THE STORY BEHIND THE PROJECT
In the summer of 2016 Christine Mills, the founder of Hope for Tomorrow and Geoffrey Bray, a patron, discussed the idea of making a short fund-raising documentary about a long-abandoned railway line. This railway line, referred to as the ‘Devon and Somerset Railway’, ran some 44 miles from Taunton to Barnstaple and was closed as part of the ‘Beeching cuts’ on 3rd October 1966. Very little had been written about the railway line (or so the group thought at the time), thereby offering a wonderful opportunity to tell a story. Geoffrey Bray, supported by his cousin Mike Kick (a railway expert) and Sam Conolly (drone pilot), organised a number of reconnaissance trips of the old line and discovered the stunning countryside that it used to run through. Excitement grew as they realised this idea had real potential.
They then met Freddie Huxtable, author of two books about the railway line, so they knew they had the expertise needed to film a documentary. But they wanted to go a step further. Why not tell a story at the same time? Why not recreate a journey from Taunton to Barnstaple in the late 1950s that could appeal not only to railway enthusiasts but to story-lovers too? Of course there was no budget for a film on this scale, so they knew they would need to rely on volunteers and the goodwill of West Somerset Railway, the only line that could realistically be used as the location.
The project moved on when they were introduced to Hilary May, an ambassador for Hope for Tomorrow who also happened to be Chairman of one of the drama groups in Minehead. Knowing that they would need to film on location in and around Minehead, they asked Hilary if she knew any local script writers. Hilary introduced them to Lynn Pearson (a local part-time writer) and gradually a story began to emerge, the first draft of a script appeared, and local amateur actors were cast in the key roles.
Suddenly there was a real project here but there was still a missing ingredient. Who would do the actual filming? In stepped Wiltshire-based film-makers Roger and Angela Calcutt! Both contributed enormously to the project, enabling the story finally to be produced as the film we see today, shot on location in and around West Somerset during the summer of 2018.
THE LEGACY OF CHANCE ENCOUNTER IN MEMORY OF CHRISTINE AND HILARY
The success of the Chance Encounter Project was influenced by two very inspirational ladies. Christine Mills MBE, founder of the charity Hope for Tomorrow and Hilary May MBE, Hope for Tomorrow ambassador.
The personal involvement of these two wonderful people in the Project, plus the support of many of their friends and family helped us to achieve the objective of raising a substantial amount of money for the charity. We are dedicating future Chance Encounter events to the memory of Christine and Hilary. We are blessed with the knowledge that we have these guiding angels influencing everything that we do.
Christine Mills MBE
Hilary May MBE