The Gallery

Rowena Cade Takes a Well Earned Rest

Rowena Cade Takes a Well Earned Rest

Recently, I have set myself the task of an extended writing project, planning out a twelve month schedule for work, a series of targets stretching out in my head. I had forgotten what it felt like to make plans for myself; much of life has felt on hold during these last few years and for so long I didn’t even dare to hope for something more, fearful that the rug might be ripped out from under me. It’s a familiar reaction to loss, I have found, others confessing a similar fear. For me, it was a series of losses coming thick and fast that knocked me into a tail spin; I couldn’t quite believe that the worst was over because just at that moment of relaxing and trusting in myself and life again, the next crisis hit. The value of all this is that you learn to discover your own strength and resilience; the downside is that you can become habitually primed for battle. It is taking time to lay down my arms, knowing that I must, despite the continuing challenges that have come as a consequence of these events. It has been so good to feel my focus kick into touch once more; heartening to watch as something barely formed begins to gather more substance and grow in size. Engaging with a stronger sense of purpose has a magic all its own.

I am in the process of setting up a sort of gallery of inspiration next to the computer as an aid to keep me creatively buoyant. It is taking shape with pictures, portraits, poems, pieces of prose that lift me and strengthen my self-belief. There are people here I have known or know who continue to inspire me, and also those I don’t know, artists, writers, performers, creative people whose vision and dedication move me. It is turning out to be as enjoyable a project as my writing!

One of my Gallery luminaries is the extraordinary Rowena Cade, designer and creator of the Minack Theatre in Cornwall. A local production of The Tempest, due to be shown in the grounds of her house at Minack Head in 1932, prompted her to design and create the beginnings of what was to become a life long work of passion and dedication. She and her helpers, Billy Dawlings and Charles Angove, carved from the granite cliff edge a beautiful open-air theatre, eventually using concrete to shape and decorate its structure. She didn’t start this project until she was thirty eight (there is hope for me yet!) and carried on working to improve and expand it right up into her mid-eighties. It is amazing to think that this frail looking old lady was lugging sand and timber up the steep cliff from Porthcurno beach. I read once that when a shipwreck washed up a hoard of timber, she was caught by police on the beach in the act of attempting to smuggle wood up to the headland; they let her off because they couldn’t believe that this tiny woman was capable of hauling a heavy load up such an arduous path. They left and she got on with the business of claiming her booty!

I find her creative vision, her strength and commitment so moving and inspiring. I have a wonderful photo of her as an old lady, taking a breather from working on the theatre. She is sat in an upturned wheelbarrow, reading. Like Vanessa Bell (of recent posts), I feel heartened that the creative spark did not diminish with age but seemed to burn all the more brightly. She makes me want to create, to immerse myself in the thing that I love, regardless of how impossible it might appear to achieve: – who would ever have thought that the Minack was possible? Love, passion and creativity fuel us and manifest themselves through us – if we let them – and this in turn touches others, inspiring them in their own attempts to shape into form all that yearns for life within. This exchange never fails to amaze and fascinate me and so my gallery will no doubt be a very full one.

It’s exciting to be forging on in my own small way. No doubt there will be a few tantrums and tears, massive doubts and the blankest of empty page moments but that really doesn’t matter. As my gallery illustrates, it is the doing that proves the most crucial. Without such, how will I ever know?

The Minack Theatre

The Minack Theatre

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