Children’s Champion Moves Centre Stage In Richmond
Thursday, Jun 18, 2015
A new play about the life of an extraordinary and inspiring woman who founded Save the Children- the world’s leading independent organisation for children - will be performed at The Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond on Friday 10 July at 7.30pm.
Eglantyne tells the story of human rights activist and social reformer Eglantyne Jebb. Not many people now recognise her name but this remarkable Edwardian woman’s vision of a better world for children still resonates powerfully today.
In 1919, a few shocking months after the armistice that ended the First World War, a 35-year-old woman started handing leaflets out in Trafalgar Square showing a shocking photograph of two emaciated children. Above it the headline ran: “Our Blockade caused this – millions of children are starving to death.”
Eglantyne Jebb was arrested and tried for her protest against the impact of Britain’s post-war blockade of Germany and Eastern Europe. At her trial she was found guilty, but the prosecuting counsel was so impressed with her that he offered to pay her £5 fine. It was the first donation to the charity that she went on to found, Save the Children.
Eglantyne comes to the UK following a critically acclaimed tour in New Zealand. “Eglantyne’s humanitarian concerns are still urgent concerns today,” says Anne Chamberlain, the show’s writer and solo performer.
Anne discovered Eglantyne Jebb while working in New Zealand on contract as a communications adviser for Save the Children. “The more I read about Eglantyne, the more I was drawn to her inspiring life and unconventional ways. I felt compelled to share her story by creating a piece of theatre. Although Eglantyne was from another century on the other side of the world, I felt oddly connected to her. She was a brave, modern thinker with a truly international view of the world.
“Eglantyne had tremendous energy and drive. As well as her big heroic moments, the play explores her struggles, vulnerabilities, disappointments and heartbreaks which seem to draw her closer to our lives, our frailties and our humanity.”
Jebb’s ambitions went even further than founding her charity and she told world leaders, “I believe we should claim certain rights for children and labour for their universal recognition.” The Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which Jebb wrote, was adopted by the League of Nations in 1924. Three decades later it inspired the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, now signed by almost every country in the world. Eglantyne Jebb may have been born almost 140 years ago but she was years ahead of her time.