History and present day combine to create The Garden Party of the Year

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History and present day combine to create The Garden Party of the Year

December 9, 2019

The rain held off. The bunting flapped firmly. And the crowds came – 1,000 people throughout the day – to enjoy the Garden Party of the year, a celebration fitting for 150 years of support and care for older Victorians.

From the intimate morning formalities with residents, life governors, descendants, staff and volunteers through to the sold-out house tours, Art on the Verandah showcases, packed houses for the Margret RoadKnight concert and the Twenty Shillings in a Pound play written by resident John Grigg and performed by residents, there was literally something for everyone to enjoy, muse at, or take time to learn more.

Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Elder Uncle Dave Wandin delivered a heartfelt Welcome to Country, referring to his growing up near to Rushall Park, his love of gardening, the importance of listening to the land while reminding everyone that we all came from Mother Earth.

The Garden Party was formally opened by Minister for Planning, Housing and Multicultural Affairs the Hon Richard Wynne with Federal MP for Melbourne the Hon Adam Bandt in attendance. The formalities were emceed by John McCullough, partner of a descendant of OCAV founder – George Selth Coppin.

Phillip Wohlers, CEO of OCAV, said: “We wanted to show how our history continues to drive the Association today and into the future.”

“We achieved this through the efforts of a tireless organising committee who dreamed up many different creative ways to celebrate the foundations of philanthropy, art and drama, gardening, and tours of some of the early homes.”

Injected into the mix were pop up performances by Tess Hannah, the great-great-great granddaughter of George Coppin who is making a strong impression on Melbourne’s music scene; Eloise Juno, a former resident brought back to life by resident actor Lois Collinder, and Billy Barlow, the main character in a folk song frequently played by George Coppin but this time by John McCullough.

“It was a day filled with surprises, a lot of laughter and joy,” OCAV President Kevin Neville said.

“We did our founders proud, and we set the bar high for the next 150 years.”

A highlight for many visitors was taking the self-guided tour through the gardens, both communal and private, resplendent with roses, blossoming trees, and diverse flowers and plants.

“It was a joy to walk at our own pace, following a trail which interesting information. The program was absolutely correct, this village has soul and a little magic,” said one visitor. The trail was offset by five evolution boxes, each displaying a period-in-time throughout the history of the Rushall Gardens.

“We wanted to transport visitors back to each era and give them insight into what it was like to be living here and how the gardens have changed over the years,” head gardener Marika Pedrioli said.

Other visitors enjoyed finding verandahs where art boxes had been placed before making their way to the SEK Hulme Community Centre to buy original art work by residents. The concept of Art on the Verandahs was developed by resident artist Lou Anderson.

“The Australian impressionists such as Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton painted on the lids of used cigar boxes. Residents have taken this idea and used wooden boxes of many shapes and sizes as a base for expressing their feelings, ideas, images and memorabilia with the theme of home,” Lou Anderson said.

"There is nothing I would change that would make my life any better. I have two loving sons and family and I thank God every day that OCAV took me in when I had nothing," said Jill Dale, Braeside Park resident.

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