The Audrey Thomas Memorial Prize 2019

This year, the Festival committee decided to instigate a new award in honour of one of the founding members of the Festival who sadly passed away last year.

Audrey Thomas and Bill Eggleton founded the Festival in 1989. She was the first secretary and was on the Festival committee for many years. More recently, Audrey was made a patron of the Festival, and to the end always attended and enjoyed the art work. She made a great contribution to local arts throughout her life.

The Audrey Thomas Memorial Prize for $1000 is aimed at residents in Franklin where Audrey did much to encourage the arts in the area. It is to be proudly sponsored by the Pukekohe Business Association.

About Audrey Thomas

Audrey Thomas (nee Edwards) was born in Auckland in 1926 but moved as a baby with her family to a farm on Shakespeare Road, Waiuku.  She attended Pukeoware School then the Waiuku District High School, excelling in her school work.  Her art work in particular was outstanding and regularly commented upon.

Once Audrey completed her education, she initially worked for Ozzie Henry in Bowen Street, Waiuku then as a Land Girl in the Patumahoe vegetable fields.  Her love of gardening stayed with her for the rest of her life. In 1945 she started her training as a nurse at Auckland Hospital, graduating as a RN with Honours in 1949.  In her role as President of the Student Nurses’ Association she fought hard for better conditions for nurses.  After graduation Audrey worked as a theatre nurse at Middlemore Hospital.

A few years later she married, they moved to Ruawai to farm and then children followed.   Sadly, her husband Richard died five years later. Audrey and her two children moved back to Auckland where she trained as a home science teacher.  She was an excellent cook and seamstress, using the artistic flair she had to create stunning elegant clothes.  The Howick Operatic Society benefitted from her skill as she designed and sewed all their performance costumes.

As her children grew and left home, she found more time to finally paint again.  And also, time to travel, spending several years in the States and Canada, drawing, painting and taking some art classes.  

Once back in NZ, Audrey initially settled in Thames.  She met many fellow artists and poured her energy into her painting, experimenting with different mediums.  Towards the end of 1987 she moved to Clarks Beach, feeling she had almost come full circle now living back in the Franklin District where she grew up.  She loved living by the sea, quickly made new friends, especially with artists, was a member of the committee to write an Art & Cultural Policy for Franklin District Council and Secretary of the Pukekohe Art Club.
 
She felt the artistic talent in Franklin needed to be showcased for all to see and looked for a way to do this. In 1989, as Franklin’s contribution to New Zealand’s 150-year anniversary celebrations she and Bill Eggleton arranged a one-off arts festival in Pukekohe.  It was so successful they continued to run it annually and 30 years later it is still running successfully.   Audrey was awarded the honour of being the Patroness of the Franklin Arts Festival Society and a life member.  She was very proud of this.