Kelly House, her birthplace and home, featuring in Country House Rescue and broadcast this week.
It seems that the current owners and estate of Kelly are in a desperate plight (no doubt Ruth Watson's inspirational money-making projects will activate the usual positive turn around of family and estate-fortunes). I can't help thinking though that perhaps the family could do with their not-so-distant-ancestor to come to their aid. Or, maybe they should resort to emulating her own efforts to gain the support of the local community.
'Bradstone Pageant'. Click on the link for a picture of a scene from that pageant, Harvest Home 1820. Mary had founded the Kelly Dramatic Society (Kelly Players) and the Village Drama Society in Kelly, in 1919. Each year she wrote a religious play, at Ascension tide, developing its plot and characterisation around the personalities of local villagers. A stage was built in the tithe barn and gradually the dramas began to acquire a reputation for their directness and sincerity. The Kelly play soon became famous and Mary found herself much in demand from others looking for help and advice re forming their own communal drama groups. She was soon involved in writing and performing pageants at other villages and towns, including Launceston and further afield, at Selbourne. The Village Drama League became affiliated with the VDS in the thirties and by the beginning of the second world war over 600 groups had been inaugurated. That same year Mary wrote Village Theatre, soon to be an influential text in terms of its promotion of the impact of drama and village theatre in rural transformative renewal, which soon did a lot to counter the idea that inter-war British country-life was stagnant and in decline. It stated that 'When a wood is cut down, the seeds of innumerable plants, which have been lying in the shade, feel the sun and the air, and spring into life and flower; and in just such a way all kinds of social forces broke through to the surface after the devastation of the Great War' (page 127)
Mary Elfreda Kelly is remembered as one of the foremost figures of the between-war village drama movement.
Some of the information for this piece came from The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (free access for some library members)