By imogene russell on 26 Jun 2015 11:32 am
A Scrumptious apple tree and a slate plaque in memory of Audrey Ringrose, late of Ashburnham Grove, now grace the raised bed at the Ashburnham Place end of the Play Street. Audrey’s friends and family, including daughters Kate and Leonie, gathered after the recent Plant Swap to mark this planting.
A good neighbour
John, Audrey’s widower, gave a moving introduction to the plaque’s unveiling to the thirty or so people there. He said that a tree in this garden was a very fitting memorial to her, since she was very much part of the local community and had been joint founder of the gardening group.
John Ringrose near Audrey’s tree and plaque
If you are wondering who she was, below is the obituary we posted last year.
Many plants and seedlings now keep Audrey’s tree company. The mini forest garden will grow up around it.
We have lost a good neighbour, Audrey Ringrose
Audrey Ringrose died on 1st February 2014, aged 82. She lived in Ashburnham Grove from 1966, loved Greenwich, and was very active in the community. She contributed a great deal to the ATA when it first formed in the 1970s and after its rebirth in 2007, leading communal gardening, writing for the newsletter and organising its distribution. She consistently advised the ATA to reach out to less-advantaged people, and in 2009, with Sara Emanuel, took the initiative in integrating the Ashburnham Grove hostel for people with learning difficulties into the Triangle community. The result was the gardening project there, which soon formed a strong bond and has continued successfully ever since.
Most of Audrey’s working years were spent as a teacher in Greenwich primary schools, including Morden Mount and Annandale. This fitted in with raising three children. Earlier she had been a librarian and a theatre wardrobe mistress. Outside work she had always had a strong interest in drama and theatre: she was a member of Soho Theatre Players and Playwrights from the 1950s onwards, and it was through theatre work that she met John, who became her husband, an actor whose work involved everything you can do in theatre. She took this interest in drama into her school-teaching, and many students remember her bringing the regular curriculum to life with acted presentations.
After Audrey retired when she was 60 she defined herself as a writer. The short stories and plays she then wrote evince her interest in the everyday life of local people, past and present – they are about real events in the area, like the foundation of a C19th library and an incident in a C20th supermarket. She brought them to vivid life with compelling characters and realistic dialogue. These are community plays both in their subject matter and in involving a wide range of local people of different ages and backgrounds – some professional actors, some who had never acted before. She put in crowd scenes expressly to include many actors.
Six of Audrey’s plays have been staged, including Reds at the Union Theatre in Southwark and Bacon Pudding and Velvet Cushions and Dead Secret in the Greenwich festivals of 1996 and 1998. Dead Secret, based on a local murder and trial in 1871, was reviewed in The Mercury as an ‘engrossing, provocative and physical theatrical experience’. There were prizes too: Bananas and Rainbows and Rosie’s Shoes each took Best Play in 2007 and 2008 at the Drama Association of Wales, and Neverland, about two fraudulent sisters in C18th Greenwich, came third in the 2005 Sussex Playwrights’ competition and appeared as one of Soho Theatre Player Playwrights’ best plays of 2005.
Another skill emerged when Audrey co-edited Stitches in Time: The Making of the Greenwich Millennium Embroideries published in 2010. Embroidered by local craftspeople, these cloth pictures depict Greenwich history. Audrey edited a catalogue and handbook for them with Mary-Ann Cattle. The printers of this successful book were amazed that Audrey had had no previous experience of editing, because she knew exactly what she wanted on every page. Her librarian’s training may have helped her. She also campaigned to make the embroideries publicly available, and they are now on permanent display at the Greenwich Heritage Centre in the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich.
Audrey showed a great interest in everyone around her. She listened to people and sketched them and made friends of all kinds up and down the streets and groups and shops of Greenwich and beyond. She was a volunteer teacher of children with learning difficulties at West Greenwich House for several years and chair of Greenwich Connexions, a local charity for teenagers which helps young carers. The Seventh Day Adventists gave her a community award in 2013. Members of her book group and of her art class were keen to hear her insightful views, pithily expressed.
Audrey could draw, paint, sew, design, garden, write, edit, teach, talk, chair committees, upholster furniture… But many of us had no idea that she could do all these things because she always talked to you about what you were interested in. You’d find out about her only by chance. This was part of her empathy with others but also reflected her keenness for new knowledge and experiences. It was in character that it was on a new experimental course for parents that she had taken her B.Ed. She was inquiring, energetic, feisty and fun, not in the least afraid of conflict and argument, ready to stand up for what she believed in, and a happy presence. Even in her last few difficult years of rapidly declining mobility, she never stopped being good company.
When she couldn’t garden at the hostel any more, she would still be there with the residents and gardeners, sketching them all. Her creativity made something out of everything. She had tremendous spirit and humour.
Audrey didn’t stop creating and learning in her last days. When she died she was midway through writing a play about Rachel MacMillan Teacher Training College, where she’d trained, and also midway through an advanced creative writing course at the Open University, as well as going regularly to a University of the Third Age art class and to her book group. She wrote a full page in her diary the day before she died.
The celebration of her life on 19th February at Eltham Crematorium and then at the Hare and Billet was overflowing with people. The exit music she chose for her funeral reflected her originality, her gaiety, and her interest in everyday folk life – it was children’s singing games.
Audrey will not be forgotten. Members of the Ashburnham Triangle Association who knew her will plant a tree in her memory. They send their sympathies to her husband, John, to her three daughters Kate, Sophie and Leonie, and to her grandchildren Seth and Rowan.
By Imogene Russell, Sara Emanuel, Janet Jenvy, Mary-Ann Cattle, Nick Carter, and Jane Dewit