Last night, my wife and I went to see the Lidice Shall Live! festival at the Victoria Hall theatre in Stoke on Trent. The festival marked the destruction of Lidice, and celebrated the part of North Staffordshire miners in rebuilding the village. It was an appropriate venue – Sir Barnett Stross started the Lidice Shall Live movement in the Victoria Hall in 1942.
Before the show started, we were each given a number. It was explained that the show would start in the foyer, and we would be called into the theatre by number, just as death camp inmates would have been. Our numbers weren’t consecutive, leading us to consider what we would do if we were split up. That simple question helped us to understand a little more of what the survivors of Lidice suffered. If we were split up, we might have to be apart for an hour or two. Still, it made us think about how different that question would be in different circumstances.
The show itself was very good. It started in the foyer, with the actors playing people from Lidice going about their ordinary lives. News came of Heydrich’s death, and then soldiers started to arrive, leading the people to worry about what was happening. A particularly poignant moment was a mother telling her daughter to get dressed because they had to go to the school. Knowing the story, we knew exactly what was happening, even though they didn’t. As we were led into the theatre, we passed actors relating personal stories of Lidice survivors. It was heart-rending stuff.
The main performance was a series of dances. Each was performed by local children, with a particular theme. They were all performed well, with a great deal of energy and emotion. At the end of the second dance, the children briefly came together in a way that was reminiscent of the children’s memorial at Lidice. I was very pleased that the final dance had themes of community, solidarity, togetherness, and hope. It was good to see it end on a note of hope.
I’m really pleased that the people of Stoke on Trent have begun to remember how they helped the people of Lidice. The atrocity of Lidice should never be forgotten, nor should the miners who gave so much to help unknown strangers in a foreign land.