Writer tells of inspiration for play about Bolton soap tycoon

Kevan Ogden, writer of Sunlight on the Moors

Kevan Ogden, writer of Sunlight on the Moors

First published in News The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , Entertainment reporter

A PLAYWRIGHT told how Rivington and its ruins inspired him to pen an original new play about soap tycoon Lord Leverhulme.

Sunlight on the Moors, written by Kevan Ogden, aged 65, from Walkden, was premiered by Bolton Little Theatre in May and is back on stage until Saturday.

Mr Ogden, who went to Walkden Secondary School, Worsley College and Bolton Technical College, said: “Rivington and its ruins had always fascinated me as a kid and it was a casual click onto his Wikipedia page that set me off researching the man who had built them.

“Living as we do in an age of blank-faced corporations, it's difficult to imagine ‘capitalism with a human face’.

“Lever was certainly human and it's quite evident that he really did care about his workers — the houses in Port Sunlight alone testify to that.

“Of course he was, like many great figures, obstinate and eccentric and perhaps I haven't been altogether fair in emphasising these aspects of the man.

“My only justification is that I was creating a drama.”

Born William Hesketh Lever, in Bolton in 1851, he started work at his father's grocery business, later founding the soap and cleaning product firm, Lever Brothers, with his younger brother James.

He became a baronet, a High Sheriff and a Lord, with the Hulme part of his name added in honour of his wife, Elizabeth Hulme, at his insistence and against all precedent.

The multi-millionaire art-lover used his wealth to support a variety of charitable causes, was a great believer in education and created a village with materially decent conditions for people working at his Sunlight Soap factory in Wirral.

A warm and witty mixture of fact and fiction, Sunlight on the Moors explores family tensions, the legacy of World War One, the paradox behind philanthropic industrialisation and the nature of art.

Mr Ogden, who won the £2000 People's Prize for his first full-length play Ersatz, said: “A visit to an early rehearsal assured me that both in terms of the director and the cast I had been very lucky.

“And so it proved, they burned sweat and adrenalin but came up fresh every night.

“Alan Bennett once wrote that with a new play, the author ‘may have written it, but he doesn't have to go out there and say it. The cast is in the trenches, he is back at base’ — or at least on the back row on two nights, dreading recognition, not helped by my photo in the programme.”

Sunlight on the Moors, directed by Peter Scofield, is on at Bolton Little Theatre, Hanover Street, until Saturday. 
 

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