Project Summary

Dreamdragons was a community opera, composed by Jonathan Dove, that premièred in Ashford in 1993. The opera took the form of a promenade performance and involved hundred of people from the local community in the chorus. The opera’s plot focuses upon Ashford’s history, particularly that of its links with trains.


Act I

The town is to organise a carnival to celebrate the arrival of the Big Train; all except Beth, who just wants to be left alone with her book and the past.

In Beth’s room, she and her mum have a row, as Beth is supposed to be making her mum’s hat for the celebration. Her mum leaves Beth alone with her book and she dreams.

In her dream, Beth encounters her Dream Twin, Angela, in the orchard, invoking a piece of Ashford’s past: the Middle Ages and the years of witch hunting. The chorus of townsfolk proceed to try and burn her at the stake, until the Fire Dragon appears. Beth wakes with a scream and her mother comes in.

The next morning Beth has breakfast with Mum, Skinner and Rod & Rob (her rocker brothers). They anticipate the carnival, but this leads to another row. Beth runs out, nearly crying.

Beth travels to the Library, where the Bookworms reminisce to Beth about the history of Ashford. They do not want change and decide something must be done. Beth leaves sadly and goes out into the street.

The street is abuzz with the townsfolk. Upon seeing Beth, they try to cheer her up, but with no success. She runs home to do some sewing by the window in her room.

Beth starts dreaming again, and imagines running out of her room back into the street. She sees Angela in the window. Ashford has been transported to the 1700s. The townsfolk sing and the Plague Dragon comes, shortly before Beth wakes up.

Back at the library the Knitting Lady is playing with a toy train and a bookworm is looking up World War II. Beth comes in enraged and the Knitting Lady comforts her, gives her the toy train and blesses her with the wool spell.

Beth returns home, but enters another family row. At its conclusion, a startling revelation is made: Beth’s dad is in prison.

Beth enters a third dream, where she is put in the centre of wartime Ashford. The Knitting Lady appears, transformed, to rescue the children. An air raid devastates the town before the War Dragon finally arrives. The wall of Beth’s house splits open, beyond which can be seen the mouth of tunnel. Angela appears and leads Beth through.

Act II

In the tunnel, the tunnellers move a giant boring machine towards a distant light that grows bigger. They celebrate the imminent completion of the tunnel. Pulling aside the last bits of rock, the Paris skyline is revealed.

Back in Ashford, the town prepares for the carnival. Mum is preparing for her day as Pearly Queen. Skinner proposes to her, but she is worried about the absence of her daughter and, most especially, her hat. Rod & Rob go out to look for her, encountering all the other sub-groups of the townsfolk. Mum, meanwhile, laments.


Out of the tunnel the tracklayers approach, who say that they have seen the twins in the tunnel. The Bookworms are reminded of the story of the Biddenden twins.

Beth and Angela are dancing in the tunnel. Beth asks who Angela is, but she leaves abruptly. Beth despairs, but the wool-spell returns. A frightening rumbling is heard and a dragon approaches. Beth stands firm, only to find it transform into a train full of French girls, whom Beth welcomes.

The Lady Mayor addresses the people of Ashford, until she interrupted by the Bookworms, who mount a protest, led by the Knitting Lady. They throw themselves on the ground in the train’s path, forcing it to grind to a halt. Before anyone can react, however, Beth and the French girls emerge from the train. Everyone reconciles and the townsfolk are wrapped up in a long, beautiful piece of knitting. The train moves on.


Lady Mayor - Tertia Sefton-Green
Beth - Alice Buckley/Bianca Cheese
Mum - Kate Flowers
Rod - Michael Wrate
Bob - Dean Maynard
Beth’s Dream Twin - Tonia Brundell/Elizabeth Davies
Knitting Lady - Nuala Willis
Skinner - Peter Knapp

Creative Team

Composer - Jonathan Dove
Librettist - Alistair Campbell
Director - Graham Devlin
Choreographer - Sean Walsh