Australia's 100th Birthday Gift for Mary Poppins to Make Up for 50 Year-Old New York Snub

Share Article

The Australian country town, Bowral, where the events took place 100 years ago this week that sparked the creation of the famous fictional character Mary Poppins has released plans to build a statue that was originally proposed for New York's Central Park almost 50 years ago. Mary Poppins fans worldwide are invited to help choose the final design based on the original sketch agreed between author P.L. Travers and the then New York Parks Commissioner Thomas PF Hoving for a project that was announced in 1966 but never went ahead.

Shortlisted Maquettes for Mary Poppins Statue in Bowral Australia

An Australian country town has annnounced plans to build Mary Poppins the statue that New York promised her, but never did.

An Australian country town has annnounced plans to build Mary Poppins the statue that New York promised her, but never did.

Bowral in the Australian state of New South Wales where the events took place 100 years ago that sparked the creation of the famous fictional nanny Mary Poppins has released plans to celebrate the centenary of the character’s “birth” by building a life-size bronze statue that was first proposed for New York almost 50 years ago.

The Southern Highlands Youth Arts Council (SHYAC), based in the town of Bowral NSW, has released the three shortlisted designs, chosen from 11 submissions.

SHYAC is inviting Mary Poppins fans in Australia and all over the world to help select the final design and support the campaign to build a statue in Bowral and perhaps another one for New York, the location where it was originally proposed by the author PL Travers herself.

The proposed location for the statue in Bowral is at Glebe Park adjacent to the Bradman Oval and Bradman Museum. This is a park that the author PL Travers and her sisters as girls would have played during the decade the family lived in Bowral from 1907-1917. It is only a block away from their Holly Street home and although already a playground, was officially opened as a park in a civic ceremony a year or so after they came live there. The future legend of Australian sport Don Bradman lived only a few houses away during that time and was about the same age as the author’s youngest sister.

The three shortlisted statue designs can be seen in maquette form at either http://www.shyac.org.au or http://www.mary-poppins-birthplace.net

A blind selection process is being used whereby the artists are not identified during the assessment stage. The public are invited to complete a short survey indicating their design preferences and offering comments that will be taken into account by the independent assessment panel making recommendations to SHYAC.

The design brief for the sculpture commission requested that artists use for inspiration some rough sketches by distinguished British sculptor Sean Crampton that were done in 1966 at the request of PL Travers for a statue in New York’s Central Park.

Crampton was a President of the Royal Society of British Sculptors (1966-71) and PL Travers approached him to do the sketches prior to a trip she was making to the United States. Travers herself apparently modelled for him and though the sketches were hasty and rough by Crampton’s high standards, they nevertheless satisfied the author.

Sean Crampton died on 16 July 1999 in Calne Wiltshire UK. His widow and family have given permission for his concept sketches to be used for the Bowral statue and they are thrilled at the prospect of the project finally being undertaken after all these years.

Travers corresponded during 1966 with the then New Yorks Parks Commissioner Thomas P F Hoving, a dynamic imaginative young adminstrator at the time. In 1967 Hoving was to move on from Parks Commissioner to become a celebrated and revolutionary director of the New York Metropolitan Museum over the following decade, eventually changing the ways major museums and galleries are managed and marketed around the world. Hoving was enthusiastic about the Mary Poppins statue proposal and held a press conference to announce that Mary Poppins would join the Alice in Wonderland and Hans Christian Andersen sculptures in the Conservatory Lake area of Central Park and he invited public donations. But a strident editorial from the influential New York Times soon after the announcement that criticised the proposal and the lack of a policy in Central Park to manage donations of statues, effectively rendered the idea stillborn. Pledges of $4,500 were reportedly received toward the $10,000 cost of the statue, including $2,000 from PL Travers herself.

Hoving died on 11 November 2009.

With the consent of Crampton’s family and with the benefit of having one of Crampton’s former apprentices and colleagues on the assessment panel, SHYAC has sought to have his design refined in the way Crampton himself might have done, if he had more time to do so in 1966.

SHYAC intends to gather the public feedback and provide it to the assessment panel so popular opinion can be factored into the recommendations. The announcement of the preferred statue design will be made on 9th August to coincide with the 111th anniversary of the birth of PL Travers.

Pamela Lyndon Travers was born Helen Lyndon Goff in Maryborough Queensland in 1899. Her family moved from there when she was three to another Queensland country town, Allora. Following the death of her father and breadwinner, the mother and three daughters were put up in a rented cottage in Holly Street Bowral from 1907-1917. The cottage’s rent was paid for by a wealthy aunt who was most likely the prototype for Mary Poppins. It was a dramatic episode in Bowral when Lyndon Goff was aged about 11, perhaps a little younger, that she identified later in life as the genesis of the Mary Poppins character. The appearance of the Mary Poppins character in these Bowral years, initially taking the form of a magical flying horse that Travers said came up through the earth emerging as the famous nanny, was also recalled by her younger sisters. While it is not possible to be certain, research suggests that 18-20 July 1910 is a highly probable date for this episode based on analysing rainfall records for the period.

As well as the statue project, SHYAC will further celebrate the Mary Poppins centenary year in Bowral by hosting a sing-a-long version of the Mary Poppins Disney movie on Sunday 25 July at the Empire Cinema, where SHYAC’s new regional youth choir project will be launched. On Saturday 24 July a youth drama showcase will be staged at the Mittagong Playhouse (as a teenager and young adult, Lyndon Goff yearned to be an actress and Pamela Lyndon Travers was in fact her stage name, prior to her using it for journalism and writing). Other projects are also to be announced.

The centenary of Mary Poppins "birth" in Bowral also coincides this month with the Australian opening on 29 July in Melbourne of the smash-hit Mary Poppins stage musical, produced by Disney & Cameron Mackintosh.

More information about Bowral’s connection to Mary Poppins can be found at http://www.mary-poppins-birthplace.net a website sponsored by BibliOZ The Book Search Wizard as part of Australia's first booktown project.

More information about the Southern Highlands Youth Arts Council can be found at http://www.shyac.org.au.

For interviews or further background contact

Paul McShane
Vice President / Director Production & Outreach Development
Southern Highlands Youth Arts Council Inc

Phone: 0408 659896 or international +61 408659896

###

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Visit website