Tale of heroism and sacrifice at the Virtual Festival of Chichester

The Story of Love in the Harbour returns to the Festival of Chichester this summer as a cherished video recording.

John Merrigan and Danielle Morgan
John Merrigan and Danielle Morgan

As part of the show’s development, the show’s creators John Merrigan and Danielle Morgan had a performance filmed when it played at Bognor’s Alexandra Theatre earlier this year.

The result will be streamed as part of this summer’s Virtual Festival of Chichester on Saturday, July 4. It will represent another step in the show’s creative journey.

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At its heart, the show is a powerful musical dramatisation of the romance between Captain George McElroy, a WWI RAF officer, and a young Irish girl, Grace Guinan. Through words and all-original music, performed live by Danielle and her orchestra, the piece conveys the futility of war and the true meaning of heroism, sacrifice and love. Merging true events and fiction, the story is conveyed through stirring enactments, compelling narration and vivid images from the period.

“The video was the second show on the Saturday night at the Alexandra Theatre… which just feels like a lifetime ago now, but we are just so pleased now that we recorded it as a reference,” John says.

“We have had so many gigs and so many performances in our past that we have always wanted to record for social media and to learn from, but we have messed the recording up! But this time we said, right, we are going to get someone to do it properly, that we would get it properly shot and properly recorded. We were so focused on the show in our heads that we were thinking ‘Let’s get it right this time.’ And it went very well – and then the whole world turned upside down.

“But we were so lucky to have got together a great cast and crew and ensemble. We had lots of plans, and then when everybody understood that everything was going to have to be postponed, this was great to share.

“Back then in February there was talk of a virus in China, but no one could have predicted the way it has totally mushroomed. But now we have got this footage and we are going to be able to show it to theatres. One of the challenges we have always had was to convey what the show was all about. Now to have video footage is very, very powerful. And it also means we can look back and see what we have achieved.”

Danielle agrees: “We had got our heads down and were really working hard for this year. This year was going to be our best year. We were in every festival around. Every festival that we had tried to get in for years, we had secured them already… and then overnight it was all over.

“And it took time to sink in. But the positive thing is that our social media has never been so busy. There are little gems that are still coming out of the hard work. You realise that there are people listening to what you are doing. And now to have this video is like an injection of positive and hope. When you are heads down, you don’t always have time to look at what you have achieved. You are just thinking about the next thing. But looking back now, we can see what our achievements have been.For the past three years John and I have been working so hard, juggling everything, finances, family, music, and we never had time just to be together. We have just been working all the time, but this has been a chance to take a deep breath. What has been happening has been terrible and really sad, but it has given us the chance to be together as a family. And we have been busy in a really good way. And now things are starting to pick up again. We have been really lucky.”

As part of the new Virtual Festival of Chichester, a new event is being posted online ready for audiences to enjoy from Saturday, June 13 to Sunday, July 12 at 7pm, so that audiences can look forward to something new each day. The idea that is the day’s event will be added at 7pm ready for enjoying at the traditional 7.30pm event time.

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