In 2013 the Field Theatre Group received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to fund a project entitled The Horseman's Word. The project explored the social history and folk practices of the legendary 'horse whisperers' of East Anglia.
Our aim was not to prove whether or not any of these quasi-magical practices were efficacious (or indeed, had any basis in fact) rather, we aimed to find out if belief in these practices still persists. The answer to that question may be found in these pages.
The Horseman's Word project investigated the history of heavy horse keeping in the Fens and offered participants from across Fenland the opportunity to engage in a wide range of exciting activities.
The project also offered free participation in documentary-drama workshops, and the chance to take part in the making of a documentary film.
The project team's work included
As with all The Field’s previous projects, participation was free and open to residents of all ages. The Horseman’sWord project team have facilitated the creation of a touring exhibition, a documentary DVD, and an online archive. All these can be accessed as a resource for others to enjoy and learn from.
In addition, the Horseman’s Word archive is available to view on request.
It is currently housed in the Adams Heritage Centre, 17 Main St, Littleport,
Ely, CAMBS, CB6 1PH
The grant enabled The Field Theatre Group to work in partnership with museums across Fenland. We brought together a highly professional and experienced project team, including professional archivist Nicola Power, fenland historians, John Crow and Michael Rouse, photographers and heavy horse experts, a professional writer and community practitioners.
The project was managed by ADeC (Arts Development in East Cambridgeshire).
ADeC has a successful track record of supporting the arts in the eastern region for 20 years. They work with both professional and community partners across a wide range of art forms to offer exhibitions, shows, workshops and training. They have managed several Littleport based projects. These have included the YPL Music Rooms Development, The Family Adams Project and Arts Alive in Libraries. For the Horseman’s Word project ADeC offered advice and guidance on project delivery and marketing, as well as overseeing the management of the budget and reporting.
Nathan Jones, Director of ADeC said: ‘The Field Theatre Group have a magical touch for bringing the past back to life and play a vital role in encouraging us all to take a closer look around and reflect on how the landscape and those who inhabit it have changed over time .’
The Field Theatre Group’s own community practitioners Jennifer Stevens and Deborah Curtis were joint project leaders.
Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said:
‘We at HLF are delighted to award a grant to The Field Theatre Group. Heavy horse breeding and showing is still undertaken in the Fenlands and this project will enable the local community to explore the heritage of this practice, whilst also preserving the fascinating stories and traditions related to this.'
Heritage Lottery Fund East of England
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported over 33,000 projects, allocating £4.9billion across the UK, including over £334million to more than 3,120 projects in the East of England. If your group is interested in making an application to HLF, we have a range of grant programmes that may be suitable; go to www.hlf.org.uk to find out more.
The Field Theatre Group invited residents from across Fenland to undertake this journey of discovery with us. People were able to contribute in a variety of ways, as individuals or interested groups. Volunteering opportunities ranged from assisting with research, making a documentary film, admin, exhibition mounting and archiving tasks.
This website is an open portal. The project team would like to hear from you if you have a good story to tell about working life with heavy horses, or if have any relevant information to offer from your own family archives. Please contact us using the web form on the contact page.