Beckie as Rosamund in Godstow Nunnery

Press Cuttings

W.I. Drama Festival.

This diversion is in order to tell you a word or two about the Women’s Institute Drama Festival, which had its climax at the New Scala Theatre, London, for two nights this week.

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I went up on the Monday night, because on that night St. Mary Cray and St. Paul’s Cray Women’s Institute were giving “Godstow Nunnery.” As you probably know, this local team has come out first in all England. And there were 163 teams competing! This is a wonderful feather in the cap of the Crays, and indeed for all of West Kent. For do not the rest of us shine in reflected glory? County pride is a worthy sin, if sin it be. Personally, I think it is a pity more folk haven’t got it. Pride of country has its birth in pride of one’s home town or village.

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It was as unique an evening’s entertainment that evening at the Scala as any I have ever attended. To begin with, the audience was comprised almost entirely of women. Women who had come in parties from all parts of England and Wales. All more or less had a nodding acquaintance with each other. You would have thought a hundred thousand magpies had been let loose! The orchestra did its best, as I gathered from its movements, but not a note could I hear! Only the rising of the curtain could still those tongues! And then, then you could have heard the proverbial pin drop. I envied the players that attentive, discerning, thoroughly interested audience.

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Of course, there were a few men here and there. I believe Mr. Laurence Binyon, the modest author of “Godstow Nunnery,” made one of the scattered half-dozen! But I did not actually see him. That was because he was probably managing to hide himself away between much feminine frippery somewhere. And that wouldn’t be difficult now we are affecting these enormous “keep-your-distance” barbed-wire “epaulettes”! Anyhow, his moving little play opened the evening with marked success.

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C. Moth and B. Collier played with the same simple dignity as they did formerly on the village stage. The black-robed nuns moved in the same detached way across the background of the piece. It was unspoiled by success. This was the most happy thing to become aware of. To me it proved that the object of the Drama Festival, which is to evolve and foster a characteristic style in English village drama, is a long way on to being achieved. That Women’s Institutes shall strive in their plays to build up their own tradition, not merely produce an amateur imitation of the professional stage, is a further aim.

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The two judges appointed by the National Federation Executive, Mrs. Penelope Wheeler and Miss Henzie Raeburn, have travelled from Yorkshire to Dorset and from Kent to Carnarvonshire in order to choose the ten plays which appeared in London on Monday and Tuesday of this week, representative of the dramatic work of Women’s Institutes all over the country. And, as I say, it is a matter of real pride to me that the Kentish villages of St. Mary Cray and St. Paul’s Cray tops this list. My very heartiest congratulations to all those concerned.



Mr. Laurence Binyon has just published an English verse translation of “Dante’s Divine Comedy.” He is greatly interested in the Welsh translation of Dante by the late Mr. Daniel Rees, of St. Paul’s Cray, and in his English play, “Dante and Beatrice.” In a letter to Miss Rees, who has been closely connected with the St. Mary Cray Women’s Institute Drama Section for several years, Mr. Laurence Binyon says: “I do want to congratulate you and all the company on the really beautiful and moving performance yesterday of ‘Godstow Nunnery’ at the New Scala Theatre. I could hardly wish for a better performance. All spoke the verse, too. I liked Rosamund and Eleanor very much. I do hope the company will win first place.”

Mr. Laurence Binyon also highly congratuated the producer, Miss Rene Winston, on the beautiful setting, and upon the true and subtle representation of his play.

Kent Team In Drama

On Monday and Tuesday, the National Federation held its second W.I. Drama Festival at the New Scala Theatre, London.

Judges have travelled to various parts of the country and have seen 163 teams from 37 county federations. The committee regretted very much that it was impossible to include in the London programme all the teams whose performance was worthy of an invitation.

Among these was the Bethersden Women’s Institute (East Kent Federation) in “The Cradle Song.”

The only Kent team taking part on Monday was one from St. Paul’s and St. Mary Cray W.I. who opened the festival with a performance of “Godstow Nunnery,” by Lawrence Binyon.

This was a mediæval play, founded on the story of Queen Eleanor and Fair Rosamund, and was produced by Miss Rennee Winstone.

The cast was as follows: Sister Euphraxia, Mrs M. Banks; Rosamund, Miss Beckie Collier; Sister Jocelynde, Miss Olive Rogers; the Abbess, Mrs. A. Lindridge; Sister Ursula, Miss Mabel Dubmall; Queen Eleanor, Mrs. C. Moth; Sister Perpetua, Mrs. Wellstead; Nuns, Mrs. M. Morum, Mrs. E. Harman and Miss Phoebe Roffey.


The setting of the play was a very striking one, while every player seemed to be living her part.

It was a remarkable performance and the players fully deserved the congratulations they received from the author, who was present.

Mr. Binyon told Miss Winstone that it was a beautiful and intelligent production, and that the diction was excellent.