On the eve of the world premiere of the stage production Black Heroes of Kent, Diversity Business Magazine caught up with its creator and director. Over the years this magazine has carried many articles on the man for all seasons. Articles on his first world lecture and reviews and previews of his production A Chatham Conversation, comes to mind.
For many on the cultural and Arts scene, who knows his work, JD Douglas is more than a bag of tricks, his productions over the years have been ground breaking, and pace setting at the same time.
His script work, and producer status has earned him a host of “JD Watches”. Above all his record of artistic delivery remains impressive. Diversity Business met up with the writer, director and producer of the forth coming Black Heroes of Kent for a chat.
Black Heroes of Kent, what can you tell our readers about the show.
I can talk a great deal about the show and bore everybody to death but I won’t do that.
Most people as soon as they hear Black Heroes will automatically think of Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame.
Yes it has been happening, someone actually said I have seen the show before, obviously confusing Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame, which is a great iconic show and a never before staged, world premiere production, which is entitled Black Heroes of Kent.
The obvious question will be one of similarities. Are you worried about comparisons between the two shows?
I am proud of everything I write whether it was 30 years or three months ago. I have no fear if people want to compare what I do. One thing I don’t do, is hide. Black Heroes of Kent, is very much an examination and exploration of heroic life in Kent mainly in the 19th and 20th century. It does what it says on the tin. The premise is stated in the narration right from the start of the show. I now encourage everyone to come and see for themselves, what a group of hard working actors have to offer. It will be a wonderful night of theatre.
You are currently directing and producing in time for October 7th, I would imagine that you have a lot to accomplish between now and then. What are some of the challenges you face.
And does it come easier for you.
Different people have different levels of experience. You are working with a team of people from the actors to the many off stage supporting personnel. True leadership means taking them along on that journey. Not leaving any one behind. Giving as much encouragement and help as needed. If they fail I fail as well. Some of the many challenges include arriving at each mile stone, encouraging all those involved, and making sure on opening night the audience have something to celebrate and to talk about.
It is inevitable that there will be talk of the return of Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame.What is your response to that?
People will always want to talk about the original Black Heroes. It was a massive success and lauded all over the world. That is to be expected. I can only think for me and my thoughts tend to remain private. Nothing has to be prescriptive, well not in my world.
While some people are thinking about the return of Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame, there is equal talk about “Why not Black Heroes of Sussex” “Black Heroes of Yorkshire” “Black Heroes of Warwickshire”. People will go for whatever resonates with their lives. The debate has definitely widened. How do I know that, we are getting interest from places as far away as Manchester? People wanting to come down to Gillingham. That’s more than encouraging.
What about getting the material to a wider audience.
That is in hand, for instance there is a teacher’s pack already written. Each character’s life is linked to more than five elements of the curriculum. There is a structure with learning objectives. We are already in discussion with some schools in Kent, but I don’t want to give too much away. Let’s just say the school pack will be delivered in schools. Full stop. The stage show is very much only the start of things to come, watch the space.
There is a certain amount of expectation. Dare I say excitement about the premiere?
Well my last production of A Chatham Conversation, in nearby Chatham, was well received and thanks god, still in the memory. You are only as good as your current endeavour. You can’t live on by-gone glory of some 30 years. Or even last year. I leave that to the short sighted.
I enjoyed completing the script, I am enjoying working with the performers and a lot of very helpful educational and civic institutions. Most have been a breath of fresh air. I remain positive.
Quite a few old acquaintances’ and friends are coming down to see the show. We have support from the original Black Heroes cast. A few have been working with me on Black Heroes of Kent. The family vibe is still there. Still one big family.
What next for JD Douglas?
Two weeks after the show I am presenting my interactive First World War Lecture at the Historic Dock Yards in Chatham on the 18th of October, as part of Black History month. Someone suggested that I should think of writing a third play about black Lives in Kent. Make it a trilogy of plays. That is definitely an interesting conversation. Who knows five years, or fifteen years down the line, when some body’s child, or even your child wants to stage a play on Black Lives in Kent, there will be three to choose from. In the meantime I am putting the finishing touches to the show. It’s going to be a fun night if nothing else. Let’s do some under selling now and see if I can over deliver on the 7th of October. It will be an interesting night.
Black Heroes of Kent will be staged on Saturday October 7th at Midkent College, Medway Road, Gillingham ME7 1FN. Times 2.30 and 7.00. Tickets £10.00 can be bought on the door.
Phone: 0844 884 9502.