THE woman who transformed the old Washington theatre on Stanwell Road and in the process gave budding artists a chance at success has died.

Maggie Knight reopened Penarth’s old Washington cinema as a gallery in 1994 alongside her husband Prof Stephen Knight, running a vast array of exhibitions and events until her return to Australia in 2012.

Penarth Times: The Washington in PenarthThe Washington in Penarth (Image: Google Maps)

Maggie Knight obituary by Dan Llywelyn Hall and Prof. Stephen Knight

One of the most influential torch-bearers from the Welsh art scene has passed.

Maggie Knight opened Penarth’s Washington Gallery in 1994 alongside her husband Prof Stephen Knight cultivating a whole generation of young artists.

It was clear that the dynamic duo of Maggie Knight and Maxine Paris nurtured a vibrant, fun and wholly encouraging climate for artists.

Penarth Times: Mrs Knight passed away after a battle with lung cancerMrs Knight passed away after a battle with lung cancer (Image: Supplied)

Margaret Knight was born in Melbourne, Australia.

She grew up with her mother and grandmother in Sydney’s lively Potts Point; she went to a boarding school north of Sydney harbour and then studied Arts at Sydney University.

She worked for a while as a model but became a journalist working on creative arts, consumer affairs and politics, and then a publisher’s representative.

Through that in 1975 she met university lecturer Stephen Knight, an Oxford graduate of Welsh origin: they married in 1976 and settled in Sydney’s harbourside Balmain, then becoming trendy.

They had two children, Elizabeth and David and in 1987 moved to Melbourne, where Stephen was a professor. Margaret continued writing for a range of magazines.

In 1992 they came to Europe as Stephen was on study-leave: they liked it a lot and he took a chair at the new De Montfort university in Leicester.

Margaret arranged for them to rent a large flat in the grand rural house of a Rutland land owner– she enjoyed the setting: by now she was involved in cultural tours of the arts in the area.

In 1994 Stephen was offered a chair at Cardiff University: they visited, liked Penarth very much, especially the setting by the Baylocal school for the children, and moved there.

Before long they bought a house in Stanwell Road, and Margaret noticed a fine disused cinema across the road.

She had been thinking of opening a cafe-art gallery, such as were thriving in Melbourne but not yet as visible in the Cardiff region.

So she rented the ground floor and opened the Washington Gallery, named for the old cinema, offering arts and crafts by local creators as well as fine coffee and snacks.

This did well and in a year she also rented the first floor to act as a formal art gallery.

Many upcoming artists were supported by Margaret and she engaged fully in the Welsh art scene.

The gallery thrived; in about 2006 Margareet became very interested in reviving the now disused Penarth Pier Pavilion, and she and others mounted what would be a successful application for funding to the Hertiage Lottery Fund, with strong support from the Vale of Glamorgan Council.

When Stephen retired in 2011 they decided to return to Australia, where daughter Elizabeth now married and working in Monash University.

Margaret several times visited friends in Europe and Britain, and in 2023 went to Taskhent in Uzbekistan, where son David was working for the World Bank.

When she returned from this trip she was not well and was soon diagnosed with lung cancer.

In late 2023 her health weakened. She went into hospital in January 2024, and passed away on Maundy Thursday 2024.