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Anne Godfrey-Smith (1921–2011)

by Margaret Leask

from Obituaries Australia

Anne Godfrey-Smith, by Terry Milligan, c.1994

Anne Godfrey-Smith, by Terry Milligan, c.1994

National Library of Australia, 20549192

Anne was born Anne McIntyre in Launceston on 30th November 1921. She studied biochemistry at Sydney University 1939-41 and after graduating worked as a Pathologist at the Royal North Shore Hospital. However, the theatre and her love of literature soon took her in another direction and in 1953 she was appointed Manager-Producer at Canberra Repertory Society, a full-time salaried position for four years, which began her long association with Canberra. She began writing poetry around this time and felt very lucky to have the poet, Professor Alec Hope as a teacher and mentor. After completing a BA, majoring in English, at ANU, in the 1960s, she commenced an MA degree, conferred in 1973, at Flinders University, on playwright and author, Samuel Beckett. Anne taught English Literature at the University of NSW from 1968 to 1974, where as my tutor she also became a long-standing friend.

Anne died, aged 89, in Canberra on 15 June 2011. Most young youth performing arts practitioners will not have known her, however, her passing was mourned by the founders of AYPAA (the Australian Youth Performing Arts Association) which began in 1974 as the precursor to today’s YPAA (not many younger practitioners will know that, either!). Along with Joan Pope, Michael FitzGerald, Derek Nicholson, Graham Scott and others, I was one of the enthusiasts who saw the need for youth performing arts’ practitioners to have a voice. At a time when there was no e-mail or websites and air travel was very expensive (hard to imagine!), we engaged Anne (I could think of no one better to ask pertinent questions and listen) to travel all over Australia between April 1975 and June 1976, as AYPAA’s National Consultant. With funding from the Australia Council, she surveyed and reported on youth performing arts activities which she fed back to me in Sydney. Spending time in some 100 towns and cities, she listened to and shared ideas with isolated practitioners, saw numerous performances and workshops, encouraged networking and put like minded people in touch with each other. She wrote eight detailed state reports and a comprehensive National Report, Youth Performing Arts in Australia. Together we compiled a Directory of Youth Performing Arts in Australia and both these were published in 1977. She also published, in the September 1977 issue of the AYPAA Newsletter (which Geoffrey Brown later turned into Lowdown!) ‘A Word on Puppetry,’ based on her observations on the road. She made a considerable contribution to the future development of performing arts for young people and facilitated the growth of AYPAA (also called YPAA and other titles along the way in its 37 year history) whose main aim was to facilitate and make known the work of all those working with and for young people in the performing arts, including performers, writers, teachers, directors and those behind the scenes.

Anne subsequently served on the Theatre Board of the Australia Council between 1977 and 1980, and was a strong advocate for funding to the sector. She was a member also of the National Steering Committee which initiated the major Education and the Arts study for the Schools Commission and Australia Council in 1977. Returning to Canberra, Anne worked as Coordinator of Community Education at the Reid TAFE from 1980 to 1988. She subsequently became actively involved in community radio (now ArtSound FM 92.7), specializing in compiling and presenting programs on the spoken word. She had several terms as Writer in Residence at The Armidale School (1989 and 1992) and at Canberra Girls Grammar School (1989). She was actively involved in the formation of the ACT Writers Centre in 1994. In 2005 she received an OAM for her services to the arts and education.

Writing as Anne Edgeworth, her prose publications include The Cost of Jazz Garters, a History of the Canberra Repertory Society (1992 and 1995). In addition to many articles and essays, her poetry was published in four collections and included in a number of anthologies. She also recorded readings of her poetry, one of which was played at her funeral service. Listening to that clear, warm voice again instantly evoked her intense, bright blue eyes and wise and passionate personality which I miss greatly. Quite late in our friendship we discovered that her grandfather, T. W. Edgeworth David, the geologist, pioneer and soldier, and my great-grandfather, H.E.C. Robinson, the cartographer and map publisher, had been friends and colleagues. It seemed fitting that our generation had connected in a similar fashion.

In addition to her environmental causes Anne was an active member or supporter of various political and social causes. These included the Women in Black demonstrating silently against war, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation, Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform and Amnesty International.

Anne’s family, many friends and colleagues will miss, cherish and long remember her wisdom, energy and humour. She was intelligent, wise, feisty, generous, passionate and compassionate. I am very pleased our paths crossed and thank her for her generous encouragement, warm hospitality and support over more than 40 years.

Bump Out by Anne Edgeworth. For the cast and team of Dusa, Fish, Stas & Vi, 1979.

Time to bump out the show,
the last line spoken,
Time for us all to go,
the circle broken,

Outside this spotlit space
the unknown, waiting,
It’s been a growing place
this brief creating

for all of us who learned
long hours that went
into one moment earned
more than was spent;

We leave no artefacts,
only a swept stage,
emptied of our acts
laughed with — or wept;

Nothing to take away — ?
Scrawled notes on pages,
Hopefully, heart to play
on harsher stages,

Some, perhaps, less alone —
Those weeks together
still with us, sounding on
in wilder weather.

Many thanks to Anne’s sons William and Anthony for information included in this tribute.

Original publication

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Citation details

Margaret Leask, 'Godfrey-Smith, Anne (1921–2011)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 27 May 2024.

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