Greta and Henry Fowler

Greta Fowler, MBE, CD
Greta & Henry FowlerOn the passing of Mrs Greta Fowler, M.B.E. in Paris on November 30, 1978, Michael Manley, the then Prime Minister of Jamaica gave the following tribute to the "doyenne of the art where all the arts meet":

"The word "theatre" in Jamaica has, for more than a generation been synonymous with the Fowlers. And in the early days of the forties, Greta Bourke as she was then, wrought many a miracle, when plays were mounted without benefit of budgets, without recourse to training courses for potential actors and with no source of fees for those who may have made claim to being professional. But with enormous imagination, fantastic resourcefulness and total commitment to the theatre, the show always went on.

There is no record of the number of Jamaicans who owe their start on the boards to the encouragement of Greta Fowler. By her sheer enthusiasm and determination she laid the solid foundations which are now the basis of a vibrant Jamaican theatre which is so evident everywhere today.

Before Independence she was made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, and the Institute of Jamaica awarded the Gold Musgrave Medal to the Little Theatre Movement the organisation which she founded alongside her husband in 1976. She received the Order of Distinction (Commander Class) for her contribution in the field of the Arts.

Apart from a natural and genuine love of the theatre, Greta Fowler recognised the enormous potential which it had as an important unifying social force and the annual pantomimes over the years have drawn some major sociological conclusions which have been all the more effective because they have been clothed in the guise of wit and humour, with rich use of our dialect and riotous song and dance.

She understood, deeply that many of the social problems in the country could be diffused by presenting them in a different perspective. For all these reasons, I feel that Greta Fowler was a towering figure in the national life of Jamaica. She merely used the theatre as her medium."

A Thanksgiving Service for the life of Mrs. Greta Fowler was held at the Little Theatre on Wednesday December 20, 1978. The remembrance was given by Rex Nettleford. Her ashes were interred on the theatre grounds, beneath the Edna Manley sculpture "The Serpent".

Henry Fowler
Mr. Henry Fowler, O.D., M.A., died in Oxford, England, on February 14, 2007

Henry Fowler, grew up in colonial times, when the Jamaican identity was associated with a culture rooted in a distant land. Even though, as a Rhodes Scholar, he was educated in “Mother England,” he set his sights on helping to build a new Jamaica, according to the vision of Norman Washington Manley who was to become one of the iconic figures of Jamaica’s quest for nationhood and who Fowler greatly admired.

After studies in England, Fowler returned to his native land and plunged into the social revolution which was being born. Self-government was the immediate goal and he took on the role of Editor of the newspaper, Public Opinion, a vehicle for discourse on what the future held. He became part of a band of social activists/idealists who began to lay the groundwork for the “new Jamaica.” Along with journalism, he also embraced the cause of education, founding the Priory School, which came to be widely regarded as an institution for the elite. However, along with Knox College in Manchester and Excelsior College in Kingston, it was part of a new ethos, challenging the old definitions of education and setting new boundaries for the young.

Besides assuming the role of headmaster of Priory, over succeeding years, he expanded his involvement in the quest for an education system relevant to the hopes and aspirations of a new generation. Among various appointments, he served as advisor on education to successive Jamaican governments and also represented the nation as Ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), helping to place this country on its agenda through his interest and influence in education and the arts.

Henry Fowler had a deep passion for the arts, the theatre in particular. Perhaps his most noted monument is the establishment of the Little Theatre Movement (LTM), which he co-founded in the 1940’s along with his first wife, Greta Bourke Fowler. The LTM and the Little Theatre which it built, have remained beacons in Jamaican and Caribbean theatre for over six decades now.

Under LTM auspices also, the Fowlers established the Jamaica Theatre School in the 1970’s and later handed it over to the Government. It was renamed the School of Drama and became a component of the Cultural Training Centre, now the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts.

Henry Fowler also led the establishment of the Ward Theatre Foundation in response to the urgent need to save the landmark building and preserve its heritage as a part of Kingston’s cultural history. To the end of his life, he retained his interest in the LTM and the Ward and continued to be passionate in his advocacy for the maintenance of these symbols of national creativity.

A Rememberance to Henry Fowler was held at the Little Theatre on Monday March 26, 2007. It included tributes from his family, his second wife Beryl Chitty-Fowler, friends and the performing arts community.


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