In July this year, we sat down to begin to think about ‘what next’ for ‘549’. Following the success of the initial sharing we wanted to return to the original story and make sure no question was left unanswered about our four miners. What did they look like? Who really were they? Why did they travel to Spain?
Somebody somewhere knew the answers. And we wished to seek them out.
We started the old fashioned way: with a phonebook, a pad and a pencil. We searched the names of our four miners through the phone book. In the catchment area of Prestonpans alone we found: 3 Gilmours, 2 Kemptons, 14 Dicksons and 14 Watters. Our process of cold calling began, although we would like to think we were as warm as we possibly could have been.
The first success we had was a lead on a relation to James Kempton, who was initially convinced that we were wind up merchants. After some convincing of our credentials, this woman turned out to be the daughter-in-law of James Kempton – and this turned out to be the first of many successful revelations.
Following these phone calls we began to arrange meetings with these relatives over the months of August and September. Intermittently we met the relatives of our four miners in cafes, pubs and their own homes to talk about their lineages, lives and loved ones. What emerged from these meetings was an extraordinary amount of depth and detail about our character’s lives that we would never have uncovered otherwise. We literally couldn’t have made it up – and our first draft is proof of this.
On a serious note, it is immeasurably important to us to have the families support and input, and from this point onwards their integration into the project is paramount. We plan to remain in close contact during our writing process which will culminate in a private sharing of the script with our actors in Prestonpans.
We feel privileged to be entering the second phase of ‘549: Scots of the Spanish Civil War’ with this unique kind of endorsement and contribution – and it gives us as writers and directors of the project both an added weight of responsibility and a sense of proud gratification.