A group of young filmmakers raising money to produce a short film inspired by the local legends Kitty Jay set on Dartmoor, where ‘In the 1800’s, an ostracised woman must face up to societal pressures or make a heart-wrenching decision’.
Students from the University of Gloucestershire are currently creating their Graduate film inspired by Kitty’s story in 1800’s Dartmoor and are looking to raise awareness and support for their film by those interested in Dartmoor and Kitty’s story! The team have been blown away by the support and interest from the local community, and are reaching out to raise further awareness to get their project to their target budget of £5,000 to fund it! With the support of the local community, they will be able to do more justice to Kitty’s story!
The idea to bring the infamous legend into the present day was sparked during lockdown when Cinematographer Sam passed it regularly when out cycling. Growing up in Manaton and passing Jay’s Grave on his way to school everyday for seven years. It was a story he had a fondness for and so was delighted that upon sharing it with the team the idea was one they were keen to explore and bring to audiences that weren’t aware of Kitty’s story.
The story developed further when Lucy realised that Kitty Jay’s story is one that although based in the 1800s is still as present and relevant in the 21st century.
When first reading the story, The Director of the Film, Lucy immediately noticed the parallels between how we tend to treat people who are different or stray from society’s expectations.
Alongside that there was a resurfacing of the events in Ireland regarding mother and baby homes which were still operating only 20 years ago, the age the crew are now, which shows just how relevant and present Kitty’s story is.
By telling her story the filmmakers hope to raise awareness of the sensitive topic of suicide prevention and the impact we have on each other’s lives. Kitty’s storyline shows the moments when help could’ve changed her outcome and Lucy believes that this will hopefully encourage people that a small offering of help could change someone’s life.
The legend of Kitty Jay has become well known to the local community within Dartmoor and Legend and Folklore followers. Kitty Jay’s Grave, situated on a crossroads just outside of Manaton, Newton Abbot – a stone’s throw away from Hound Tor. The legend has taken many forms but all stories tell of Jay’s Grave as the burial place of a suicide victim from the late eighteenth century.
‘Jays Grave’ has become a popular interest and attraction within the local community, with tourists and guides even stopping at the location. The legends follow Mary ‘Kitty’ Jay, an orphan in the 18th century who was sent to a Poor House and later became employed at a nearby farm in Manaton, Dartmoor. Not long after her employment the legend says she became pregnant by a young farmer’s son. However he insisted it was Kitty who threw herself at him and she was labelled a whore by the locals. Unable to find a solution, a fearful Kitty took her own life by hanging.
Soon after her death stories of her haunting spread. It’s also said that fresh flowers appear on the grave everyday with no trace of who left them. If you visit Jay’s Grave, there will always be flowers at the headstone. Another legend tells that the placement of flowers at Jay’s Grave began by locals fearful of Kitty’s haunting, therefore flowers were used in order to keep her spirit busy by counting the petals left on her grave.
The group of filmmakers were heavily inspired by these legends, and since visiting feel they are so lucky to get the opportunity to tell such a poignant and powerful story with an important message. The group can’t wait to get filming their project together about Kitty Jay, and the opportunity to work in truly beautiful landscapes and locations in bringing 1800’s Dartmoor and Kitty’s story to life on screen!
To follow more about their journey, or to support the project and their film – check out their crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the film with some great rewards such as a copy of the film and script. You can also find more about the crew and the film by following their progress behind the scenes on their social media pages! The team say they are blown away by the support, and can’t wait to get making the project!
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @kittyjayfilm