Friday 5 April 7.30pm – Joyce, A Celebration.


The life, humour, monologues and songs of the much-loved Joyce Grenfell

writer, actress, singer, comedienne

Devised and presented by


FRIDAY APRIL 5TH 2019 at 7.30pm. Show ends 9.30pm.

Interval with refreshments

£15. Full-time students and under 18s £10.

Tickets via

or 01223 235090

Jane Bower first performed Joyce Grenfell’s work in 1981, two years after Joyce’s death. Over the years it evolved into a complete show, embraced a wider repertoire and was performed in varied venues including Kings College, London’s Hurlingham Club, Alston Hall and Higham Hall, as well as numerous churches, private houses, hotels and a tearoom. As Jane began to write and perform other solo shows, Joyce – A Celebration was put aside and was last performed ten years ago. Tonight’s is the first performance of a newly adapted show, but the aim remains the same. Jane emphasises that it has never been her intention to impersonate Joyce Grenfell’s delivery style, but rather to keep her work alive and to introduce it to those who may not know it.

Tonight’s performance is specifically to raise funds towards the mission of Downing Place United Reformed Church, formed from the union of Emmanuel and St. Columba’s United Reformed Churches. Jane is an elder of Downing Place URC and became a member of Emmanuel thirty years ago. She has performed all her plays in the church building and this is perhaps the last opportunity for a performance of this kind to be seen here before Emmanuel URC becomes an auditorium for Pembroke College.  

Jane is an almost-retired advisory teacher to primary schools, travelling throughout the UK to teach many aspects of expressive arts, and an associate lecturer in art and drama at Cambridge University’s Faculty of Education. She has also trained teachers in Dubai and Bangalore. Her first published writing consisted of two stories broadcast on BBC’s Play School, for which, by coincidence, the pianist was William Blezard, Joyce Grenfell’s accompanist for many years, though Jane was not to meet him until 1996.

Jane originates from Leeds, trained in Lancaster, and taught for some years near Lancaster and in the Lake District. She has sung in choral societies since the age of 15, and since 1991 with the Cambridge Philharmonic Society, where she met Andrew Black, a distinguished performer and accompanist for the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year competition, who recorded his piano accompaniment for this evening’s songs.

Her research has led her to correspond or meet with a number of Joyce Grenfell’s friends and associates, and to be allowed access to a collection of Grenfell’s letters and photographs. She is honoured to have a small mention in Janie Hampton’s biography Joyce Grenfell.

 Jane has devised and performed several presentations about the lives of remarkable individuals, among them Ruth Draper, Joyce Grenfell’s greatest influence. This led to the actress Maureen Lipman (who played Joyce Grenfell in Re:Joyce) commissioning Jane to write a play showing the influence of Draper on Grenfell. Maureen and Jane performed this play at the Stables Theatre, Milton Keynes in 2010. Joyce herself performed in this theatre and there is a portrait of her in the foyer.

Further details of Jane’s shows and talks can be found on

Joyce Grenfell is remembered for many things – her roles in the St. Trinian’s films, her acute powers of observation and wit in her unique monologues, and in later life her appearances on BBC’s Face the Music. But she is also remembered with great affection for her qualities of grace, wisdom and generosity, which shone from her both publicly and privately.

Joyce was born in 1910, the daughter of Nora and Paul Phipps and the niece of Nancy, Lady Astor. She always considered herself to be a Londoner, and enjoyed a privileged childhood and youth in Chelsea and at Cliveden, the Astors’ home. She met Reggie Grenfell at a weekend house party and married him at the age of nineteen. Her stage career began relatively late, in 1939, when she performed a monologue for friends and was heard by Herbert Farjeon, who invited her to perform it in his current revue. The second world war began shortly afterwards and Joyce spent it travelling huge distances overseas to perform to the troops, keeping a diary of all her experiences. She was also an avid letter writer, corresponding with an extraordinary number of people and often spending several hours a day doing so.

Her monologues and songs are a mixture of the hilarious and the poignant, giving glimpses into the lives of a wide variety of characters and revealing their vulnerabilities without any trace of cruelty. She loved music and had a wide knowledge of it, one of her passions being her annual visit to the Aldeburgh festival, and she and Reggie were also keen birdwatchers. She had a wide circle of friends and it was only after her death that the full extent of her philanthropy became apparent.

Joyce was a committed Christian Scientist and her letters and autobiographies reveal how vital her faith and philosophy were to her day to day living. When diagnosed with cancer of the eye she refused necessary medical treatment on the grounds of her beliefs. She died in November 1979, having been married to Reggie for almost fifty years.

By supporting this show you are enabling us to further the Downing Place mission in our city:

People, not buildings: Our vision for the future has people, not buildings, at its heart. The changes to the building simply make this work with people more effective.

A ‘community of communities’: We imagine the church as a hub, providing a variety of activities and services to meet the needs of a diverse range of people.

 Hospitality, flexibility, accessibility: The three underlying principles which sum up the impact of the changes to the building

 We are very grateful for your support.

We are an all-inclusive church welcoming everyone and welcoming questions.