Illustration by katrinasophia.com
Rowena Cade was a bit of a badass in my eyes, and I only learn't about her last year after visiting the Minack theatre in Cornwall, whilst on a family holiday.
As you may know, I have a soft spot for any woman who has the ability to build something. Reading Rowena's story blew my mind, especially as I was able to stand in awe of her creation, right on the edge of a Cornish cliff face. So what did she do? or build I hear you say?!
Lets start at the beginning. Rowena discovered the Minack headland in Cornwall after the she and her mother moved to Cornwall following the first world war. She actually purchased the land for a mere 100 pounds. Now, she did what any good woman would do just after the first world war, she built a house for herself and her mother using granite from St.Levan. I know what you are thinking, that's some major brownie points right there. Well, if you think that is impressive just wait until you hear what she did next.
Throughout the 1920's her house and its garden provided the setting for many amateur theatre productions. To her credit, Rowena had another talent besides house building. She was a pretty talented costume and production set designer. After successful a few years, Rowena decided to build a simple stage and some seating on a cliff edge. With the help of two craftsmen who built the stage, after six months she had constructed the original outdoor theatre that would go onto rival an ancient coliseum. The first performance on the stage was in the summer of 1932. It was lit by batteries and car headlights.
As the productions became more and more popular, Rowena Cade at the age of thirty, was ready to expand on the theatre so she started to build what is now famously known as the Minack Theatre.
Over the years, Rowena Cade developed techniques for working with cement. Using the tip of a screwdriver she decorated surfaces with lettering and Celtic designs before they hardened.
What blow's my mind about Rowena is she fetched the sand from Porthcurno beach and carried huge beams from the shoreline up to the theatre, all on her own. She worked tirelessly into her mid eighties working on the theatre through some of the harshest winters, continuing with the heavy jobs. I don't think I will ever moan again about carrying a sledge hammer across site again! :).
Let's all just take a second to celebrate just how incredible this woman is!. I am truly inspired by her work. If you are ever in Cornwall, be sure to go and check out the theatre, you will not be disappointed.