New play celebrates the story of Sealand - the independent country off Suffolk's coast
- Credit: BLACK&WHITE PRODUCTIONS
Stranger than fiction - that's how playwright Suzanne Hawkes describes the story of the principality of Sealand, the subject of her latest work.
Situated just seven miles off Felixstowe and visible from the prom, the former war-time fort is a source of endless fascination.
With its own royalty, coins, stamps, passports and national anthem, the mini-state - just 932 sq yards - has had a chequered 54-year history including battles, an attempted coup, court cases and pirate radio.
Ms Hawkes' new play Children of the Revolution - the Story of Sealand is being performed this month by Black & White Productions at the Two Sisters Arts Centre in High Road, Trimley St Mary.
She always looks for the unusual and captivating aspects of local history on which to focus with her past topics including RADAR, Elizabeth Garett Anderson, George Orwell, suffragettes, and Thomas Wolsey.
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Ms Hawkes said: "I was planning to do a play about the English civil war this year – but after the second lockdown started looking for a lighter subject.
"At Christmas I was given a book about Sealand. I knew bits about the platform – but as I started delving into the history I realised there was potentially a very interesting story to be mined.
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"There are many intriguing and eccentric characters – and a lot of very bizarre incidents – but it was quite a challenge to find a story arc.
"In the end I settled on the tie-up with pirate radio for the first half and the Bates’ campaign to become a properly recognised nation for the second."
She said Sealand was surrounded by myth and fantastical stories, and "the truth is stranger than fiction".
The fort, which can accommodate 160 people along with offices, storage and other facilities, was built as Roughs Tower in 1942. It was not until the height of pirate radio in the swinging 60s that entrepreneur Roy Bates eyed up an abandoned World War Two defence platform in the Thames Estuary as a possible location for his new station Radio Essex.
The play focuses on the Bates family’s attempt to set up a pirate radio station as the rivalry with Radio Caroline escalated into running battles – and then their fight to create an independent nation on Roughs Tower.
Children of the Revolution - the Story of Sealand features live music and there will be an exhibition of Sealand and pirate radio memorabilia. It is is being staged from Monday, June 21 to Saturday, June 26 (7.30pm apart from Sat 4pm.) Tickets £14/£12 - Box Office 01394 279613 or online at www.ticketsource.co.uk/two-sisters-arts-centre