How arts grant brought Tony’s zany work to life

Author Tony Smiths zany short stories are being transformed into a musical
Author Tony Smiths zany short stories are being transformed into a musical

An author’s work is being brought to the stage in spectacular fashion with a musical show based on his zany short stories.

Tony Smith, from Atherton, came up with the idea for The Great Shindig which turns his light-hearted adventures about a crew of weather makers and their flying machines into a multimedia theatrical experiences including song, brass music and animation.

“I’m hoping people will want to stage it in other places over the next few years. It would be lovely to stage it in Wigan or Leigh somewhere but I don’t know where would be an ideal venue.”

Tony Smith

Thanks to an Arts Council grant the show is now being staged in Runcorn, with Tony being joined on the boards by an impressive line-up of musical talent including Wingates Brass Band and the Brixi Singers from Bolton.

Tony will narrate the performance, with the script based on parts of his debut book Making Rain And Other Things Is Our Business, while animations prepared by Liverpool business Draw And Code appear on the huge screens.

The words will be interspersed with music from Wingates Brass Band, including several pieces based on Tony’s stories written by composer Lucy Pankhurst, as well as some Scottish dancing and the unmistakable sound of bagpipes.

Tony, 73, said: “I’m certainly quite excited and I know the Arts Council was quite taken with the whole idea.

“I came up with it after I’d started writing and after Lucy had written four pieces of music based on my stories. I thought why not create a show based on my first book?

“I’m obviously hoping it will be a launchpad for my series of books but also brass band audiences are on the decline so I want to encourage people who wouldn’t traditionally listen to the ensemble to come along, and hopefully doing something a bit different will do that.

“I’m hoping people will want to stage it in other places over the next few years. It would be lovely to stage it in Wigan or Leigh somewhere but I don’t know where would be an ideal venue.”

The show’s first half has animation, music and Tony’s readings based on episodes from throughout his debut short story collection, based on the unusual idea that the government has set up secret cloud machines to deliver weather to order.

The books follow the adventures of the craft Nimbus and its crew as it travels on missions all over Britain and as far afield as the Netherlands.

The second half is derived entirely from The Great Shindig, the final story in the book, and tells the tale of the crew’s visit to the isolated Scottish island of St Kilda, finishing with the ensemble performing Elgar’s Nimrod and a lament from a piper.

As well as the famous Westhoughton brass group and the Brixi Singers’ voices the show will feature 14-year-old singer Hannah Dootson and the Highland scouts of Warrington Pipe Band.

The massed ranks of performers will meet for rehearsals at Atherton Community School next month before the show itself takes place at The Brindley Theatre in Runcorn on September 25.

Tony has now penned four books, with Making Rain and Other Things Is Our Business joined on the virtual shelves online by A Cloud’s Life, Weather to Order and It’s not just about rain.

The Arts Council was set up in 1946 by Royal Charter and today invests public money, including Lottery cash, to help bring art and culture to everyone. It also receives funding from the Department for Culture Media and Sport.

For more information about the show, visit www.thegreatshindig.co.uk

To find out more about Tony’s writing, visit www.makingrainandotherthingsisourbusiness.com