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Bird Lover and Bird Keeper Extraordinaire, Peter Stubbs takes 5 minutes out

Peter_Stubbs_Harewood_Bird_KeeperBird lover and Bird Keeper extraordinaire, Peter Stubbs is just as much a part of the Bird Garden at Harewood, having worked here since 1974, just four years after the opening.

What’s your role in the Harewood Bird Garden?
Official Title – Senior Keeper. Actual? Same as everybody else. Bird keeper, gardener, builder, carpenter, painter, food caterer, educator, tour guide, supervisor , pest controller…

What’s your background?
I didn’t have any official training before Harewood, they certainly don’t teach this at school, but I have been on various avicultural courses over the years such as incubation and rearing and, like in life, you learn on the job from other people.

Can you describe what a typical day might look like?
My alarm goes off at 4.50am and I’m on the first bus normally at 5.50am. I enjoy the walk down the drive first thing, it’s a lovely walk and setting and I arrive just after 7am with time to do the crossword and enjoy a coffee.
Food prep for the birds starts at 8am, with a break when that’s finished. Depending on how many keepers are working that day, feeding the birds can take a couple of hours. I usually wash the food dishes and prepare the dry food after lunch, ready for the next day. This takes me up to somewhere between 2-3pm. In the afternoon it’s back over to do aviary work; waters, cleaning, landscaping, perching, etc.

The afternoon/evening feeds are done depending on dusk times and daylight length. This can be as early as 3pm in winter, much later during summer. Then it’s back over to the portacabin for the final wash up  before heading home. I’m normally back somewhere between 7 and 8pm.

Do you have a favourite part of the job?
Yes, usually something which entails close contact with the birds.
There’s great satisfaction from completely setting up an aviary, from floor coverings and landscaping to planting, perching and nest siting. Doing this and seeing that the birds feel at home and secure enough to reproduce successfully is a job well done in my book.

Is there a least favourite part?
Filling in questionnaires, review forms and the like!

If you were not doing this job, What would you be doing?
Living a life of luxury…(chuckles)

You’re not supposed to have favourites, but do you and why?
Who says we’re not supposed to have favourites?! I usually say it’s whatever I’m stood next to at time of asking. As I’m filling this out at home it’s the African Grey Parrot whistling in my ear.
At the moment the Crested Seriemas are particular favourites. Their actions, confidence and boldness, their ancestry, the way they look can transport your imagination back millions of years to a time when their ancestors were the top predators in the land. They have nice eyelashes too. (the only birds to have this!)

Final words?
The Bird Garden is a vital part of Harewood, visitors really enjoy the interaction with the birds and learning more about them and how we can protect them from extinction.

It’s the 50th anniversary of the Bird Garden, look out for new exhibitions, openings and events across the year here. 

New Team Members Boost Harewood’s Charity Profile

Harewood_NewStarters_Jan2020Two new additions to the Head Office team at Harewood House bring a wealth of experience from similar backgrounds to help raise the profile of Harewood’s charitable status and vision for sustainability for the future.

Rachael Brothwell joins as Senior Membership Manager, responsible for managing and growing the Harewood membership scheme, which this year alone saw strong growth in new members. Rachael has worked for the National Trust, one of the UK’s largest and most successful membership organisations, in addition to the Meningitis Trust.

Rachael said, “This role fulfils many aspects for me and I am really excited to start looking at how we can increase engagement and a sense of ‘ownership’ with our members. Each visitor to Harewood is a potential new ambassador, and I’d love for them to start sharing the many visions of the charity, as a place of living stories and also of wellbeing.”

Emily Booker joins as Development Manager, with a focus to generate income and support from foundations, companies and individuals. She will also lead the newly launched Patrons Programme. Emily was involved in the setting up of the fundraising department at Chatsworth House for the past four years and prior to that has worked on historic building redevelopments, whilst studying for a Master’s degree in ‘Conservation of the Historic Environment’.

Emily highlighted; “For a charity, partnerships and external support from companies and individuals are vital, in order to continue to deliver great quality work and experiences. My aim is to enable Harewood to be more accessible and ambitious with its plans, through acquiring funding from those who believe in our work and align with our values. My immediate focus is on establishing the Patrons Scheme. This is a wonderful opportunity to get people even more engaged in our charitable work and to enable vital support through philanthropic donations.”

