Famous Figures Tour with Looking Glass Theatre by Nicole Navigates
I love learning more about the town and county I live in. But there’s something extra special about taking part in an interactive tour inside the Guildhall learning about the Famous Figures of our town that makes it even more unique.
On a sunny Saturday, I ventured over to the Guildhall in Northampton, to take part in the Famous Figures interactive tour by Looking Glass Theatre, in partnership with Northampton Borough Council where we would be taking a journey back in time to discover the important past to learn about some of Northampton’s famous figures.
As we arrived, we were greeted by our host and tour guide, James, who really was the glue that held the tour together and kept us enticed and intrigued to all he had to say and kept the momentum and excitement up throughout the whole tour.
The tour was 45 minutes long, which I thought was the perfect amount of time, so it’s easily something you could fit into your day out in Northampton. We met at the Guildhall steps for 12pm, which was one of two tours that day.
The story began as we entered into the Guildhall, where James, completely transformed us back in time when he spoke about our first famous figure, Margaret Bondfield, who was the first female MP for Labour, trade unionist and a women’s rights activist. To our surprise, we heard footsteps coming towards us as the character of Margaret Bondfield appeared before our eyes.
There was a chance for audience interaction, to which James picked out three members of the audience to read a snippet of information about her (which I was one of the chosen few to read something out!) to my slight embarrassment, but nonetheless, was fun to take part and have a starring role!
James recited her story of how she went from shop girl, to activist and first female MP in history to gain her place in parliament, to how she eventually lost her seat in Northampton by 971 votes after she upset a few members of parliament, all whilst navigating through the wonderful Guildhall rooms and eventually down to the dark cellar.
Margaret would eventually recite some of her most well-known speeches and I applauded the actress who portrayed her for keeping so well in character, especially with the strong, British accent.
Throughout this time, there was still plenty of audience interaction, readings and even one lady was sent down to the cellars from mistaken identity! All this whilst learning about a famous figure made it all very entertaining.
Our second Famous Figure of the tour was Caroline Chisholm, which many will recognise the name from one of our school’s, based in Wootton. We ventured into the beautiful lobby area, with the grand staircase as Caroline took her place at the bottom of the stairs to recite her story.
When asked what period she was in, to which I guessed right, Caroline Chilsholm was a 19th century progressive humanitarian born in Northampton in 1808, who was mainly involved with female immigration welfare in Australia.
From being born into a large family, being the 16th and last child to her father, who married 4 times, to marrying Archibald Chisholm at age 22, to following her husband back to Madras, India, when he returned to his regiment in 1832 and she followed 18 months later.
Our third famous figure was about to be introduced, to which Caroline was more than happy to guide us to them. It was nice to see that there was always a link between saying goodbye to the previous one and saying hello to the next famous figure.
We headed upstairs to find another Famous Figure pacing up and down reciting some poetry; it was none other than John Dryden, English poet, literary critic, translator and playwright who was made England’s first Poet Laureate in 1668.
Before we found out more information about him, John Drydan got us to all sit down and recite some poetry in a ‘poetry recital’ which prompted some laughs from us all as we all anticipated being chosen and those who did, had blank minds!
We learnt that John Dryden was born in a village near Thrapston, Northamptonshire and he was the greatest British poet in 17th century history, who attended Trinity College in Cambridge before heading to London to practice his work. The actor who played John Dryden was very enthusiastic, which made learning about him even more interesting.
And finally, our tour came to an end inside the grand hall of the Guildhall, which is one of the prettiest places I have ever seen with the glass stained windows. This was when our final Famous Figure came walking from behind the curtain and onto the stage; Edgar Mobbs, a Northampton born and bred captain of the Northampton Saints.
We learnt that he was initially turned down by the Army for WWI due to being 33 and considered “too old” so decided to form his own company of 250 sportsman for the Northamptonshire Regiment who became known as Mobbs’ own. He then rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before he fell on the battlefield in Belgium in 1917 whilst attacking a machine gun post.
Shortly after, Mobbs’ walked off and we were left with James to wrap up the tour and thank us for coming. I thought he was a brilliant host who really pieced the tour together nicely and made me excited about all the other tours Looking Glass Theatre have got coming up!
As James lead us into the courtyard and said goodbye, everything wrapped up together nicely when we got to browse all the famous figures we had just seen, from Margaret Bondfield and Edgar Mobbs, to other Famous Figures like Walter Tull, the first black football player in the Football League who played for Northampton Town, to Francis Harry Compton Crick, world-renowned molecular biologist, biophysicist and neuroscientist.
Overall, the tour was an extremely effective and educational way of learning about some of the Famous Figures that have made Northampton so great, to where it is today. If you are a fan of interactive theatre, it’s a great reason to experience something a bit different in an immersive way.
Looking Glass Theatre and Northampton Borough Council have a series of tours coming up for you to book:
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