Writer draws on Crowland rail memories for new play

  • Search for young author drives a novelist with South Holland roots

An award-winning novelist and playwright has drawn on her grandparents’ experiences of living and working near Crowland for her next project.

Julie Mayhew, who won The Sidewise Best-Long Form Alternate History Award last year for her second novel The Big Lie, has written a new stage adaptation of the classic children’s novel, The Railway Children.

However, although Julie’s version is set in 1960s Peterborough, the author also looked to her grandfather’s experiences while working at the former Postland Rail Station in Crowland, where the line closed in 1982.

Julie said: “The research I did when writing the play involved some of my family who worked on the railways for three generations.

“I discovered that my grandfather worked on the railways from the age of 13 and, while he was based at Postland, he met my grandmother who was a baker’s daughter from Shepeau Stow.

“The play itself was commissioned by Eastern Angles which tells stories based in the east of England and they approached me about doing an adaptation of The Railway Children.”

I discovered that my grandfather worked on the railways from the age of 13 and, while he was based at Postland, he met my grandmother who was a baker’s daughter from Shepeau Stow

Julie Mayhew

Julie has worked with Eastern Angles to keep the B1166 area connection in the play by casting Gedney Hill actress Lianne Harvey in the role of Bobbie Waterbury, made famous by Jenny Agutter in the 1970 film, The Railway Children.

The playwright herself started out as a trainee journalist and actress before writing novels and scripts for plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

Julie said: “I’ve always loved English and I used to read short stories that were in my mum’s magazines.

“But I never thought of writing as a job until my first book, Red Ink, when a lot of different ideas joined up and become a novel.

“I generally write books that I’d want to read myself and I’m interested in finding someone to mentor who has a passion for writing, but hasn’t had access to the support they need.

“I’ve gotten into writing for the love of it and not for a massive pay cheque, although I do make a living out of writing now.”

Julie’s play, The (Fletton) Railway Children, is on at The Undercroft Theatre, Serpentine Green, Peterborough, from October 26 to November 5.

For more details, call the Serpentine Green box office on 01473 211498.