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Harewood House Trust welcomes the creation of the ‘Heirs of Slavery’ group

Harewood House Trust welcomes the creation of the Heirs of Slavery group, which includes David Lascelles, the Earl of Harewood, and other people whose ancestors profited from transatlantic slavery.

Harewood House Trust is an independent educational charitable trust established in 1986.  The Trust works to maintain and develop Harewood House, Gardens and Grounds, the historic home of the Lascelles family, for the public’s benefit. The charity, which is also an accredited museum, uses all the funds raised from visitor admission to keep the site open, to engage with Harewood’s local communities and to run a diverse programme of exhibitions and events, which are enjoyed by over 250,000 people every year. Given that Harewood House was built using profits from the Transatlantic trade in enslaved people, this programme has for a long time strived to open up conversations about this history and its ongoing impact around the world. Harewood House Trust welcomes the Heirs of Slavery’s statement and hopes that the group’s creation will continue to progress these conversations.

Since the charity’s creation, Harewood House Trust has maintained links with the Lascelles family. This has included generous donations from the family and working collaboratively with them on several projects. Harewood House Trust is grateful for their support of the charity’s projects and looks forward to further collaborations in future. The Trust will continue its work to be open about Harewood’s history; to make Harewood a welcoming, inclusive place for all; and to raise awareness of the local, national and global movements that seek restorative justice for enslaved people and their descendants.

These projects include:

  • The Trust’s Open History series highlights the site’s past with the exhibition Bertie Robinson: The Footman from St Vincent and Black History walks with Leeds-based Heritage Corner.
  • In the Missing Portraits series, the Trust is creating exhibitions to accompany portraits of Black sitters, commissioned by the Earl and Countess of Harewood to diversify the House’s historic art collection. The first portrait is of Leeds community activist and founder of Leeds Carnival Arthur France and the second will be of the actor and writer David Harewood, whose ancestors were enslaved on Lascelles plantations.
  • In 2007 Harewood hosted a wide range of events to commemorate the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade. The highlight was performances of Carnival Messiah in a big top near Harewood House. Carnival Messiah is inspired by the music of Handel’s Messiah, performed Caribbean Carnival style and featuring Carnival performers from Britain and from Trinidad.

A full list of Harewood House Trust’s projects that engage with the site’s history can be found here.


Rachel Crewes, CEO outside on the Terrace at Harewood

Rachel Crewes, CEO. Photo credit Tom Arber.


Harewood House Trust is delighted to announce the appointment of Rachel Crewes as their new CEO.

With over twenty years’ experience working across the wider arts, heritage and museum sector, Rachel has gained wide-ranging and diverse experience, giving her an invaluable insight into the industry’s opportunities and challenges. With recent experience in senior leadership in commercial roles at Harewood, the Hepworth Wakefield and the Science Museum Group, she has been working as Interim Co-Director at Harewood since the beginning of 2023.

Rachel joined Harewood House Trust in 2018 to help re-imagine the concept of the country house in the 21st century and grow earned income to help sustain the work of the Trust. As Commercial Director, she headed up the organisation’s trading income, increasing income by over 50% across several areas, from major outdoor events, venue hire, retail, filming, catering and commercial engagement. As part of Harewood’s executive team, she has made a significant contribution to the charity’s bold artistic programme and vision for engaging with Harewood’s diverse communities.

Prior to Harewood, Rachel held the roles of Head of Business Development at The Hepworth Wakefield (Museum of the Year 2017); Head of Events + Catering for the Science Museum Group (North); Commercial General Manager and Development Officer, at the Millennium Project, Magna Science Adventure Centre.

On her appointment, Rachel Crewes, CEO said:

‘I’m honoured to have been chosen to be the new Chief Executive at Harewood House Trust, and to lead the organisation through its next chapter. I have thoroughly enjoyed the last five years heading up the successful commercial arm of the organisation. I now look forward to the irresistible opportunity of not only running such as beautiful historic house and gardens and welcoming 300,000 visitors a year, but also the unique chance to re-imagine what makes it relevant in the 21st century.

