way my home town had been captured and celebrated in film, sound and live performance. The name of the event was ECHO Watchet – Portrait of a Harbour Town. Its creators, Theatre Melange, are soon to be working their same magic in Burnham on Sea.
Theatre Melange relocated to Somerset in 2009 launching their arrival with the ECHO Project. Originally based in the south east at the De La Warr Pavilion, the company create exciting events and performances designed for specific places or to tour nationally in the UK and abroad. ECHO highlights what's special about a particular place and Burnham has been chosen as the third destination for this journey of discovery along the Somerset coast.
I have been lucky enough to have had a sneak preview of some snippets of film and music and a first look at their characteristically unusual and very beautiful footage. I recognised some of Burnham's well-known wild spaces and was intrigued by some places I never knew existed. After a truly tantalising glimpse I'm now looking forward even more to going back to see the production in full.
The team's inspiration and raw materials come from immersing themselves in each town for many months, getting to know what makes a place tick and attempting to understand it by listening to peoples' personal stories and hopes.
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"It's so unusual here! We could be in a delta town – with the meeting of three rivers, and the estuary... did you know that the Bristol Channel has the second highest tide in the world?" I am speaking to ECHO's artistic director, Sandy Maberley. Almost in direct reflection of Sandy's own enthusiasm I start to sense excitement and anticipation about the performance.
We discussed the project and its themes. "We cover an amazingly wide spectrum including a revealing look at Portishead Radio – the most important 'ship to shore' radio station in the world that employed over 300 people in Burnham until its closure in 2000". Also included, to name but a few, are the migration of birds (and people) to and from the town (introducing both people who have grown up here and some for whom Burnham has offered another chance at life). And some special local characters share their memories, unknown even to many of its long-term residents.
ECHO Burnham – Portrait of a Coastal Town will be playing tonight and tomorrow in the town's Princess Theatre, at 7.45pm. Tickets are available from the Princess Theatre box office on 01278 784464 and www.theprincesstheatre.co.uk