|Mary Poppins Comes Home|
The small town of Bowral in the southern highlands of NSW has planned a supercalifragilisticexpialadocious tribute to Mary Poppins – the world’s most famous nanny and one of fiction’s most loved characters. She will be welcomed home by the Southern Highlands to her Bowral birthplace in world record breaking style in May 2011.
In two event attempts already registered with Guinness World Records, more than one thousand people holding up umbrellas will form a gigantic image of the character that organisers will use as the focus of a local and worldwide fundraising campaign to build a life-size bronze statue of Mary Poppins.
The first record attempt will take place at 1pm on Saturday 7 May 2011, the day before Mothers’ Day, at Bradman Oval in Bowral. The oval and the adjacent Glebe Park, which has been nominated as the location of the statue, is only a block from where PL Travers and her young sisters lived and was a popular playground for children in the early 1900s.
Two records will be attempted - both involving umbrellas. The
Biographical research on the life of PL Travers, who was born Helen Lyndon Goff in Maryborough Queensland in 1899, strongly suggests that it was during the decade she lived in Bowral as a child and teenager from 1908-1917 that the Mary Poppins character first took shape in her mind while telling stories to her younger sisters.
A special guest participant at the “Welcome Home Mary Poppins” event in May will be Patricia Feltham, a longtime friend of PL Travers, who will be visiting from the UK. It was during a conversation with PL Travers in the early 1990s before Patricia Feltham travelled to Bowral to visit her sister that she first learnt of the author’s Australian background. Patricia worked with the late John Simon, archivist at the Berrima District Historical Society, to identify the house in Holly Street where the author’s family lived.
At the announcement of the Guinness World Record Attempt, the State MP and Shadow Minister for Community Services and Women Pru Goward expressed her delight at being part of the campaign to recognise the region’s connection with one of the most loved characters in childrens literature and popular culture.
“Too often communities forget the achievements of those who make up our cultural and intellectual history, especially in Australia where we have so many sporting heroes.”
“PL Travers was an extraordinary woman who from humble beginnings as a storyteller to her sisters here in Bowral around 1910 had the courage to follow her dreams of being a stage actress and author, travelling alone to England and Ireland in the 1920s and achieving worldwide literary success.”
“It is an inspiring tale in its own right and Bowral and the Southern Highlands should finally commemorate its link to the author’s life and that of her most famous character in a significant way” said Ms Goward.
The Southern Highlands Youth Arts Council is the event organiser and has formed a sub-committee under the chairmanship of Terry Oakes-Ash.
“We are inviting the whole community to be part of this Guinness World Record event and want to see representatives involved from all the local schools, clubs, associations and businesses,” he said.
“Club Bowral has already donated funds to help ensure we can manufacture the first of a series of limited edition bronze statue maquettes.”
“We are inviting sponsorship and challenge donations towards the statue from individuals and businesses to help encourage the community to break this record,” said Mr Oakes-Ash.
Melissa McShane and her father Paul are also represented on the SHYAC committee. It was Melissa’s suggestion for a Mary Poppins statue as part of a 2004 youth civic design competition when she was 12 years old that has led to additional research by the father-daughter team, building on the 1999 biography of PL Travers written by Valerie Lawson.
Paul McShane is SHYAC’s Vice President and proposed the novel world record attempt last year after making enquiries with the Guiness World Records organisation in London.
“Here is an opportunity for ordinary members of our community to be part of a world record-breaking team. Where else will grandparents and parents have a chance to join their grandchildren and children in becoming world record holders?” said Mr McShane.
“Under the conditions given to us by Guinness World Records, we have to hold the formation with umbrellas up for ten minutes. Fortunately for this event we are all carrying our own wet weather plan with us so we don’t expect that to be a problem” he concluded.
The current record for the largest umbrella mosaic consisted of 1,026 people holding umbrellas in an event organized by Mlekara (Serbia) in Subotica, Serbia on Oct 9th 2009.
The “Welcome Home Mary Poppins” event is taking place in the same week that the box-office smash hit Mary Poppins stage show, produced by Cameron Mackintosh and Disney, officially opens its NSW season at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre. The stage show has been a phenomenal success worldwide with almost 7 million people having seen it and has recharged the Mary Poppins character with a new popularity to a new generation.
Tourism Southern Highlands and McDonalds Mittagong are sponsoring an outdoor cinema screening of Disney’s classic 1964 movie Mary Poppins and fireworks show to follow the Guinness World Record attempt to cap off the community celebration.
Executive Director of the Bradman Foundation Rina Hore said the proposed location of the Mary Poppins statue next to the Bradman Museum and new International Cricket Hall of Fame would complement those attractions and give families as a whole extra incentive to visit the area.
“The fact that Don Bradman and PL Travers apparently lived at opposite ends of the same street at the same time is an amazing coincidence. Both were born in other towns but had left them by the age of three. Bowral became their home in both cases due to some adversity in their family. And both began their journey to greatness here in this town, via sport in one case and storytelling in the other. Both found the peak of their careers in the 1930s.
“The fact that the same sculptor who did the Bradman statue in the museum courtyard has been chosen to do the Mary Poppins statue and in a sense reunite them again 100 years later in bronze is also a nice coincidence. I think it will be a very popular attraction for visitors to the Southern Highlands,” said Ms Hore.
SHYAC President Allen Cupitt paid credit to all those who have been part of the Mary Poppins campaign to date including the sculptor selection panel headed up by Bradman Foundation Chairman Michael Ball.
“SHYAC will be releasing the final statue design by Tanya Bartlett in the coming weeks as well as more details of the Welcome Home Mary Poppins event and how you and your organisation can be part of it. A local and worldwide fundraising campaign will also be announced” said Mr Cupitt.
“You can register yourself, your family, your school, playgroup or organisation to be part of the Welcome Home Mary Poppins event by going to the SHYAC website at www.shyac.org.au or phoning SHYAC on 4801 0622” he said.
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