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“Downton Meadows”: A Community Affair
Chris Kesner

In a labor of love, Carolina Meadows residents and Chapel Hill photographer Jack Benjamin worked for more than a year to capture the spirit of Downton Abbey in an innovative project we call Downton Meadows.  Using props and costumes gathered from residents, from UNC’s PlayMakers Repertory Company, and from local businesses, residents staged—and Jack Benjamin photographed—13 scenes inspired by the PBS TV show. Those photographs, striking in themselves, became a major benefit in our annual support drive for UNC-TV during its spring fund-raiser.

British-theme events on our campus this spring included a dinner acknowledging those residents and staff who volunteered as cast members, a special community-wide dinner to celebrate the opening exhibit of the photographs, and—just for the ladies—a high tea.  Other special programs continued the theme: a documentary film on the history of English servant life, showings of several feature films, lectures on period events as reflected in the episodes of Downton Abbey, and British travelogues.  

Here’s a sample of what we’re hearing from residents:  

The entire DM project has been (and continues to be) such fun in so many ways…. What started out as an idea has blossomed into one event after another and has provided so much pleasure for so many people here at Carolina Meadows.  So thank you a million times for having the imagination, the energy, the creativity, and the foresight to bring Downton Meadows to life.  It’s been great!  

This is a loud, boisterous fan letter to what you have accomplished – to the joy and fun of our entire community.  I try to imagine all the hours put into it, the planning and the execution – Details galore, and all done with such style and imagination. …It was such fun for everyone!  

I’ve been associated with Carolina Meadows for a good long time and I cannot think of an event that has given me more satisfaction than the Downton Meadows project.  

Just wanted to thank you all for doing such a great job organizing and carrying out this entire mission. When Susan spoke to me about her idea I had no idea it would grow ‘legs’ and eventually sprout ‘wings’. What a combination.  

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