I’m confident that with the help of our exceptional staff, trustees and supporters, we are well placed to face the many opportunities ahead and I relish the chance of continuing to make Harewood ever dynamic and resilient. I’m committed to further developing this incredible charity to be widely recognised as a leading cultural centre that meaningfully serves its community. With some very exciting developments in the pipeline and continued commitment to innovative programming, there couldn’t be a better time to be at the helm.’

Emily Shard, Chair of Harewood House Trust comments:

‘Throughout the rigorous application process, Rachel impressed the selection panel with her integrity, dedication, and knowledge of Harewood. There is no doubt that she will hit the ground running to ensure that our ambitions are raised, the challenges acknowledged and that the superpowers of our amazing Harewood House Trust team continue to be harnessed as we look forward and build on our success.

Competition for the role was significant and the Trustee panel are delighted to be able to offer the job to a candidate that understands, and has the skills to deliver, the vision and values we share for Harewood.  With Rachel at the helm, we have the wonderful, and unusual, combination of continuity and change to lead Harewood House Trust into the future.’

Harewood Trustee and member of the selection panel Andrea Nixon MBE adds:

‘The panel were impressed at Rachel’s breadth and depth of experience in a very competitive field and above all for her passion for Harewood and what we stand for. We are very confident she will lead us to the next exciting stage for the charity.’

Harewood continues its bold programming for 2023, with new exhibition Reframing Reynolds in March and Missing Portraits: David Harewood in September, a brand-new family-friendly programme and a number of large-scale events for everyone to enjoy across the year.


David Harewood, photo credit The Harper Edit

Harewood House announces a new commission in the Missing Portraits series, with a portrait of actor and writer David Harewood OBE.

6 March 2023, Leeds. This year, Harewood House continues its Open History programme with a newly commissioned portrait of actor David Harewood OBE. The portrait is part of the Missing Portraits series which launched in 2022 and addresses the lack of diverse representation within Harewood’s historic art collection. The specially commissioned portrait will be accompanied by an exhibition exploring David Harewood’s life and celebrating his career, including his role as an ambassador for mental health awareness and racial equality.

The Missing Portraits series seeks to redress the balance of portraits in the house by depicting contemporary sitters of African-Caribbean heritage who have connections to Harewood and the Lascelles family. Born in 1965 to Barbadian parents who arrived in Britain in 1957, David Harewood was raised in Birmingham and began his career as a film and stage actor in 1990. The actor is descended from individuals who were enslaved in the 18th-century on a Caribbean sugar plantation owned by the 2nd Earl of Harewood.

David Harewood has had a long relationship with Harewood House. In 2021, David visited the House as part of a Channel 5 series 1000 Years a Slave, in which he met with David Lascelles, 8th Earl of Harewood, to discuss both his and the House’s historic roots. The portrait, inspired by the formal style of 18th and 19th portraiture, will be displayed as part of the permanent collection and is produced by Leeds-based photographer and filmmaker Ashley Karrell.

In alliance with David Harewood’s campaigns around social justice and mental health, Harewood House is developing a wider programme towards building confidence and resilience in young people from diverse backgrounds across Leeds. Harewood House will be hosting an in-conversation event where David Harewood will discuss his recent book Maybe I Don’t Belong Here: A Memoir of Race, Identity, Breakdown and Recovery, published in 2021.

David Harewood OBE comments:

“To have my portrait presented at Harewood House brings on many complex emotions. It is a day that is well overdue for me and my ancestors, a day that sees their efforts and hard work finally acknowledged. I am pleased that we have reached a point when this can happen and I hope it might encourage positive change elsewhere.”

David Lascelles and Diane Howse, Earl and Countess of Harewood, comment:

“We’re delighted that David has agreed to be the second sitter in the Missing Portraits series. His links to Harewood are self-evident and we agree on the importance of sharing our histories, however uncomfortable this might first appear. Being honest about the past is the only way to start to address the prejudices of the present and help build a better future.”

