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The Land

'...we were invited to a village in Dorset, and went down through teeming rain to the tiny hall where seats were set out in a shallow semi-circle facing a low platform with two chairs, a guitar, several kinds of accordion, a drum and a small lyre.

There were readings with music from Vita Sackville-West's poem, The Land. The audience was held enthralled for an hour and a half by this compelling recreation of country life a generation ago. The programme noted the poem's "unsentimental absorption with the unending conflict and collaboration between man and earth - a relationship whose imbalance has become of great concern to 21st-century mankind".

There were smiles of recognition from listening farmers at the poem's sharp observation of scenes they themselves knew so well.'

John Vallins, The Guardian

'the evening was a revelation... prophetic and powerful'
Blackmore Vale Magazine

We were most delighted that The Land travelled to the 2007 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Washington D.C in June 2007 as one of the participants representing the best of Kent's culture and heritage for The Roots of Virginia Culture program.

The Land also travelled to venues England-wide in Autumn 2007 and Spring 2008.

For a list of venues for 2009 see below.

The Land, by Vita Sackville-West

Adapted and performed by Sonia Ritter and Tim Laycock

.the country habit has me by the heart...'

Sonia Ritter and Tim Laycock have created a rare opportunity to hear one of the most remarkable epic poems written in the 20th century in an evening which combines the passion of Vita Sackville-West's poetry with new and traditional music and natural sound.

Hailed by both critics and public alike as a masterpiece, The Land was awarded the prestigious Hawthornden Prize in 1926. The power of The Land lies in its singular and vital celebration of rural England and particularly the beloved Weald of Kent where Vita Sackville-West lived. Vita considered the poem to be her true claim to the status of great writer.

In The Land, the poet is the narrator and protagonist: an intimate lover of the soil who shares the tough and testing cycle of the farmer's year without sentimentality. She follows the seasons with those who work the soil, revelling and wrestling with the seasonal forces of the natural world and their astonishing beauty.

The poem has not lost its poignancy. The unending conflict and collaboration between humankind and the Earth that lies at the heart of the narrative is all too relevant today.

Leaping away from the page with all the power of live performance, this adaptation of The Land unlocks the drama of this epic poem and creates an evening that celebrates the joy of the spoken word fused with wonderful music and sound.

Dates for 2009

  • Saturday 28 March: 7.30pm, St James' Church, Ludgershall, Andover, Hampshire, SP11 9PQ - for more details, please call: 01264 790 644 or visit

  • Thursday 30 April: 7.30pm, St Mary's Church, East Knoyle, Wiltshire, SP3 6AR
  • - for more details, please call: 01747 830 132 or visit

    Saturday 2 May: 7.30pm, Bignor Church, Bignor, Pulborough,West Sussex
    - for more details, please call: 01798 869454 or visit

    Saturday 16 May: 7.30pm, Maplethorpe Building, St Hugh's College, Oxford.
    Entrance by reservation (free) issued via
    Dedicated to Phyllida Ritter.
    Collections in aid of Leukaemia Research and the RNIB.

      Dates for 2008

    • Thursday 12 June: 7.30pm, Briantspuddle, Dorset - for more details, please call: 07736 1502 25

    • Friday 13 June: 8pm, Waterside Theatre, Devizes Festival - 01380 738 686

Booking The Land

The Land is available for booking. We are currently planning tours in mid 2009 and would be delighted to hear from you if this period is of interest regarding booking The Land.

We do welcome other scheduling options too!

We can provide all promotional material: leaflets, posters and press release.

The Land has minimal technical requirements and is ideally suited to village halls, small arts venues, poetry and live literature festivals and alternative venues such as churches, outdoor museums, heritage sites and historic building. The serving of local food and refreshments in the interval would complete the evening!

The Land is very adaptable regarding staging and we welcome the suggestions of any venue regarding the facilities of their respective space.

Duration: 2 x 45 minutes with an interval (duration as required by the venue)
Minimum stage size: 2 x 4 meters or can be performed on the flat with some restricted viewing
Lighting: A simple general state on the performance space with highlight on the performers is ample. We do not tour lights but have worked in natural and enhanced as well as stage light. (We have worked in halls using domestic standard lamps!)
Sound: CD player and speaker (can be supplied)
Basic changing room facilities required
Fee: negotiable

For booking please contact:

Tim Laycock is an actor, playwright and folk musician from Dorset with a particular interest in country ways, customs and traditions. He studied English Literature at the University of East Anglia with Angus Wilson and Lorna Sage, and at the same time became immersed in the traditional music of East Anglia and the West Country. He has provided music for many plays including productions at the National Theatre, The Old Vic, and the Chichester Festival Theatre. Tim has written nine plays, most recently an adaptation of The Return of the Native for the New Hardy Players in Dorchester, and A Wonderful Alteration, a community play for Newton Abbot about the Great Western Railway. Tim has an international reputation as the leader of the well-known folk group the New Scorpion Band, and also gives solo performances of traditional folk songs in concerts and festivals all over the country.

Read Sonia Ritter's biog in the About Us section.

Tim and Sonia first met in the Young National Trust Theatre, and have worked together for 13 years on the spectacular seasonal festivals October Plenty and Twelfth Night with the Lions part. Their mutual interest in poetry, theatre and folk music has led to many fruitful collaborations including The Year Clock, Tim's one-man play about the Dorset poet William Barnes, which Sonia directed.