Overview of Give it up for Margaret
1 – 31 May 2014 | www.giveitupformargaret.com

Who was Margaret Lawrence?

Born on 2nd May 1914 in Colac in Victoria’s western district, Margaret Lawrence was a woman with diverse talents, wide interests and a keen intellect. After receiving a scholarship to attend Melbourne’s Presbyterian Ladies’ College, she later attended the University of Melbourne where she graduated with a Master of Arts from the School of History and Philosophy. During the Second World War she worked in intelligence for the government and, post-war, lived and worked in New York as a journalist.

After the death of her father in the mid-1950s, Margaret returned to Australia to manage the family inheritance, which had amassed through Blue Ark, a successful importing and exporting business dealing in ‘flavours and fragrances’ that Margaret’s grandfather, Alfred, established in 1882. From Australia, Margaret continued to travel widely and often.

The 1970s saw her turn her prodigious knowledge of many subjects to becoming the reigning queen of the TV show Quizmaster, a quest that gained her some public notoriety. She was an avid Carlton Football Club fan who rarely missed a game and, in later life, she became an art lover who amassed one of Australia’s most extensive collections of Australian studio ceramics.

Margaret was also a significant arts philanthropist. The Margaret Lawrence Bequest, one of Australia’s first Prescribed Private Funds, was set up a few years before her death in 2004. It continues to support many projects for the advancement of women, education and the arts, with beneficiaries including the VCA Margaret Lawrence Gallery, Somebody’s Daughter Theatre Company, and Shepparton Art Museum.

You can read Margaret’s full biography here.

What was Give It Up For Margaret – a month of philanthropic inspiration?

Give it up for Margaret was a month-long festival of events that had two broad aims: firstly, to celebrate the life of Margaret Lawrence and, secondly, to open up a discussion around innovative philanthropy, particularly as it pertains to the art sector.

Celebrating Margaret

Margaret Lawrence was a private person and consequently many people – including beneficiaries of her trust – have not heard of her. One of the objectives of the festival was to increase Margaret Lawrence’s profile in Australian public life. The centenary of her birth in 2014 offered a perfect occasion to celebrate her life and her great philanthropic efforts.

Outcomes of the festival dedicated to this aim included:

  • publishing about Margaret’s life and work, including this web archive;
  • The Margaret Lawrence Oration at Myer’s Mural Hall, an evening featuring performances by beneficiaries of Margaret’s philanthropy and a keynote by Barry Jones – Margaret’s great rival in the Quizmaster stakes (sadly, they never got to have a show-down).
  • Margaret at the movies, a presentation of movies on Federation Square’s Big Screen made by beneficiaries of Margaret’s philanthropy.

In line with Margaret’s great love of the form, the festival also had an exciting focus on ceramics:

  • key works from Margaret’s collection were exhibited in Terra firma: The inquisitive collector at Chapter House Lane gallery;
  • the work of contemporary ceramic artists was explored in Assembly: Contemporary ceramics at the Victorian College of the Arts’ Margaret Lawrence Gallery;
  • the festival celebrated the 2014 Shepparton Art Museum’s Indigenous Ceramic Art Award;
  • the National Gallery of Victoria hosted the panel Free form or fine form exploring different practices in contemporary ceramics; and
  • the festival provided a catalyst for conservation work on Margaret Lawrence’s collection of studio ceramics, held by the Victorian College of the Arts.  

Inspiring innovative philanthropy

Rather than place the focus solely on Margaret and her bequest, the festival also aimed to open up a public discussion around arts philanthropy with the aim of inspiring more giving – whether that gift be $5 or $5-million. Events throughout the festival surveyed the past, present and desired future of arts philanthropy, placing particular focus on innovations in the field.

Outcomes against this aim included:

The research findings written by Phip Murray (Festival Curator) can be read here.

What is this site?

This site is an archive of the events held over May 2014 for Give It Up For Margaret – a month of philanthropic inspiration. Here, you will find video documentation of events and publication of research findings from the Provocations for the Future of Philanthropy discussion evenings. The program page provides easy access to the different events.

Give It Up for Margaret Festival Team

Festival Director _ Tristan Meecham

Festival Curator – Phip Murray

Festival Producer – Bec Reid