The Lady Diamantina Bowen Tour Review by Catherine Lawrence

One of the many great things about the Anywhere Festival is that performances activate—literally bring to life, reinvigorate or reinterpret—interesting spaces around Brisbane. The Lady Diamantina Bowen Tour is a fascinating opportunity to learn more about the influence of Lady Diamantina Bowen (the wife of the first Governor of Queensland), and to reflect on the establishment of the early colony and many of the places at the heart of the Brisbane CBD. An added bonus is that participants in the Tour have the opportunity to take a short stroll around Old Government House, prior to a walk (and short waltz) through the two-storey building which culminates in a very pleasant conversation over tea and cake. A charming way to spend a few hours, and a chance to reflect on the challenges of life in mid-nineteenth century Brisbane.

Bringing influential Brisbane women to the forefront appears to be a passion for the multi-talented Natalie Cowling, who variously describes herself as “heritage enthusiast, actor, tango dancer, trumpet player, jazz singer, poet, presenter … storyteller [and] bowerbird”. During the 2018 Anywhere Festival, Nathalie told the story of Rosa Praed, and many other influential Brisbane women, in the successful walking tour/promenade performance of HerStory.

For the 2019 Festival, Nathalie conducted her own detailed research on the life and times of Lady Diamantina Bowen (and her contemporaries). The tour touches on the family background of Lady Diamantina de Roma, on the challenges of life in Brisbane, the work to establish early society life, and even on the impact of Queen Victoria on the family life of the Bowen household. The audience is encouraged to interact with the performance, and to reflect on the impact that the Lady Bowen had during her eight years in Brisbane (1859-1868)—including her work in areas of education and health.

Picture: Lady Diamantina Bowen (Natalie Cowling). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

At the end of the tour, we all sat down with Nathalie/Lady Bowen and had the chance to ask a few more questions about what we had learned, and the process of her researches and development of this one-woman production. And then left the building with a renewed interest in some of the people who established what is now the Brisbane ‘world city,’ and a better understanding of the important role played by the people who established what is now Old Government House.

Mother’s Day is just around the corner. This production would make an ideal gift for family members (of any gender), and for Brisbane residents and visitors. And if you are unable to make it this weekend, the tours continue throughout the Anywhere Festival (9:30am and 1:30pm performances on Thursdays and Sundays in May) and also during June.  One to look out for and excellent value at only $25 per person (including tea or coffee—and cake).

Verdict: A perfect gift—for Mother’s Day, family, visitors…or to yourself!

Picture: Tea and cake for some of our group at the The Lady Diamantina Bowen Tour (Natalie Cowling). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Audience tip: Tickets for The Lady Diamantina Bowen Tour are available at the Anywhere Festival website. The tour includes a gentle stroll around and inside the building, and stairs up to the second floor (so be prepared to be on your feet for an hour before your seated conversation over tea and cake). Old Government House is opposite the QUT Theatre, and the meeting point for the tour is by the Lady Bowen Statue (on the side of the House facing the Brisbane River—they may soon have an Anywhere Festival Banner to add to the existing signs).

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

The reviewer attended the Thursday 9 May 2019 performance (1:30pm), Old Government House, Gardens Point, Brisbane.

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.