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Time Traveller at Gainsborough Old Hall
Violet, played by Abigail Griffin and the Medieval characters og the Lord Burgh's Retinue, picture by John Bennett
The film tells the story of Violet, who has a gift: the gift of seeing echoes of the past

WAG Screen Productions bring history to life at the Gainsborough Old Hall with their latest film Time Traveller.

The film tells the story of Violet, who has a gift: the gift of seeing echoes of the past.

The film makers first trialled the idea of echoes from the past in a production made for Church Farm Museum in Skegness.

The film in the Gainsborough Old Hall will illustrate rooms which are inaccessible to some visitors.

Nick Loven filming at the Gainsborough Old Hall, photograph by Patrick Kay
Each room inside Gainsborough Old Hall will be illustrated in the Time Traveller production. Photograph by Patrick Kay

WAG Screen was originally approached by the department of Culture and Adult Education at The Collection in Lincoln, with the interesting challenge of using video to fulfil the need to offer access to all within their historic buildings. Because of the nature of ancient and listed buildings, it is often impossible to install lifts and ramps to enable people to reach all of parts of a building.

They trialled the idea at Church Farm Museum in Skegness, and WAG Screen developed a simple theme of following the farm's household through various activities to reveal how the farmhouse functioned in 1900. As this was a single history museum, the interpretation was fairly straightforward. It also became clear that the film enhanced the visitor experience for everyone, regardless of ability, age or mobility.

This film can be seen in full here: Church Farm Museum film

Gainsborough Old Hall
Gainsborough Old Hall, the setting for the Time Traveller film
Gainsborough Old Hall, the setting for the Time Traveller film. Photograph by John Bennett

Next, WAG Screen was asked to make a similar film for Gainsborough Old Hall. This time they were dealing with a building of many dates and with multiple histories - many of which have a national dimension. It was to meet this challenge that the director of WAG Screen films, Nick Loven, came up with the device of having a visitor to the Hall with the gift of seeing the past.

Nick explained that: "Through this device the film is intended to change people's appreciation of the building, so they will be able not just to understand the facts of the place, but also to get a feeling of the life that went on there."

Gainsborough Old Hall is an outstanding historic building in Lincolnshire, and it has some exceptional stories to tell. It was built by Sir Thomas Burgh between 1460 and 1480 and has had some notable royal visitors, including Richard III and Henry VIII. The Mayflower Pilgrims met there and John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, preached there. Part of the building became a Victorian ballroom and, amongst other things, it has been a linen mill, lodgings and a theatre. The building was saved from gradual dereliction by the Friends who formed in 1949 to save the Hall and to open it to the public. It is now run by Lincolnshire County Council.

So how did WAG Screen choose from this swathe of fascinating history for their short film?

Pauline Loven dressing Bryony Roberts as Queen Catherine Howard, photograph Jo Sullivan
Pauline Loven dressing Bryony Roberts as Queen Catherine Howard, Photograph by Jo Sullivan

They began with a room-by-room assessment of the building and chose a simple story from the multi-layered history of each room to illustrate the story of the Hall itself. The Hall already works with Lord Burgh's Retinue, a re-enactment group who specialise in the early history of the building, bringing the great hall, kitchens and solar to life, and with costumed interpreter and author, Sue Allan, who re-creates one of the former owners of the Hall, Rose Hickman. These were the first choices to be included. We also planned to include Queen Catherine Howard's (fifth wife of Henry VIII) 'cloth of silver' gown, recreated by Pauline Loven of WAG Screen for display in the Hall. Pauline said: "This will connect the film, not only with the history of the building, but also with the permanent exhibition of Tudor costumes, illuminating them both." For more on the making of this gown visit : Pauline's blog

WAG Screen also included one of the ghost stories associated with the building. The film will culminate with John Wesley preaching a sermon in the courtyard.

"As with all our projects, we work to the highest production values that we can within our budget and so, rather than try to cram in all the potential stories in one short film, we held back some significant people and events," said Pauline Loven.

Chris Roberts sound recording with Victoria Louise as a maid in the Hickman household. Photograph by John Bennett
Chris Roberts sound recording with Victoria Louise as a maid in the Hickman household. Photograph by John Bennett

The leading actors for the film were drawn from existing WAG Screen contacts, and auditions, led by producer Chris Roberts, and were held at Gainsborough Old Hall to find the rest of the cast (and some crew). Chris said: "Lincolnshire is full of talented people - and the perfect cast for our film just walked through the door." Wag Screen are currently half way through filming, with the last film shoot due at the beginning of August.

WAG Screen has had the privilege to work with a wide range of amazingly talented people. Their photographer, John Bennett, for example, records most of their film shoots, producing fabulous images in often difficult circumstances. John said: "I used to think of myself as primarily a landscape photographer, until a chance meeting with WAG Screen filming The Lady of Shalott in Hartsholme Park. It is always a joy to work with such creative people, and I never cease to be amazed by their passion and attention to detail.

Abigail Griffin as Violet, the time seer, and Sue Allan as Rose Hickman. Photograph John Bennett
Abigail Griffin as Violet, the time seer, and Sue Allan as Rose Hickman. Photograph John Bennett

As a photographer, working with WAG Screen is always a challenge; we seem to be permanently struggling with low light and 'interesting' locations, but it is always good to get out of our comfort zones and push the boundaries. When we nail it the results are far more satisfying than those achieved in more favourable circumstances."

WAG Screen has cast some young actors for the Gainsborough Old Hall film. Abigail Griffin, who plays Violet, Bryony Roberts, who plays Queen Catherine Howard, and Robyn McKenna are all under 18. "All are very professional in their approach and the standard of their work," said Pauline Loven.

"I really, really enjoy being part of the making of the Gainsborough Old Hall film. I think it's such a good way to learn about something through a visual aspect and I enjoy being able to do that. It's all a really fun experience and interesting to see what goes into the making of a film," said Abigail Griffin who is playing the role of Violet.

Bryony Roberts as Queen Catherine Howard photograph John Bennett
Bryony Roberts as Queen Catherine Howard. Photograph by John Bennett

Bryony Roberts, who plays the part of Catherine Howard said: "Today was my first taste of being in a film shoot with WAG Screen and their company was fantastic. When I first walked in and saw everybody, we had a great laugh and got straight down to business. If they asked me to join them again I would grab the opportunity with both hands. Thank you to all for giving me this marvellous experience."

Chris Roberts, Producer, summed up the excitement and anticipation for the Time Traveller film: "We are using modern technology to its fullest to give the widest possible access to a museum. Not only will the short film be shown at Gainsborough Old Hall for visitors, it will also be available on the internet for the world to see."

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