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News & Events > Alumnae News > Memorial Service for Christina Smith OBE (1951 Leaver)

Memorial Service for Christina Smith OBE (1951 Leaver)

A memorial service was held to celebrate the remarkable life of Christina Smith OBE (1951 Leaver) at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre.

A memorial service was held at Donmar Warehouse Theatre to celebrate the remarkable life of alum, Christina Smith OBE.  This was attended by many of her family and friends, including her sister Karen Shrubsole who was also at Calne, and Catherine Porteous (1952 leaver) who shared the following report : 

"I went yesterday to a memorial meeting for Christina Smith at the Donmar Warehouse near Covent Garden.   Apart from her sister Karen Shrubsole, who had come from the US with her son, I was the only person from St. Mary’s, and I listened with awe from those who came to pay tribute to her.

She was an entrepreneur (or should I say entrpreneuse?) like no other I have met, and must be one of the few people who made a fortune out of an act of benevolence rather than out of self-interest.    In the 1960’s there was a plan, when the market moved out of Covent Garden, to demolish almost everything in the area except the Opera House (and presumably the actors’ church” St. Paul’s) to drive a four lane highway through the area and put a walk-way above it for pedestrians.   Christina started to buy up the dirt-cheap ends of leases of property in the area as a weapon in the campaign to frustrate the development, and when the planners turned down the project, she made a fortune.   This she spent on promoting theatre, the arts, good architecture and indeed good eating.   She passionately believed in the power of all these things to enhance lives, and among other things decorated her Covent Garden restaurants with the work of young artists who needed support.   When she retired she had a wonderful party to sell them all, where we bought a pen and wash drawing by the young Maggie Hambling!    Among the photographs which were shown as a backdrop to the tributes, there was one of the cast of Romeo and Juliet, with Christina as Romeo and Elizabeth Allen as Juliet - and me as Mercutio as well.

Among the recipients of her amazing generosity were the Architectural Association, the Donmar Warehouse, the Trafalgar Studios (to the uninitiated, both pioneering theatres which have many well known actors among their performers) and a theatre for young people in Reading.   She also encouraged aspiring young chefs to work in her two restaurants.   Christina started with her travels to places few people visited in the 1960’s and 1970’s where she made contacts, and discovered every kind of object on which she based her two successful shops in Covent Garden.   One of them, called Goods and Chattels, was my great source of Christmas presents - quirky and original and not too pricey when cash was short.   I still have a beautiful pair of ornamental glasses - perfect for small posies of flowers - which she gave us for our Golden Wedding when she came to the party".

A copy of her obitiuary in The Times is included in this year's Calne Girls Connected Magazine - due out in a few weeks.


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