Missing Portraits is part of Open History, an ongoing commitment to promoting and celebrating equality, diversity and inclusion, and to combating racism. Harewood’s programme engages Harewood’s audiences by tackling urgent contemporary issues, working with artists to encourage understanding, celebrate diversity and explore Harewood’s colonial past. The first portrait in this series was of Dr Arthur France OBE, founder of Leeds West Indian Carnival. This was displayed in a special exhibition at Harewood, before becoming part of the House’s permanent collection. Harewood House partnered with Intelligence2 to host an in-person conversation exploring the power of portraiture in representing Britain’s history. Panellists Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, journalist Moya Lothian-McLean, artist Thomas J Price, and David Lascelles discussed the importance of portraiture and its power in representing Britain’s complex history. The conversation was chaired by chaired by author Yassmin Abdel-Magied. To listen to a recording of the event, please click here.


Notes to editors:
For further press information on Harewood, please contact:
Brunswick Arts | Imogen Walford & Tom Smeeton
Harewood@brunswickgroup.com | + 44 (0)7467 650396

Harewood Open History aims to open-up stories about our heritage, celebrating people of colour who have deep-rooted links to Harewood. The series is part of an effort to better reflect and understand the history of Harewood, which was built upon the vast fortune made by Henry Lascelles through the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Harewood acknowledges the roots of its wealth and seeks to address the historic lack of diversity within its art collection. In support of these aims, Harewood works with artists from diverse backgrounds in order that we can use our past and its platform now to talk and open-up conversation about inclusion, representation and equality in society today.

Harewood House Trust is an independent educational charity that constantly re-imagines what makes a historic house and its landscape relevant in the 21st century, by provoking different perspectives and conversations on its history, landscape and collections, as a place that can enrich all our lives, responsible for conserving it for the future. The Trust and the Lascelles family have been at the forefront of acknowledging the estate’s colonial past for over 25 years. This commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, and to combating racism, remains stronger than ever and is central to the Trust’s programming aims, as well as to its staff and volunteers, and working with the communities in and around Leeds.

David Harewood OBE is an actor, director, author and activist. With a career spanning almost 35 years, David has performed on stage in some of the most prestigious theatres and across TV and Film, including award-winning TV series and films Homeland, Blood Diamond, The Night Manager, and appearing as Othello at the National Theatre. David has become a driving force for systematic and cultural change, exploring important and difficult subjects within his documentaries, such as ‘David Harewood: Psychosis and Me’, ‘Could Britian Ever Have a Black Prime Minister’, and ‘Why is Covid Killing People of Colour?’. David has worked with global charity UNICEF and helped raise awareness as well as millions of pounds for many charities, organisations and individuals across our collective global communities. King Charles III awarded David an OBE in his first New Year Honours of 2023 for his services to drama and charity.

David Lascelles and Diane House, Earl and Countess of Harewood, are committed to speaking openly and honestly about the historic source of the wealth that built Harewood and to encouraging relationships with a range of artists to explore, challenge and discuss its legacy. Artists they have previously worked with include Geraldine Connor and her ground-breaking theatrical spectacular Carnival Messiah, sculptors Sokari Douglas Camp and Thomas J Price, glass artist Chris Day and Sonia Boyce, winner of the Golden Lion prize at the 2022 Venice Biennale.

Ashley Karrell is an award-winning director, photographer, film and theatre-maker with a career spanning 20 years. He has produced a broad spectrum of work that includes visual art, commercial and experimental video productions and mass participation pieces. Karrell graduated from the Northern Film School in 2005 and is now the director of the production company Panoptical and Expression Of You CIC, where he delivers large and small-scale productions at public exhibitions, events and festivals, and pursues work, which explores ideas of community, is socially engaging and internationally-minded. His name is well known for the film and documentary of Geraldine Connor’s epic masterpiece Carnival Messiah, which debuted at the Leeds International Film Festival 2017. Its West Indies premier was at the Film Festival in Trinidad in September 2018, where it won the People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary. MISSING PORTRAITS: David Harewood OBE

Reframing Reynolds

Harewood Statement – A Harewood for the next generation

– Harewood announces closure of Bird Garden
– A woodland garden will take its place, bringing historic walks back into existence
– Trust looks to its long-term future, with a focus on programming, its audience
and the environment.

