Magic In The Parks - August/Sept. 1970

Submitted by root on Sat, 07/22/2017 - 16:22

Please note that unlike most parts of this archive, photos on this page do not necessarily enlarge as they are, in some cases, screen grabs from a DVD of a film and do not therefore have a level of quality which allows for succesful enlargement.  

The' Aztec Temple' which provided the focus of the event

Magic In The Parks was the Blackie's Summer Theatre for 1970

The Idea was to create a piece of outdoor theatre which would provide 

Left photo of the 'Aztec Temple' which provided a focus for the audience.

opportunities for children and young people to be involved in a range of activities and to do this by using the four elements (Fire, Earth, Air and Water) as a starting point.

How It worked

Based round a 'Aztec Temple'  there were 5 main characters - the Elements - overseen by Lord Ra (the Sun God). 

 FireLes Robert as the Earth GodEarth SpiritThe Air GoddessThe Water God

Above the elements personified -  Fire, Earth (God and Spirit, Air and Water; below Lord Ra)

Lord Ra with arms outstretched

The show started with the Elements at the 4 corners of the park, they gathered a following and led them to the 'Temple' where they summoned Lord Ra.  They then had to prove their identities to Lord Ra

This ranged from a volcano using flares (Fire), to a boiling lake (solid carbon dioxide in water) (Water)

Lor Ra dispatching the ElementsLord Ra then said that there was a new life form - Mankind - and asked the Elements if they could help him to sustain this new life form. Each Element was eager to prove they had the power to do this alone. They started to squabble. Lord Ra said they needed to  work together and dispatched them to do this.

Lord Ra dispatching the Elements

The audience - primarily young people - were divided into 'tribes' each attached to an Element and each tribe was then involved in activities appropriate to that Element. Each Element had an hour in which to illustrate their skills.

Fire People:   made dragons which led to mediaeval battles, created fire costumes for young people; transformed an ancient van into a fire chariot, painted a 30' long fire mural

A Dragon on its way to battleOne of the many dragons

Above two of the many dragons. Below young people dressed in Melanex ready to help the dragons in their battles.

Dressed in gold and silver fire costumeYoung people dressed in melanex fire costumes

Earth People: planted seeds; searched for the tree spirits in bark rubbings;  created miniature gardens with technicolour paper flowers, and searched grass and trees for hidden 'fruits'.

There are no photographs of the Earth activities

Air People: played with inflatables - some of which floated down from the 'Temple'; made multi coloured kites; made and danced with silver and gold air 'whirlers'; blew rainbow bubbles and chased huge ' bats'.

Inflateables cast down from the Temple Heading towards the inflateablesplaying with inflateables

Above inflatables arriving and being played with. Below capturing air,  kites, whirlers, bubbles and 'bats' being launched from the Temple

Capturing airWhirlersAir people with WhirliesBlowing bubblesInflateable 'bats' being launched from the Temple

Water People: made launched and raced boats, blew and raced ping pong  ball ships across microcosmic oceans, ran water carrying races and occasionally got very wet.

material for boat making arriveLaunching the boatsMaking boats Watching the boats race

 Above and below boat making material arrives, making the boats, launching them and watching them race.

the boats afloatWater God entering his element

Above the Water God entering his element.

Although there was clearly a framework for the performances (see above) some of the most succesful aspects of the event were the way that the cast and children played together, and the range of activities, both those that related to the overall framework and in general.

Below Air and Water and children playing together 

Air Goddess dancing with her tribeWater with young people

 Making Zodiac BadgesA Zodiac Badge

Above the making of Zodiac Badges which the children then wore

Plus the spectacular aspects of the event - both the costumes and the effects

The God of Fire showing his power

Above the God of Fire shows his Power

Where It Happened

August 20th & 21st  Stanley Park - Bootle

August  24th, 25th, 26th  Sefton Park - Liverpool

August  31st and September 1st Birkenhead Park

Performances started at around 1.30pm and finished around 5.30pm.  The mornings were spent either building the structure or sorting props, etc.  When the tent was left up for the next day it was occupied through the night.

The first performance was rained off but the others had good weather.

A rough estimate of the audience is that  around1,500 people came to the event.

The lorry arriving at the start of the day.Holding a meeting  

Above the lorry unloading at the start of the day and a meeting held in the Park.


The concept resulted from discussions between Brian Lane, Dave Bassi, Paul Brown, Diana Davies, Jym MacRitchie, and Howard Steel.

Magic In The Parks was Co-ordinated by Jym MacRitchie and Administrated by Howard Steel. The script was written by Arthur Duncan and David Ward. The making and design of props was led by Dave Bassi. Costume making and design was led by Diana Davies. The structure was designed by Paul Brown and Paul Hocking. Technical Support was led by Dave Bassi with Sound being provided by Radio Doom (Dave Kay and Jeff Hartley). Photography and filming was led by Paul Brown and Jym MacRitchie. 

The above were helped by Doreen Allen, Mandy Basner, Peter Connell, Zoe Cooper, Liz Dalton, Vinnie Finn, Claudine Girard, J.P.Harpe,  Reg and Sue Helsby, Thea Huygen, Glenys  Ingleby, Barbara Kemp, Viv Layzell, Sue Lloyd,  Sandy McGuffie, Dave Mount,  Richard Noyce; Ronnie O'Donaghue, Yeffe O'Mahoney, Les Roberts, Ekard Scholz, Michael Shimali, Derek Smith, Tony Smith, Rob Snell, The Quasar Theatre Group, and Elaine  Westerweel who between them did everything from making the costumes, typing the script,  putting up the tent, and providing the food.

Performers:-  Dave Kay (Lord Ra); Jacqui Ellison  (Air Goddess);  Arthur Duncan (Fire God);  Dave Mount (Water God); Les Roberts (Earth God);  Bobby Nyhoe  (Earth Spirit);  Dave Bassi (Dragon Master); Dave Ward (Wandering Bard); Mick Wiggins, Derek Hall, Bill McGoughie and Original George (Cosmic Jesters). The main performers were supported by :- Claudine Girard, Thea Huygen,  The Quasar Theatre Group,  Michel Shimali, Tony Smith, Robert Snell, and Elaine Westerweel who set up the activities, and marshalled the 'tribes' of young people.  

Thanks To

Merseyside Arts Association and Liverpool Polytechnic Guild of Students who along with The Blackie funded the event.

And to the following companies who loaned equipment (from scaffolding to a field kitchen), donated materials, or provided the sites:-. Big Ben Scaffolding Co.; City of Liverpool Parks and Gardens; County Borough of Birkenhead Parks and Gardens Department; Formby Hall; Henderson Stores;  Mr J Harding; R.J.Larkin & Co;  North West Construction Co.; Owen Owens Ltd.; Stamping Foils Ltd.;  The General Post Office; Tyson (Contactors Ltd;  Vacuum Metallurgical Developments; and Western Command - Catering Division