Knaresborough's amazing riverside version of Wind in the Willows

Illustrator Ray Mutimer visits a local school with his pictures of The Wind in the Willows. (Photo by Nikki Mitchell)
Illustrator Ray Mutimer visits a local school with his pictures of The Wind in the Willows. (Photo by Nikki Mitchell)

A Knaresborough mum who has never written a play in her life has come up with the idea for a new journey-based theatre show set to transform the town’s waterside.

Involving a huge number of volunteers and groups in the town, as imagined by Jo Smalley, The Wind in the Willows is set to be a production like no other ever performed in the town.

It’s even enlisted the help of the illustrator of Postman Pat!

Performed in a series of landmarks by or near the River Nidd, among the sites featured in this remarkable staging will be Knaresborough Castle, the Courthouse Museum, Henshaws, Conyngham Hall and more.

Jo told the Knaresborough Post she was gobsmacked her original idea of more than a year ago h\ad been taken so far by professional playwright and director Daniel Ingram-Brown.

She said: “Knaresborough’s stunning scenery is the inspiration for the show. I am lucky enough to live in this beautiful town, which has the biggest heart of any community I have ever known or ever will. “The starting gun on the production was fired when Jo was asked by Renaissance Knaresborough, for which she volunteers, to come up with an idea to celebrate the river by Liz Baxandall of Renaissance Knaresborough and fellow community volunteer and Tony Handley. a former mayor of Knaresborough.

But a deeper influence than the River Nidd itself was Jo’s father and her own family.

Jo said: “At the heart of the idea was the influence the book had on me as a child when my dad would read it to me.

“He was a merchant navy man and a very accomplished sailor, and a lot of my childhood was spent messing about with him on boats, fishing and just enjoying the freedom of spending time outdoors.

“We even had an old rowing boat in our garden for my sister and I to play in and I remember very clearly being Mole to her Ratty.”

Running from Friday, August 5 to Sunday, August 7, the new version of The Wind in the Willows will present eight performances a day performed by community actors backed byh a team of professionals.

It’s a major logistical operation for director Daniel Ingram-Brown, and co-producers Jo and Liz but they are receiving a huge amount of support from people across the town.

Among the supporters of The Wind in the Willows are Stowe Family Law solicitors, Vale of Mowbray Pies, Fentimans drinks, as well as North Yorkshire County Council, Harrogate Borough Council and Knaresborough Chamber of Trade.

Visitors to the show's website can see stunning new illustrations of The Wind in the Willows by Postman Pat artist Ray Mutimer.

More information and tickets at www.knaresboroughwindinthewillows.co.uk

Tickets are also available from in person Andy and Elaine Grinter at Art in the Mill for cash or cheque.