The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

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February 2019

Remembering Pat

David Gardner

On 18th January friends from the congregation and beyond gathered in the parish church to say goodbye to Pat Gardner, for long a member of our congregation and a supporter of drama in the church.  This is what David wrote for the Hampstead Players newsletter:
“My mother Pat Gardner died just before Christmas on the morning of Saturday 22nd December, and we have been remembering her long and well-lived life: the years 1923 to 1940 in Hampstead; the years 1940 to 1974 in South Africa, marriage and raising four children; and the years from 1975 back in Hampstead, Hampstead Parish Church and The Hampstead Players.
 
“She was an enthusiastic supporter of The Players from the front pew along with her great friend Estelle Spottiswoode who also died this year.  A Membership Secretary and Drama Committee member she always looked to encourage new blood to the group (including in 2000 an Angela Bates who would prove to be a benefit to the Church, The Players and her long-time bachelor son!)
 
“In South Africa she worked hard to get qualifications to teach Speech and Drama to many from pre-school to adults and became a respected producer of plays performed at the Town Hall of our home town Ladysmith.  Among her many successful productions was the first ever Peter Pan performed in South Africa and a production of The Winslow Boy.
 
“Back in Hampstead, she joined The Players in 1980, and one of her earliest roles was as Mrs Van Daan in The Diary of Anne Frank.  But what she really loved was directing and she got her first chance with The Crucible in 1982; she also directed the Hampstead Players’ first Shakespeare with Twelfth Night in 1984.  Her greatest achievement I believe was her Murder in the Cathedral in 1990 with Derek Spottiswoode as Becket.  In 1992 she returned to a favourite play The Winslow Boy, also the year she took an Open University Shakespeare course.  She formed a great friendship with Diana Raymond, our long-serving reviewer, and was proud to be able to produce Diana’s play in 1995, John Keats Lived Here.
 
“As an actor, she was in 12 productions between 1980 and 2007; she directed 9 plays (between 1982 and 1996) and co-directed or assisted on over 15 (between 1986 and 2016).  She was part of many Entertainments and Tributes, the last being April 2016 when she launched the Celebrating Stephen evening with a reading of Psalm 23.
 
“She led many Play Readings, Poetry and Prose evenings, a number devised with good friend John Petti, and Literary Hours including ‘Cry, the Beloved Country – Remembering Mandela and South Africa’ September 2014 & October 2015.
 
2On a personal note, my mother inspired in me a love of literature and drama, and to reciting poetry at Eisteddfods from the age of 6, and saw every part I played from Titania at my boarding school in 1970 to Lear in 2016.

David Gardner

A last word from Pat on one of the hymns sung at her funeral……..

MY FAVOURITE HYMN
To thee, O Lord, our hearts we raise - NEH 261

Like most others I have too many 'favourite hymns' to be able to choose one easily, but with the harvest drawing near there is a very special one I always long to sing on the Festival Day, but at St John's it has only been sung once, and only then at my special request.  Of all the beautiful harvest hymns this for me is the nonpareil for its sheer exuberance and joyfulness.  I love the tune which is simple and melodic, and the rhyme scheme is like the ringing of church bells.  There are uplifting phrases like "shouts of exultation" and there are beautiful words for our comfort, but above all it ends on a note of thrilling visualisation of the coming together of earth and heaven, movingly expressed in this blessed song of thanksgiving for the harvest.
Pat Gardner

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