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Kekwick bookcase
Title : Kekwick bookcase Kekwick bookcase View More Images
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Creator : Mills, George
Place Of Creation : Adelaide
Date of creation : 1937
Additional Creator : Bevan, Margaret
Format : Object
Dimensions : 1970 x 920 x 225 mm
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Description :

Brenda Kekwick was just 28 years old when she died in April 1936 and her loss was widely mourned in Adelaide. She was an actress, playwright and producer and the founder of the Junior Theatre in Adelaide. Brenda also ran storytelling sessions in the Children's Library and had her audience enthralled. In her Junior Theatre, besides herself, there were only children and she taught them not only to act, but to create and paint the stage sets, and to run the productions as well. She acted with the Adelaide Repertory Theatre and the W.E.A. Little Theatre, including principle roles notably that in Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. Keen to promote reading as well as acting, she worked with the department store John Martin's in the year preceding her death, talking to individual children about their interests, before making recommendations to their parents as to the best types of books.

The News opened a memorial fund following her death, and a hand carved memorial bookcase filled with 80 books of children's plays and poetry was presented to the Public Library Board, for the Children's Library, on Friday 29 October 1937.

The bookcase is of Manchurian oak, and the top panel was designed by Margaret Bevan and carved by George Mills. It depicts a man and a woman offering their child as a gift to Father Time; the child is hiding his eyes to the wonder of things to come. There is a strong mythic theme in the carving, and the carving's flowing simplicity was considered by many to have been a fitting memorial to Brenda Kekwick.

The leading edges of the shelves are carved with the words of Francis Thompson's Essay on Shelley:

Know ye what it is to be a child?

It is to believe in love; to believe in

Loveliness, to believe in belief.

It is to be so little that elves can

Reach to whisper in your ear.

The books were chosen by HR Purnell and EA Morley from the Public Library and included works on the opera, the circus, pantomime, the technique of pageantry and the use of paint, powder and patches, books on scenery, speech craft and for the producer, as well as plays.

As mentioned in an article in The Advertiser October 26, 1937, p. 8 were the following books:

How to put on an amateur circus by F.A. Hacker and P.W. Eames.

The Minstrel Easy by Walter Ben Hare.

Pegasus perplexing by le Baron Russel.

The Children's matinee by Noel Streatfield.

Plays for marionettes by Maurice Sands.

Little plays from Shakespeare.

Johnny Crow's Garden by Leslie Brooke.

Early one morning by Walter de la Mare.

Unfortunately, the copies of these books are no longer in the State Library's collections, presumably worn out with use.

The bookcase currently stands in the vestibule of the Institute Building.

Related names :

Kekwick, Brenda R., 1908-1936

Coverage year : 1937
Region : Adelaide city
Further reading :

Cattermole, Dorothy. 'Brenda Kekwick and the Children's Library',Kalori, volume 5, March 1967, pp. 19-20

'The clown and the memory: a play by Brenda Kekwick', A book of South Australia: women in the first hundred years, Adelaide : Rigby for the Women's Centenary Council of S.A., 1936

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