Adjudicator and White Cobra member Paul Fowler on the rebirth of drama festvals

On the 29th of February 2020 I gave out the prizes after adjudicating the Avon Drama Festival in the West of England. It had been a successful and very well organised event – eight plays over three nights, the winners going forward to the area finals. I don’t remember anyone mentioning Coronavirus.

I haven’t adjudicated a festival since then. I was booked for some events but they were cancelled or postponed – some of them more than once. Some almost happened, but none did.

That doesn’t mean that the extraordinary festival movement in the UK just threw their hands up and admitted defeat – far from it. Pretty much everyone I have dealt with was determined that their event would go ahead. That is, until Government rules (or should that be advice), national lockdowns and local restrictions, social distancing and individual circumstances forced them to do what none of them wanted.

A few festivals have happened either in person or online, but it really has been very few indeed.

But now – thanks to the resilience and determination of a handful of dedicated and indefatigable organisers – one big festival is going to happen…. and White Cobra will play its part as the British All Winners Finals kick off a new era in the drama festivals movement

How can that be, given that the always impartial adjudicator is a member of WCP and has appeared in the very play that comprises Tuesday night’s festival entry – A R Gurney’s bittersweet, tender and affecting Love Letters?

The answer is that while the production is very much part of the British All Winners Festival – Love Letters, featuring Fraser Haines and Bernadette Wood won’t be in a competition.

White Cobra are no strangers to festivals and have competed in the BAWF on several occasions, winning twice with Days of Wine and Roses and Scaramouche Jones, so when asked if they had a suitable full length play to form part of the week-long programme, the company was happy to oblige – as long as their entry wasn’t in competition.

This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase a terrific and very unusual piece of theatre,” says White Cobra Founder Richard Jordan. “It’s also an opportunity to be part of an event that we hope signals the beginning of a new and exciting phase in the history of drama festivals. This first major post Covid event will hopefully lead to a new flowering of creativity in community theatre.

Following the British All Winners Finals, which takes place at the Albany Theatre in Coventry between 18th and 24th July, the hope is that festivals all over the UK will emerge from their enforced Covid hibernation.

The English One Act finals are already scheduled to take place in Bridlington in August, and there are already festivals planned later this year in Cambridge, Woking and Saltburn with doubtless many others joining the list as the theatre sector opens up fully.

Festivals have played a vital role in the White Cobra story and it will be great to be back.