Person - Chris Kempster

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Chris Kempster performed in the original 1953 production of Reedy River joining NT soon after. With the Bushwhackers he appeared in Cecil Holmes’ 1957 film Three In One, sang with the Coolibah Singers in 1958, performed in Contact shows in 1961 with Silvia Salisbury, was in a NT folksinging concert in 1964, contributed to On Stage Vietnam in 1967 and performed in the Fifty Not Out tribute to Miriam Hampson in 1982. He formed his own group the Rambleers (a founding member was Mark McManus). Chris took his guitar with him everywhere.

In 2002 Chris wrote of his involvement in Reedy River:

“New Theatre was branded, right or wrong, as a hot bed of Reds, and despite Reedy River being about the most successful amateur production of the time and breaking the record for the longest playing amateur show - continuous for nearly a year - only one brave reporter gave a very scant review of the play in the Press. The success was 'underground'. For months before opening, 'Reedy River is coming', appeared in chalk and paint, rivalling the 'Eternity' signs. People learnt the songs and came repeatedly to sing them. A woman wrote in to say she'd been twelve times and brought her dog to ten - we wondered if it sang too. We toured to far off places, there was a reception or two and there were Sunday afternoon parties that we'd travel to all herded into an open backed truck. It became a sub-culture for us and the original Reedy River Songbook featured our photographs. But New Theatre itself suffered as the play tied up just a few of its actors, leaving the bulk with no parts to play.”

Chris was born an asthmatic at Bellingen on 24 August 1933. His father was a headmaster, his mother Madeline an anti-war activist. Chris joined the CPA and the Eureka Youth League. A work by Madeline Kempster was read at NT in 1975.

Chris Kempster died at Katoomba on 24 January 2004. His obituary was published in the Australian on 25 February 2004 (page 14). A tribute concert was held at NT in May 2004.

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