AS Durham commemorates the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, locations across the county will be marking this poignant event in a number of ways, from services of remembrance and historical exhibitions to celebrations through music and song.

As part of these commemorative events, and in a first for the region, the Gala Theatre, in Durham City, will be transformed into a walkthrough experience called 1916: No Turning Back, transporting visitors to the battlefields of the Somme.

Following two actors through the exhibition-style set, visitors will be taken on a journey from “signing-up” to “going over the top”.

Remembering the Durham Pals on the battlefield where they gave their young lives
Help commemorate the sacrifices made by the men of the Durham Light Infantry at the Somme. In the month of July 2016, we are aiming to raise £10,000 to create a battlefield memorial to those who fell 100 years ago. To donate, either go to and make a pledge, or send a cheque made payable to Former Charities of the Durham Light Infantry to The Rifles Durham Office, Elvet Waterside, Durham DH1 3BW.

Robin Byers, Durham County Council’s service manager for place and experience, said: “1916: No Turning Back is a truly unique event and nothing of this nature has been done in the North-East before. The concept is somewhere between a play and an exhibition. We really hope that the immersive nature of taking the journey of a Durham soldier with an actor will really bring this piece of history to life in a way that most people will have never experienced before.”

Two actors play various roles during the walkthrough experience. A male actor portrays the Durham soldier, while a female actor brings to life a battlefield nurse, a post-mistress and a mother at home.

Robin added: “This is not just story-telling, this is living history. Our actors are here to bring the story literally to life, but the way the theatre will be transformed will recreate some of the tension, drama and intense emotion that goes hand-in-hand with these monumental events in history.

“Visitors will learn about the life of a soldier but 1916: No Turning Back is also an experience for all the senses, with the sights, sounds and smells of war being brought into the auditorium.”

As a unique way of commemorating the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, it is hoped that 1916: No Turning Back will appeal to a wide range of visitors.

Robin added: “This walk-through experience has been produced with a meticulous eye on the historic details but also with a view to creating a piece that is both entertaining and engaging.

“We hope that families will enjoy bringing children, young and old, but that this will also appeal to those with personal connections to the events of the Somme and anyone who has an interest in local history.”

  • Each walkthrough experience lasts about 40 minutes and tickets are priced from £6.50 to £7.50. Group bookings are available. Go to the Gala Theatre box office, or call on 03000 266 600 or visit