“Let the Curtain Rise!”


The memorial to Frances Gair Wilkinson’s parents at Halsway Manor.


Halsway Manor’s status as the National Centre for Folk Arts started when Frances Gair Wilkinson  purchased the Manor  11thJune 1965. A full history can be found on Halsway Manor’s website.

Frances was an artist and came from an extremely creative and freethinking family. However, I am very interested in the family’s links to puppetry, as it seems a natural progression for my work.

Francis’ Uncle Walter built his own barrow which he took around the country to perform his shows entitled ‘the Peep Show’. He seems tireless in his resolve to master his art and his travels seem to be an act of love rather than necessity


Walter Wilkinson with his travelling puppet show


Walter wrote a series of eight books about his travelling puppet shows which can be found in Halsway’s library.

At the beginning of any project there can be periods of self-doubt, especially when the work is taking a different direction. Walter’s books generously share his own doubts together with his belief that he could master his art. I must say I found his advice to be quite inspiring and very well timed.

 All showmen should make their own figures. Like a picture, a puppet-show should be a work of art, dominated by one personality, organised into a harmonious production of form and colour by one definite style of thought.

                                                                              Walter Wilkinson

In the next post I will let you know how making my own figures is going.

4 thoughts on ““Let the Curtain Rise!””

  1. I’m not sure Frances Gair Wilknson was responsible for the founding of the Halsway Manor Society. Bill Rutter was the instigator of the project. The Halsway archives have the original advert for a “business opportunity” that was published the EFDSS magazine.


    1. Hi Graham,
      Thanks for your comment.
      As you can imagine there is a huge amount of information to take on board and I am sorry if I sometimes make mistakes. However, I took the information on Frances Gair Wilkinson and the Halsway Manor Society from her entry on the Halsway website which states that ‘without Francis Gair Wilkinson the Halsway Manor Society would never have come in to being’ but I am happy to tweek my blog to reference that.
      Thanks also for the information about the business opportunity published in the EFDSS magazine I will certainly take a look at it.
      Thanks again


      1. Yes, what is written is true. However, like all things it is a bit more nuanced than that. Basically she offered the Manor at a price that was difficult to refuse. Unfortunately it was not in very good condition. The surveyor before purchasing is reputed to have said that the building would not stand for another 5 years!!!


  2. Thanks for the information Graham. The surveyor’s comment made me laugh. I have mentioned the job advert you mentioned to Matt in the Library and will see if I can get a copy for the blog next time I am there.


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