You can find out more about joining Harewood as a Member. 

A significant year for flight – call out for Bird Garden stories

Harewood House in Yorkshire is a Bird ZooFifty-year-old flamingos, the first penguins in a country house and a passion and commitment for wildlife and conservation, the Bird Garden at Harewood is an accredited zoo and first opened to the public in spring 1970, then hailed in the press as ‘one of England’s most comprehensive collections of rare and exotic birds from all parts of the world.’

When Harewood reopens on 21 March, following three months of winter closure, it will be to celebrate 50 years of the Bird Garden, with new launches and exhibitions to be revealed across the House, grounds and gardens.

We’re calling out to visitors and local people from around the 1970 opening to get in contact now and share their memories and stories of one of visitors’ most loved areas of Harewood to this day.

The Bird Garden was originally opened by the 7th Earl and the Countess of Harewood, to provide a new attraction for visitors and celebrate their passion for wildlife and the protection of endangered species. At the time they were advised by Sir Peter Scott, the conservationist, ornithologist and founder of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trusts and also by Len Hill, celebrated ornithologist and founder of Birdland Park and Gardens.

It once housed 500 birds from 140 different species, including native Australian birds from the Countess’ home country, in addition to significant collections of birds from the Himalayas and South America. Today, Harewood is an accredited zoo and a member of BIAZA, the professional body representing the best zoos and aquariums in Britain and Ireland. It is home to approximately 300 birds from 56 different species, of which there are 17 managed international breeding and conservation programmes.

1970 was a significant year of flight – the year Concorde first flew supersonic; the first commercial passenger flight took place on a Jumbo Jet from New York to London and the Apollo 13 mission to the moon.

Jane Marriott, Director, Harewood House Trust, says “The Harewood Bird Garden is one of the best-loved parts of a visit to Harewood for many people, but what people may not know is that we are also an educational charity and the Bird Garden is an accredited zoo. At Harewood, we have a clear commitment to the care, conservation and biodiversity of many endangered bird species from around the world.

“In this 50th anniversary year, we would love to hear from anyone who might have visited in those early years, from when the Bird Garden opened in 1970. We’re sure there are many fascinating stories and memories, and hearing them will enable us to build the most complete picture of the impact of this part of Harewood’s past and its future and how zoos have developed from lovely displays of birds, into a very important place to care for our planet and wildlife.”

Harewood is asking people to send their stories to marketing@harewood.org

You can find out more about the Bird Garden here

A year of great highs – Jane Marriott Reflects

December and the Christmas break are a good time to reflect on the past year, and what a year 2019 has been.

There are many highlights that spring to mind straight away, from the launch of the inaugural Harewood Biennial Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters to ending with this beautiful Christmas House, A Night at the Mansion, and along the way seeing the number of new Members grow the Harewood community and celebrating and sharing the practice of craft with visitors during our first ever Make It Harewood annual festival.

I have to confess that we started with no intention of launching a Biennial to celebrate ‘why craft matters’, but the overwhelming enthusiasm and support for the concept of the show, the growing numbers of people passionate about craft, shopping locally and supporting creative individuals and makers, made us reconsider.

Harewood has always been a place of great craftsmanship, from the late 1700’s through to today, the Lascelles family have been consistent supporters of artists and makers. So Harewood seemed a very natural home. Whilst London is a thriving hub of craft, there is no other significant, regular craft exhibition, we wanted that to change and so we decided to do just that!

Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters received some fantastic feedback and achieved for us two main visions – to showcase the best of contemporary craft currently in the UK, and to present a different perspective of Harewood, that of a living and breathing house. And so, we will return with the next Biennial in 2021, and we have invited Hugo MacDonald to return as the curator, and the second Make It Harewood will be back again in early July 2020.

We’ve established a set of ambitions for The Biennial long term:

‘To be the pre-eminent venue outside London for craft and design. We will offer a new perspective of Harewood and our collections, celebrating great craftsmanship through the centuries with beautiful new work. Our legacy, will be to create a cultural project that provides a unique insight, over time, on craft and design as a business and creative endeavour and to provide unrivalled support and inspiration for makers, designers and artists.’