In 2021, Harewood quietly marked 250 years since the completion of Harewood House being built. This stunning Palladian home, built by John Carr of York with interiors by Robert Adam, and landscapes by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, has seen incredible changes during its lifetime. Since 1986 the care of Harewood has been entrusted to a charity, Harewood House Trust, with a board of Trustees and an administration tasked with ensuring its long-term future and providing a place for the public benefit.

The last few years have been especially difficult, particularly in light of Covid-19, and as we enter 2023 we are all acutely aware of the financial pressures that we face.

Harewood is not immune to these difficulties and in spite of having a record-breaking year with visitor numbers, the Charity remains reliant on the support of the Lascelles family, its Members and visitors, Arts Council England and others in order to offer a great experience whilst balancing conservation needs of the site, with ever greater pressure on our resources.

As the Trust looks to its long-term future it has to consider what Harewood will look like in 5, 10, 25 years’ time from now and beyond, to ensure we stay relevant and able to remain open for everyone to enjoy.

Harewood’s Bird Garden is now over 50 years old and, as visitors have pointed out to us consistently over the past few years, the birds’ environment is not on a par with more up-to-date zoos. At Harewood’s last zoo inspection, the team were praised for their excellent care and the health of the birds, but sadly they identified many problems with the site’s physical infrastructure that the charity cannot sustain.

Over the last six months we have been researching options for the charity going forwards, however, with a need for a £4 million investment to just the Bird Garden alone, the Trust has had to make the incredibly difficult decision to close this part of the Harewood experience. The Trust simply cannot make the Bird Garden the place that we, and you, all want it to be.

Over the next six months or so, the birds – many of which are exotic or endangered – will be re-homed at places better equipped long-term to ensure they continue to have comfortable and enriched lives and to ensure their life-long care. The closure date of the Bird Garden will be published later in the year once these dates become clear.

In its place, we will create a new woodland garden, making it an environment where native wildlife can thrive. You will be able to observe woodland and water birds, red kites, otters and more. It also provides us with an opportunity to recreate some historic walks, part of which is expanding the South Park walk that opened in 2021.

Harewood’s Farm Experience will remain but we will look at the opportunities to improve the area surrounding Harewood’s Courtyard to provide a better visitor experience and open up some incredibly beautiful views of the site.
We realise that many of Harewood’s visitors love the Bird Garden and have children who love it too. It has been an incredibly difficult conclusion to reach but it is the most responsible and ethical decision to make, to ensure the health and care of these beautiful creatures, but also to ensure Harewood can stand the test of time and be here for as long as it has stood already.

Emily Shard, chair of Harewood House Trust, comments:

‘It is with huge sadness that the Trustees have reached the conclusion that the Bird Garden must close. Harewood and the Lascelles family have long been committed to the care and conservation of wildlife and nature, but the wellbeing of the birds is paramount. The investment needed to create a modern zoo and maintain this each year is too much for the Trust to afford.

We therefore realise that we must make this change and focus on the long-term ambition of this wonderful place, and on the opportunities that Harewood has to support our environment, represent the people and the communities that live in this area today, and to continue to develop Harewood, to serve its best purpose into the future.’

Harewood’s winter season begins once again this weekend when we will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until our full all-week opening from Friday 17 March. We will also be open throughout Leeds half term week, Monday 13 to Sunday 19 February.

We will be announcing 2023’s programme of exhibitions and activities in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, thank you to all our Members, visitors, volunteers and supporters for your continued support and your understanding.
Harewood looks forward to welcoming you throughout the next year and beyond, and will continue to update visitors as the Birds go to new homes.