One of the most challenging feats in RNLI history to be brought to life on stage

Lifeboats News Release

Pleasure Dome Theatre Company are proud to present the incredible story of a lifeboat community pulling together on a treacherous night in the winter of 1899 to save a ship in distress.

Steve Guscott

The 1999 re-enactment of the Porlock Weir launch

On 12 January 1899, The Forrest Hall, a 1,900-ton ship carrying 13 crew and five apprentices was sailing from Bristol to Liverpool when it began to struggle in a rapidly building storm in the waters off Lynmouth in Devon.

The conditions were unforgiving, and the weather continued to worsen as the RNLI lifeboat volunteers made the daring decision to rally together and try and save the imperilled crew in one of the charity’s most arduous feats to date.

Unable to launch Louisa, the 10m long, 10-ton lifeboat, due to the size of the waves, an ambitious plan was concocted to drag her from Lynmouth across thirteen miles of hills and moorland to the storm-protected harbour of Porlock Weir.

Around 100 local people gathered to haul the Louisa, aided by 18 horses sent from a local farm. Six men were sent ahead with shovels to widen parts of the road. In this inspiring true story of bravery, grit and determination, will they make it before The Forrest Hall and her crew are lost beneath the waves?

Directed by the award-winning Scott Le Crass, the re-telling of this astonishing tale of courage and community will be one not to miss.

Jenny Langdon, volunteer Chair of the Minehead RNLI Fundraising Group says;

‘We’re thrilled to partner with Pleasure Dome Theatre Company on the production and donations made on the night will support our fundraising appeal for the upgrade to Minehead’s RNLI lifeboat station.

We’re all looking forward to seeing the very well-known local story, which is woven into the fabric of the community, being brought to life on the stage by a local theatre company. It should be a fantastic and uplifting evening for everyone to enjoy.’

Helena Payne from Pleasure Dome Theatre Company says,

‘The story of Louisa is centred on the resilience and courage of a small community achieving extraordinary things in exceptional circumstances. We see many parallels with how these small, remote, and under-represented communities have handled themselves during the challenges of Covid-19.

We are delighted this project has been supported by Arts Council England through National Lottery Project Grants, enabling us to bring this incredible true story to life on stage. Louisa will provide an uplifting evening at the theatre celebrating the culture and heritage of the South West. It will be visceral, punchy and dynamic using physical theatre and Sea Shanties over the duration of 80 minutes.

We have conducted research using historical archives in Lynton Town Hall as well as interviewing the descendants of those involved in the rescue mission.

We hope everyone will leave energised and hopeful about what can be achieved when people work together.’

With the debut performance on Saturday 16 October at Lynton & Lynmouth Town Hall, the show will be touring across Devon and Somerset for two weeks.

For more information including tickets, prices and performance times, please visit:

October 2021

Saturday 16 - Lynton & Lynmouth Town Hall

Sunday 17 - Lynton & Lynmouth Town Hall

Tuesday 19 - Taunton Brewhouse

Wednesday 20 - The Minehead Regal

Thursday 21 - Tintinhull Village Hall

Friday 22 - East Quay, Watchet

Saturday 23 - Holford Village Hall

Sunday 24 - Strode Theatre, Street

Tuesday 26 - Yeovil College

Wednesday 27 - Exmoor Studios, Dulverton

Thursday 28 - Landmark Theatre, Barnstaple

Friday 29 - Porlock Village Hall

Saturday 30 - The Phoenix, Exeter

Notes to editors

· Interviews are available on request and arrangements can be made for media to film at a rehearsal from week of 11 October.

· Please find attached an image of the RNLI lifeboat Louisa, taken in 1903, four years after her overland launch, credit: RNLI

· For more information, tickets and performance times visit:

· For more information on Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants visit:

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact Claire Fitzpatrick-Smith, Media Engagement Placement (South West) on [email protected] or 07902 975993, or Amy Caldwell, Regional Media Manager on 07920 818807 or [email protected]. Alternatively, please contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or [email protected].

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For more information on the RNLI please visit News releases and other media resources, including RSS feeds, downloadable photos and video, are available at the RNLI News Centre


2. RNLI lifeboat Louisa, taken in 1903, four years after her overland launch

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.