The All-England Theatre Festival is one of the first groups in the UK to receive a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) All Our Stories grant, it was announced today. Their exciting project, Stage Writes, has been given £9,300 to collect and share the stories of people who have memories of their involvement in amateur theatre and in competing in competitive festivals across the country over the past fifty years.

All Our Stories, a brand new small grant programme, launched this year in support of the BBC Two’s The Great British Story –has been designed as an opportunity for everyone to get involved in their heritage. With HLF funding and support, community groups will carry out activities that help people explore, share and explore their local heritage.

The popular series presented by historian Michael Wood and supported by a programme of BBC Learning activities and events got thousands of us asking questions about our history and inspired us to look at our history through the eyes of ordinary people.

Stage Writes will be an opportunity for some of the many thousands who take part in amateur drama in small theatres and halls across the country to share their stories. The project will preserve stories from amateur performers, both actors and back stage and will also help to locate photographs, old films of performances and other memorabilia. Tales from all parts of the country will be collected at Festivals leading up to a public celebration of the memories at the All-England Theatre Festival Final, this year to be staged at The Regent Centre, Christchurch on June 8th, 2013. The collected materials will all be stored for the future on a ‘Stage Writes’ website.

TV presenter and historian, Michael Wood, said, ‘We British love our history, and no wonder; few nations in the world, if any, have such riches on their doorstep, and so much of it is accessible to all of us. It is really tremendous that the All-England Theatre Festival has been inspired to get involved to tell its own story and to dig deeper into the past. It’s brilliant that so many people are being given the chance to get involved through the All Our Stories grants. Having travelled the length and breadth of the British Isles this year filming The Great British Story, I am certain that fascinating and moving stories will be uncovered which will not only bring to life the excitement of local history, but will illuminate every community’s connection with the national narrative’.

Commenting on the award, Ann Aplin, past chair of the All-England Theatre Festival said: ‘”Those of us involved in amateur theatre spend our time telling stories on stage and interpreting other people’s words. This is a marvellous opportunity to share and preserve our own words and stories”.

Richard Bellamy, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said, ‘Clearly the success of All Our Stories has reinforced the fact that we are indeed a nation of story tellers and that we want to dig deeper into our past and discover more about what really matters to us. This is exactly what the grant will do for ‘Stage Writes’ as they embark on a real journey of discovery.’