I couldn’t reflect on the year without mentioning several other highlights, including the celebration of 30 years of contemporary programming and the work that Diane Lascelles, Countess of Harewood, has done over the years to programme Terrace Gallery and bring contemporary art to Harewood. If you haven’t seen the film Postcard to the Future about her work, this can be accessed here.

We were also delighted to come to an agreement this year with the Victoria & Albert Museum, to retain the Chippendale pier tables and glasses on public display in the Music Room for which they were designed. They were gifted to the Nation earlier in the year and entrusted in the care of Harewood and the Victoria & Albert Museum. We also presented Pleasure Gardens, an audio installation in the Walled Garden during the summer, created by celebrated Australian musician Genevieve Lacey. The Walled Garden was transformed into a place of musical play.

We’re planning plenty of exciting new opportunities at Harewood in 2020, and I look forward to sharing the plans and welcoming you. We will be celebrating 50 years of our Tropical Bird Collection and Conservation programmes for a start…watch this space.

With less than a week before we end the year on a tremendous high and close the House for winter, a visitor’s recent comments can capture some of the impact this show has had;

‘Harewood has excelled itself this year! The theme was so clever and incredibly magical and immersive. We all loved it!‘ (LR, Leeds)

Find out more about the Christmas House: A Night at the Mansion. Harewood closes on Sunday 5 January, reopening 21 March 2020.

Rollerskates and giant crackers, childhood Christmas memories

LadyEmily_ShardportraitWhat was the atmosphere like in Harewood House when you were growing up in the run-up to Christmas? This is just one of the questions we asked Lady Emily Shard, daughter of the current Earl, David Lascelles.

We spent a lot of Christmas here when myself and my brothers was younger in the 70’s and 80’s.

We tended to spend much of the daytime in the Library. There would be a roaring fire (often with wet dogs drying out in front from a morning walk) and hundreds and hundreds of Christmas cards tucked between the books. I was always amazed that my grandparents could know so many people.

There would be a large and rambling family walk round the lake at some point. Although, having three children myself now, I am now sure getting everyone into coats and wellies and out the door took almost as long as the walk!

In the evenings we would tend to be upstairs in the private apartments – myself and my brothers shared the old nursery so we would play there, while the grown-ups got dressed up for dinner in the private dining room.

Do you have any particularly special memories of Christmas at Harewood?

Giant crackers and table decorations!

Our main Christmas dinner was held in the evening in the private dining room – the table was always laid in full glory with all the silver and glassware, with a Christmassy table centre to keep us children entertained. And after we had eaten, we would pull a giant cracker full of little gifts and party hats. In my memory it was around 10-foot-long and took everyone to pull it…looking back at old photos they were actually probably closer to 4-foot-long but the memories are magic.

Another powerful memory was the year myself and my brothers got rollerskates for Christmas! It was before the Terrace Galley existed and that space was open and flat and crucially since the weather was bad, undercover…we spent hours skating round down there, spinning round the columns and trying to avoid plummeting down the steps and into the doors to the parterre.

Was there and is there a lot of hustle and bustle at Harewood in anticipation of Christmas?

In my childhood it was mostly family members for Christmas itself, and the New Year gathering my grandparents threw always had lots of friends as well, so tons of people staying and lots of hustle and bustle. However, at that time the house was not open to the public during the winter, so many parts of the state floor were pretty shut down – festive celebrations tended to happen in the Library and private apartment. I am not clear how much of that was a self imposed ban for the children but I do not remember spending time on the rest of the State Floor, and certainly the less occupied bits of the house had a tendency to be jolly chilly!

Nowadays I think there is fantastic festive cheer all over the house at Christmas. We have so many committed staff and volunteers here and in the run up to the Christmas opening the whole place is a-buzz with preparations. As an educational charitable trust we have worked to open many more areas of the house that were little used when I was a child – this enables Harewood to welcome more people and gives us the opportunity to show even more of Harewood’s amazing past, present and future.

You can visit Harewood every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day until Sunday 5 January. Find out more about the Christmas House here.