Longridge’s Barnacre Road Primary School Forget Me Not show branded a success

Forget Me Not production rehearsals

Forget Me Not production rehearsals - Credit: Archant

A thousand children wowed audiences with their World War Two play and there are tentative plans for an encore, writes Paul Mackenzie

Simon Wallis has some big ideas. His last one led to a thousand children from a dozen schools performing at Preston’s Guild Hall in a show which had the audience at turns laughing and crying. But his next one could lead to something even bigger. Just don’t tell his wife.

Simon is headteacher of Longridge’s Barnacre Road Primary School and the Forget Me Not show staged on Remembrance Day in November was the culmination of five years he spent thinking, planning and writing.

And even before the dust had settled on the World War Two production he was already thinking what he could do next.

‘I have never experienced anything like it, it was incredible,’ he said. ‘The response was amazing. It really brought people together and got them talking. The whole of Longridge was buzzing.

‘I did breathe a huge sigh of relief when it was over because there had been so much to do but I do want to do something like it again, maybe on an even bigger scale, and I do have some ideas. It will be a totally different subject and not for three years or so, but I don’t want to tell my wife.

‘There was so much to do get Forget Me Not from an idea in my head to be on the stage with so many children. I was getting up at 4am and by the end of it I felt burned out but it hasn’t put me off doing something similar again.’

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As a child of the 1960s, Simon grew up with stories of the Second World War – his mum’s memories of sheltering from bombing raids in Liverpool, his grandparents’ tales of working with the ARP and his dad’s recollections of the school windows being blown out by a jettisoned bomb.

‘The stories stayed with me and when my mum died it triggered something in me. I could see the show like a film in my mind. I shared the idea with other schools in and around Longridge and although they looked at me as if I was mad, they agreed to go along with it.

‘This was new ground but the other schools went along with my idea even though they couldn’t see the pictures I had in my head. Now they know what we are capable of doing, I think they will go with it more.

‘It was a real team effort, although the show was my idea and I wrote it, there is no way it could have happened without the help and support and hard work of the children and teachers at all other schools in the area.

‘The show had a huge impact on the children and it had an effect on people in Longridge too – it brought people together and they were talking about in the streets and the shops for days afterwards. We received hundreds of cards and emails and people I didn’t know were stopping me in the street and shaking my hand. I was absolutely blown away by the response. It really lifted people’s spirits.’

* DVDs of the show, and also including footage of rehearsals and radio interviews, are available from forgetmenot2013, costing £5. All money goes to the Royal

British Legion.