The many faces of Gilly Stewart - a great friend of the library

Saturday 31st October 2015 10:30 am

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FOR the past three years the Friends of Farnham Library has presented popular educational workshops for children during school holidays.

These have historical themes such as the Vikings, Long Ago Pirates or the Story of Chocolate, where the children enjoy a film show on how people lived in the past, enjoy a craft session where they perhaps decorate a sword and shield, listen to a story and pretend to row a Viking longboat and jump the oars, walk a pirate plank and enjoy a tug of war, or join in an Aztec dance.

At the heart of these workshops is Gilly Stewart, artistic co-ordinator of the Friends of Farnham Library and a mainstay of the group for many years.

“Gilly has enriched the lives of so many children over the years, who have benefited enormously from her artistic and dramatic talent, her enthusiasm and sense of fun,” said Claire East, chairman of the Friends.

“She has a wonderful rapport with children and they are always eager to see her.”

Gilly is of Scottish and Flemish descent and trained in dance, drama and art, first at a Rudolf Steiner School in Derbyshire and later the Hanover School of Music, specialising in lieder and opera. She also taught singing at a music school in Holzminden, Germany.

Gilly is a familiar, colourful character, often to be seen in Farnham dressed in wonderfully unique costumes which she designs herself. Some of the backdrops for the library workshops are painted by her.

“I am so happy when I have a paintbrush in my hand”, she said. “I really enjoyed running the popular art club at the Bourne School for five years.”

She has a daughter and two grandsons aged 12 and eight living in Germany who are also artistically talented. When she visits them, she paints with them and there is always glitter, tissue and cardboard covering the kitchen table for creative fun.

It was her grandchildren who inspired the imaginative stories which she writes for the workshops.

“It’s wonderful to see the faces of the children when I am storytelling, and often the parents love them just as much,” she added.

Other achievements include producing a concert at the Princes Hall, Aldershot, to save the Cambridge Hospital introduced by Jim Davidson, producing a Concert for Life at Farnham Castle hosted by TV presenter Pam Rhodes, and many charity concerts in Germany and England.

Gilly’s workshops have been performed in several schools and her characters are numerous including the Viking Odin, Egyptian Queen Kiya, Chief Sitting Bull, the Aztec King Quetsacoatl, the storytellers Granny Goldilocks and Sir Topham Hat, the pirate Dick Dead Eye, King Arthur, the Snow Queen and Father Christmas.

Gilly is currently working on a Celtic workshop for a future library event, which promises to be both informative and great fun.

When asked what she loves most about her creative journey with the children, she said: “Working and teaching the children and the warm affection I receive in return. I also learn a great deal from them too.

“I am still in touch with many of them from 15 years ago and I have cherished every single moment that we have shared together.”


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