The continuing story of the Deans Marsh Curtain…
In the 1990s, Deans Marsh was changing. The long-established local families were still doing what they do but now many new folk were moving into the area and there were few opportunities for long-term locals and newcomers to connect, to share the stories that help build and sustain a community. At the same time, the original Deans Marsh Hall Stage Curtains were acquired by the Museum of Victoria for their permanent collection; the curtains that were made and embroidered in the late 1940s by members of the local Country Women’s Association.
Now Deans Marsh needed new stage curtains, and Deans Marsh needed a way to unite its changing community.
One long-time local, Margaret Stewart, had also arrived in Deans Marsh in the late 1940s. Her mother-in-law, May Stewart, helped make those first curtains and fifty years later Margaret saw an opportunity and seized it. New stage curtains could be made with a panoramic design showing much of the story of Deans Marsh, its agricultural industries, its beautiful landscape, its wonderful flora and fauna. And the task of making the new curtains could help bring the long-established locals and the newcomers together.
Margaret lobbied the Surf Coast Shire arts officer Julie Dyer to help kick start the new project. Julie secured some state funding and brought on board one of Australia’s finest fabric artists, Jan Preston, and after 7,200 volunteer hours of stitching and sewing by close to 100 new and old Deans Marsh locals, a brilliant new set of curtains was made. And valuable new community bonds were built.
Now, almost 20 years on, another curtain project is underway. A large-scale photo mural of our splendid stage curtains will soon be mounted on the external wall of the Community Hall. This photo-mural is the first of many that, over the next 10 years, we are looking to place around the Deans Marsh Recreation Reserve as an open-air, walk-through photo album celebrating the Deans Marsh community and what we do now: tourism and accommodation, vineyards, olive groves, berry farms, Landcare, our part in the Otway Harvest and Arts Trails, our annual festival and dog trials, our sports teams, our local CFA, new local businesses, and of course, our music.
The beautiful photo-mural will be in place by March 16, so when you come to Deans Marsh, perhaps to our festival on March 25, take a moment to enjoy the story it tells: from a seed of an idea in 1939 to the beginnings now of a new decade of celebrating Deans Marsh.
For well over 100 years, so many people have volunteered their time and skills to help make our community life in Deans Marsh as good as it is. We celebrate every one of those volunteers. We owe our thanks to them all.
Read more of the story of the Deans Marsh Curtains on our Community Cottage website at deansmarsh.org.au.