A story by Beryl Bowden

The monthly Anglican Church publication, The Encounter, in one issue in 2006 appealed for volunteers to make rugs for an organization called ‘Wrap With Love’. They make and distribute rugs throughout the world to those in need. I had made so many ‘fancy’ quilts that the family had said ’No more please’ so I was looking for another interest. The fact that the organisation was non-denominational, non-racial, non-political and distributed the rugs through international aid agencies, appealed to me.

I joined up and began to use my spare time crocheting and knitting woolen squares and sewing them together. I am not the fastest person in the world when it comes to knitting or crocheting so soon became impatient with my output. Looking around for another method of making the rugs to get quicker results, I thought of my patchwork quilts and wondered if I could make the top out of squares of material and machine- sew them together. Then using old, clean blankets as a warm lining and backed with another layer of material, meant No hand sewing at all! And the three layers would make them very cozy!

The rugs that had taken me months to make, now took days! A bonus was, that instead of buying wool as I had been, this method was cost -free. There is no sale for a single bed sheet or old blankets, so the ladies of the Stroud Anglican Opportunity Shop saved them for me at no cost. I became quite productive and don’t know how many rugs I have made-I lost count after 200.

We were enjoying a relaxing family outing at the river one Boxing Day when my rug-making hobby was discussed. Our daughter Anne listened intently as I mentioned that the aim of the Wraps With Love Foundation was ‘to warm all cold people throughout the world’ (A qualified high school, singing, and drama teacher; Anne is also an actor, director and playwright.) “What a good play it would make!” she said. So she went ahead and wrote one! The play was called Grace’. The central character of Grace was based on my life–with emphasis on my rug- making.

Anne wrote another play called Lost Property, also with a rural theme and set in Stroud. which dealt with four siblings facing the sale of their family farm after the death of their parents. Three wanted to sell the property but the fourth argued that they should continue the farming operation. Some unpleasant family secrets were revealed as tempers rose.

Under the title of Rural Reflections, Grace and Lost property were performed as a double bill at the Civic Playhouse in Newcastle on 29 August-8 September 2007. Anne wrote and directed Grace and Lost Property, and played the title role in Grace.

Anne as Grace

On Opening Night, our family, and most of Stroud, were present to witness her success. And a success it was! Included in the script of Grace were humorous stories her father and I had told her of happenings when we were young and which the audience found amusing. Wearing a grey wig and one of my outfits, Anne played a very convincing look- a-like me. Members of her drama company, Shakespeare et al, played the roles of the recipients of the rugs and donors of the various materials used in making them.

The staging was basic. A sewing machine occupied center stage—colorful, completed wraps were on display and squares of material were scattered round, ready for Anne to sew them together during the performance. An armchair, occasionally used as she talked of my life in a small country town, was placed beside the machine and a large laundry basket housed the material contributions deposited in it by the donors. During the performance recipients of the rugs each appeared wrapped in a rug as they told of the tragic circumstances of their lives and their gratitude for receiving the rug as a gift.

The surprise ending of Grace had a good many of the audience in tears. While the enthusiastic applause was continuing and the other actors were taking their bows, Anne came up into the audience and presented me with a huge bouquet of flowers.

I have been fortunate to have some memorable moments in my life, but that is the most memorable moment of all. To be portrayed in such a complimentary fashion when I was present, was wonderful…and that my daughter had been responsible… made it all the more special.

During interval, the audience enjoyed a country supper of sponge cakes with strawberries and cream, Anzac biscuits and cups of tea, dispensed from large aluminum teapots.

The evening’s entertainment continued with the performance of Lost Property. Even though it represented a darker side of country life than the gentle happy side portrayed in Grace, the audience appreciated both versions.

Included in the advertising for Rural Reflections, Anne had appealed for donations of blankets, new or old. Quite a number were gratefully received. (The door takings of one performance were also donated to Wrap With Love.)

These are the City Of Newcastle Dramatic Art awards, (CONDAs) that Anne and her company, Shakespeare et al, were awarded during the years she was active on the Newcastle theatre scene. Five were awarded to the company for Best Professional Productions; the other six are her personal awards for Best Director, Actor, Playwright, set design etc.

Beryl's story

These trophies are languishing on a shelf in her home where only her family sees them; I thought it was high time we all had that pleasure!

3 Comments on “Grace”

  1. gardeningbysharon October 1, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

    A lovely story Beryl.

  2. Jillian Lister September 2, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

    Thank you for this story Mrs Bowden! Having not lived in Newcastle for so many years, I had no idea of Anne’s accomplishments! Well done to you both!

    • Beryl Bowden September 2, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

      It is quite a few years Jill, since you and Anne attended Raymond Terrace High. A lot has happened in that time…all good. This story was prompted by parental pride… I hope I am forgiven.

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