A Life of Fun and Wonder

This page is our dedication to Chris Agnew, our co-founder, who sadly passed away on 3rd July 2012, aged 61.
The page contains information of her life, work and quotes from family, colleagues and friends. If you have anything you would like to add, please contact us.

Christine Ann Agnew

04/04/1951 – 03/07/2012

“She turned me into Mr. Sparkle, and I never looked back”

Chris leaves her husband Doug, five children – Anna, Dan, Jamie, Laurie and Kieran – and three grandchildren – Maisie, Molly and Gracie.

“The dynamic force that was Chris Agnew”

Professionally Chris was a triple threat – an artist, an organiser and a performer. She co-founded High Peak Community Arts, Bridgehead (Arts) Ltd. and Peak Performers. Bridgehead Arts enabled and enriched the creative lives of artists from all walks of life. She was a clown, worked with Manchester Hospitals Arts Project (now called LIME) and was a community education co-ordinator and an arts co-ordinator for Stockport Health Authority.

Chris discovered puppets because she had to. Having met a few members of The Manchester Hospital Arts Team back in 1975 she was invited to look around their base in St Mary’s Hospital. “Why not try puppets?” she said. “We could take them into the wards and everything”. Her great love was theatre, making stuff and art and puppets were the stuff to be made.

“I am indebted to Chris”

“Perhaps her greatest ‘arts and health’ achievement though lay in her developing and sustaining performance work with elderly patients in Burton House at Withington Hospital”. Langley Brown. To read Langley’s full dedication to Chris and her work please follow this link.

“Chris had the knack, not only of making you laugh until you almost wet yourself and your sides ached, but of making you do things you would never have dreamt of doing but, when you did, you’d enter a parallel universe where commitment and utter ridiculousness merged as a powerful source of inspiration and wonder at your own potential – if only to do those daft things you’d never have dreamt of doing”

“A rare mind-expander, a shaper of experience”

Chris’ last project was founding Funny Wonders with her husband Doug. Over the last decade and a half of her life, she developed and supported its artistic programme, which included youth-led projects, international links and co-founding the Buxton Puppet Festival with the British Puppet & Model Theatre Guild in 2003 and then presenting it with the Buxton Opera House from 2007 onvwards. She also co-ordinated funding applications and manoeuvred the direction of Funny Wonders towards sustainability and longevity. She was instrumental in developing the organisation particularly establishing the Buxton Puppet Festival, developing relationships with Japan and India and supporting our young people so that they can play a key role in planning and delivering puppetry and multi-media projects.

“Chris was always encouraging and responsive – there were no half measures”
“She gave me confidence as a teacher”

Chris believed that through the range of art-forms Funny Wonders employs, the relationships we develop and the ‘power of the puppet’, Funny Wonders has the potential to change people’s lives and become an organisation that will involve future generations. It will build a national and international reputation that has the participation of young people at its heart, whilst reaching out to people of all ages and abilities.

“Her stories were always enthralling and full of character”
“Chris was a fine puppeteer, both maker and manipulator”

“I suppose it is because, at heart, Chris was a comedienne that it seems so natural to write of her in a humorous vein. Her funeral service was full of music, laughter and puppets. She would observe when her children had been troublesome “the thing about puppets is you can hang them up when you’ve finished with them. Perhaps we need a cupboard for the boys”. Chris would animate anybody she met. She would animate any object she picked up. When an artist and performer get together there is no such thing as an inanimate object. The town is full of animated people who remember her with a smile.” Doug Agnew

We prepared a window display at the Green Man Gallery in July 2013 – the first anniversary of her passing – showing her work and puppets; photos of which can be seen below.