The Sound Of Battle is an audio guide to the battlefield. Scripted, cast and performed by the students of Abbeyfield Performing Arts Specialist School and narrated by Robert Hardy, CBE. Recorded at the Lodge Recording Studio, Northampton, a Learning Links Project, funded by MLA East Midlands.
The Naseby Battlefield Trail opened in September 2007, offering visitors a self-guided tour of eight viewing points around a six-mile circuit. Interpretation panels give details of the events and combatants, as well as insights to the nature of the landscape of the 17th century. By means of the spoken word, guided tours added detail of the considerations taken into account by the generals and the experiences of the soldiers during the battle. The wish was thus born to offer a similar experience to the self-guided visitor by offering down-loadable or podcast audio packages, but the cost of their commercial provision was beyond our means.
MLA’s Learning Links programme thus came as a godsend. The need to gain greater understanding of schools’ needs, and History Key Stage 3 in particular, were to be further served by working with a school to realise the idea. Two difficulties were encountered early on: formulating the application, with which MLA staff helped, and managing the project itself. The Education Volunteer to the Naseby Battlefield project died suddenly, leaving NBP without knowledgeable management. Again, MLA made good the deficiency by appointing Sara Mair to manage the work.
Martin Marix Evans of NBP accompanied the students on a tour of the battlefield, compiled copies of contemporary accounts of the battle and drafted a time-line to provide a structure for the script. From these materials the students of Abbeyfield Performing Arts Special School, Northampton, under the guidance of their Director of Arts, Deborah Thompson, drafted a script which Martin vetted and annotated. Martin was fortunate to find his friend, Robert Hardy, willing to speak the narrative passages. The Lodge Recording Studio in Northampton made it self available at special rates. The budget, covering travel expenses, studio fees and teacher supply cover, etc. totaled £4,610.00.
The recording sessions were rewarding experiences in themselves. The students found Robert Hardy ready to work with them as a colleague, offering his experience and professionalism in their service. A delightfully cheerful and cooperative atmosphere prevailed, leading to both enjoyment and high quality work. The sound effects were recorded at another session, using reproduction arms and armour made available by the Sealed Knot. The product is a ten-track set of audio episodes, one of which is a general introduction and background track and the rest are site-specific, allowing the user to become an ‘ear-witness’ to, for example, the discussion between Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell (of which a contemporary account survives) about the selection of the best ground for battle. Arrangements are now in hand to make the tracks available on the NBP website, www.naseby.com, and on the county’s tourism website as well as signing their availability on the ground.
The students have not only created a work of art and historical interpretation appealing to their peers, but also have gained experience in crafting a docu-drama that adds a new dimension, possibly unique, to the battlefield tour experience. The Naseby Battlefield Project has gained a familiarity with the interests of secondary school students and a foundation for future outreach to the educational sector, not to speak of a significantly enhanced offer to visitors.