£46k project to tell story of Madame Abdella, elephant 'buried in Diss'

E.H. Bostock and a young girl with an elephant from Bostock & Wombwell's Circus and Menagerie in 192

E.H. Bostock with a young girl and elephant from Bostock & Wombwell's Circus and Menagerie, 1920. A menagerie elephant is said to have been buried beneath Fair Green, Diss, in 1867 - Credit: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

The mystery surrounding two elephants apparently buried beneath a park in Diss is being brought to life by a new arts programme.

Diss Corn Hall has received a £46,400 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to develop and produce a project about the legend of Madame Abdella.

Various location as around diss.
Fair Green
Picture by: Sonya Duncan

Legend has it that two elephants are buried beneath Fair Green in Diss - Credit: Sonya Duncan

The 20-year-old Burmese elephant is believed to have died on and been buried under Fair Green in 1867, while travelling with a menagerie.

What's more, another elephant is said to have suffered an identical fate in the 1940s when another travelling circus came to town. 

Now the Corn Hall, in partnership with Eastern Region Media CIC, is set to deliver a series of workshops on the fascinating tale for local schools and the wider community.

They will consist of activities including poetry writing and puppet making, as well as the creation of animation and films. 

Lee Johnson, operations manager at Diss Corn Hall

Lee Johnson, operations manager at Diss Corn Hall - Credit: Diss Town Council


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Lee Johnson, operations manager at the hall, said: "Being awarded this money from the National Lottery Heritage Fund is a great opportunity for the communities of Fair Green, Diss and the Corn Hall to celebrate this really remarkable story.

"We really are not sure if there is an elephant under Fair Green, but this story is part of Diss folklore and what better way is there to bring the story to life with a project for all the community?"

The Corn Hall previously worked with Eastern Region Media (ERM) on Brush With the Past, which examined Diss' history at the centre of the brush-making industry. 

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In 2019, ERM made a short film as UEA student, Elena Damian, carried out a geophysical survey of Fair Green in search of elephant remains.

Their latest offering will feature a series of public talks and screenings at the famous Diss performance venue on subjects such as animals in captivity and the history of Victorian circuses.

Tim Edwards, who heads up ERM alongside Fiona Muller, added: "It was a natural process to work with the Corn Hall on the creation of this project, and we cannot wait to bring the story of Madame Abdella to life by working with the local community.

"We are also really excited to be back in Diss after the success with A Brush With the Past."

Diss Corn Hall
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2017

Diss Corn Hall has received a grant to produce a project about the legend of Madame Abdella, a Burmese elephant said to have died in Diss - Credit: Sonya Duncan

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