THE beauty of a stark moorland hillside has inspired an award-winning playwright to pen her next play.
Timberlake Wertenbaker comes to Bolton with a numerous awards and accolades under her belt.
After finding stories from Royal Marines to the American Revolutionary War, the muse for her next tale comes from a very different source.
Winter Hill has been a backdrop for runners, ramblers and grazing sheep and is now the home, and title, of the playwright’s forthcoming Octagon Theatre production.
The team behind the Bolton venue commissioned her and, after a visit to the town, the landmark inspired her.
She said: “I went for a walk, it was a beautiful day, and something just came to me.
“There’s something about the feeling of the landscape with Bolton below,
"I knew I had to set something here.
"This is where the play will be set.” One of Britain’s foremost playwrights, Timberlake is the recipient of numerous awards.
She has received an Olivier Award and the New York Drama Critics award for Our Country’s Good, the Writers’ Guild, Critics’ Circle and Susan Smith Blackburn awards for Three Birds Alighting on a Field and the Eileen Anderson Central TV Drama Award for The Love of the Nightingale. She was commissioned by the Octagon four years ago and has since then spent time exploring and understanding the Bolton communities, working with the theatre’s artistic director Elizabeth Newman.
She said: “I have spoken to a lot of people, walked all over Bolton with Elizabeth, the senior designer and stage designer.
"We also went to Manchester, spoke to council leaders, architects.
“It was fascinating to get a sense of Bolton. People were generous with their time.
“Bolton is very distinct from Manchester.
"The history can be felt, the good and hard times, I was very interested to discover all of that.”
Her exploration of the town, its architecture, landscapes and people helped to create a drama which puts formidable women centre stage.
Set in the near future where the beauty spot is slowly being turned into the site of a skyscraper hotel, a group of women face a question of how far they will go to protect what they believe in.
To appease the local community, they are promised by developers that a new school and social housing will also be built on the hill. However, as the money begins to run out, these plans are scrapped leading to the band of eight Northern women meeting up in a half-built hotel to discuss what, if anything, can be done about it and if power can ever truly belong to the people.
Timberlake says: “It is not just important for actresses to have decent parts but also to write about women who are active.
“Very often women in plays are reactive but women are active and they are not necessarily written that way.”
To bring the story to life, the theatre is welcoming a line-up of equally-formidable acting talent.
Among them is star of film, television and stage, Cathy Tyson, who has developed a love affair with Bolton while taking part in the unique production.
She said: “I walked up Scout Road and Manchester looked so small. It put Bolton in a different perspective, isn’t it massive!
“Everywhere I look in this town there are hills in the background, and I love that. Bolton is a beautiful town.”
“Being in a room with Timberlake is inspirational, I feel very privileged to be in this company.
“It is big and epic what’s going on in Winter Hill!”
Winter Hill will be playing at the Octagon Theatre Bolton from May 11 to June 3.