A PLAY about life and land written with the help of people from Hatherleigh and Dolton comes to Okehampton this weekend.

Last spring. five writers came to the area to explore what the rural environment means to its people.

They got to know old farming families, incomers and returnees from the Hatherleigh and Dolton areas.

They encountered rural life in mugs of tea at farmhouse kitchen tables, on windswept hills, under rusting barn roofs and taking lifts on a farmer's quad bike.

These encounters and conversations fed the writing of The Common, a performance work of five dialogues about life and land. 

Two performers — Charlotte Melia and Martin Hyder — play ten characters examining their relationships with each other and the landscape which connects them with life itself. 

Rural arts organisation and cultural ambassadors for North Devon's Biosphere Reserve, Beaford Arts, initiated this project.

Mark Wallace, director of Beaford Arts, said: 'In North Devon, we've always known the value of our land.

'Now, as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and as one of Natural England's Nature Improvement Areas, we're increasingly under the national and international spotlight.

'But it's the rural communities, living with the land for generations, who made this landscape.

'This new show is about the values we still hold in common— about the voices which should still be heard.'

Six months on from its premiere in North Devon, The Common is going on tour to four other NIAs — Meres and Moses, Morecambe Bay, Birmingham and Wild Purbeck.

One of the five writers, Inua Ellams, said: 'It was a job of listening, of conversations that were heart-breaking, overwhelming, passionate and multi-layered.

'When it came to writing, I didn't know where to start, but an idea crystallised after I met a farmer, his wife and two sons.'

'They told stories and anecdotes to illustrate how complicated a process it would be.

'How there are some aspects of the land that simply cannot be valued, that are by that definition priceless. He referred to us as townies, and he and his colleagues as country folk.

'He did not like townies.

'As a black African I'm used to prejudice, I found it refreshing, dare I say thrilling, to be prejudiced against because of where I lived, rather than the colour of my skin.

'As we talked and I asked the right questions, he began to relax and slowly 'you townies' became 'those townies'. We 'othered' them so we could point and laugh.'

Talking about her part in the development process, another of the writing team, Charlotte Josephine, said: 'The piece I wrote was mainly inspired by meeting photographer Rosie Anderson.

'I read her charming 'personal post on a place called home' on her website on the train down and knew we'd be friends.

'Her passionate post about the closing of Hatherleigh Market really struck a chord with me. It's heart-breaking when we sacrifice tradition, community and culture for financial gain.'

The Common will be performed in the Charter Hall on Saturday March 14 at 7.30pm.

Tickets are free but limited so booking is essential.