The tale of the Poor Old Horse has been told for generations. For years, groups of performers would gather at Christmas time, in local pubs and houses, to act-out and sing their rendition of this traditional tale. In 2016, First Art invited playwrights Eoin Bentick and Rob Thomson to work with local people – young and old – to bring the tradition back to life. The challenge was to revive this beloved folk tradition, to be performed at the First Art summer showcase ‘See off the Summer’ and also at the Dronfield Winter Festival in December.

The performers were drama and history pupils from Henry Fanshawe School in Dronfield. Anne Kangley, a teacher from the school, reported that the project was a really valuable opportunity for her students and said, “I would just like to extend my sincere thanks to Jane, Rob, Eoin and Jessica for their incredible introduction today to the ‘Poor Old Horse’ project.

The Y12 historians that I have spoken to have enjoyed the day immensely.  They are thoroughly enthused and hope for more involvement.

The Y10 Drama students were also very excited by the whole project.

When I came back to the LRC (Library) and heard the students feeding back about their conversations with residents at Stonelow Court, I was bowled over by their stories.” 

The students became an intrinsic part of the production, as the cast which delivered the piece. The first performances were in October, at the See off the Summer festivals – first in Bolsover and then the weekend after in Mansfield. Heavy rain was bravely dismissed in Bolsover and the horse was brought to life in-front of two appreciative crowds. Then, it was on to home territory in Dronfield on December 2nd. After the annual Christmas Lights switch on, people were invited by the Mayor of Dronfield, Alan Powell, to walk across to the Peel Centre for the penultimate performance of Poor Old Horse.

The venue was full to capacity, without even standing room, with a local audience eager to see the show. The young actors gave their best performance yet and during the song, when Poor Old Horse himself appeared, cameras flashed, people even gasped in amazement! (They were even more thrilled when he led them across the road to the Dronfield Hall Barn for refreshments).

For people who were unable to attend the event, the whole show was live-streamed on Dronfield TV, enabling a wider audience to enjoy the evening.

Playwrights Eoin Bentick and Rob Thomson said of the project: “A revival of the Poor Old Horse was a fantastic idea for creating a community theatre project that engaged both young and old in the process of development and performance, teaching new skills and mutually benefitting all who took part.”

As a legacy for the project, First Art have given a copy of the script to the Dronfield Heritage Trust, thereby ensuring that Poor Old Horse can be performed again and again in the coming years.

The film is still available to watch by following this link https://livestream.com/watch/search?q=poor%20old%20horse