It all began with a meeting of minds. At Cause UK, we were supporting the Yorkshire Proms at Harewood House in 2021. The Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra were performing for the very first time, after Covid lockdowns.
It Began Bizarrely, with Bowie
Running around backstage, Clair was tasked with picking up the actor Freddie Fox from the station to bring to the gig and meet Alfie Boe – one of the headline acts, who had invited Fox as a special guest to perform a David Bowie medley.
In the car, they got chatting about Freddie’s great, great grandfather – the once Mayor of Harrogate, Samson Fox.
Fast forward to September 2022, and Freddie and his mum, the actor Joanna David, travelled from London to attend the world premiere of our play on Samson’s life: The Man Who Captured Sunlight.
A Dash of the Doctor
Cause UK commissioned Harrogate historian Malcom Neesam, who sadly died earlier this year, to tell the fascinating untold story of Samson Fox. Then, we commissioned the Doctor Who author and thriller writer, Gavin Collinson, who did his own primary research to pen a dazzling play that brought to dramatic life the incredible rise – and trials – of Samson.
Clair liaised with Freddie, and his dad Edward Fox, on the script. Which they loved.
Clair, who led on producing the play, then commissioned a cast of actors from North of Watford actors’ agency, as well as volunteer actors from the Harrogate Dramatic Society. A whirlwind of costume hire, sourcing old photos for the stage backdrop, rehearsals and promotion began.
A Harrogate Story
Clair liaised with many supportive partners, including the Royal College of Music, which Samson donated the funds to build, the Harrogate Royal Hall Restoration Trust, Harrogate Civic Society, HBC and the Harrogate Convention Centre, which runs the Royal Hall, and Springfield Healthcare, which owns Grove House – Samson’s old home in Harrogate.
Cause UK also commissioned unique artwork from local artist, Christian Bailey, to create a stunning poster for the play.
A Fox in media Headlights
Ann interviewed Freddie Fox to help generate media interest in the incredible story of his ancestor, and the play.
“There’s a sort of Elon Musk quality to him,” Freddie said. “Somebody who is a totally self-made man. Who has used his money for the community of not just Harrogate, but the world.”
Born into poverty in Bradford in 1838, Samson Fox worked in the mills from the age of nine. A true ‘rags to riches’ story, Samson went on to help spearhead the industrial revolution with his inventions. A visionary and philanthropist, Samson was instrumental in building Harrogate’s Royal Hall, which the play was performed in.
As well as Fox, Gavin Collinson did various media interviews too.
We also secured the front page of the Telegraph Saturday Review, with an interview and photo-shoot with Freddie and his dad, Edward Fox on the play and the story of reclaiming their ancestor’s rightful place in history.
The play will go on!
Samson was played by Joe Standerline, who has appeared in TV shows such as Victoria (ITV), The Full Monty (Disney Plus) and Safe (Netflix) and was directed by Sian Murray. The whole cast were remarkable, and you can read the glowing review of the play HERE.
The play also raised over £700 for the Royal Hall Restoration Trust.
The Legacy continues…
The hope is Samson Fox is continued to be celebrated in Harrogate, particularly in the lead up to the 120th anniversary of The Royal Hall in 2023.
Navigating an arts project such as this was difficult in today’s climate, but as Samson Fox and his family motto states: To the brave, nothing is difficult.
We look forward to our next challenge!