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Edward Appleyard

Chris Day: White Wash

Whitewash Wall

A guest blog commissioned by Harewood from Chris Day, to mark UNESCO’s International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

Have British black artists found their voice in today’s art world when it comes to equality and race?

Are British black artists visible in today’s art world or have the historical entrenched imbalance of equality towards black artists still an issue.

Throughout history, the legacy of the 1800s’ transatlantic slave trade and colonial rule has been depicted in one form or another in art, and not always in a positive manner. The painting by François Biard (Proclamation de la liberté des Noirs aux Colonies [Proclamation of the Abolition of Slavery in the French Colonies]) was criticised by another painter of the time, Nicolas Auguste Galimard, who remarked that, ‘Negroes will always show up badly as principal figures in a picture’.

With racial and dehumanising images, black people have had to endure an assault on their identity, equality and social status. Whilst visually portraying them as inferior to the rest of society, other artists like J M W Turner (The Slave Ship) and Richard Ansdell (The Hunted Slaves) captured barbaric acts of the transatlantic slave trade and the suffering of Africans and somehow tried to instil in the audience a sense of pity and injustice, or even, perhaps, tried to make a political statement with art.

This points to one of the reasons why western art of the early 1800s mainly shows black people in subservient and inferior roles and, with no television or internet these paintings were the window onto social life of the time. In the years following, both black and white people have been shown images that portray black people as inferior.

Such issues continue to haunt black communities and the rise of an intolerance to anything that is foreign is only fuelling the fire of inequality.

Black culture and identity did not begin with the transatlantic slave trade and yet, in school history lessons, slavery is amongst the first thing you are taught about black people and how famous white men protested to free the enslaved. Thus, even at an early stage of education, the seed of black people being inferior is planted.

Black history and culture are rich and colourful and should be celebrated. This sense of worth has influenced a multitude of black artists to take up arms to depict not only the transatlantic slave trade but also promote black culture and history in a positive light.

Researching social, civil and racial differences that occurred in the 1960s and 1980s helped me to develop and understand the racial barriers that artists in this era had to face and how they dealt with it. Black British artists in the 1980s like Keith Piper, Sonia Boyce, Chila Burman and many more have had to fight to be recognised as equal in the art world; unfortunately many have not had the same exposure or recognition as their white counterparts.

Errol Lloyd, a founder-member of CAM (The Caribbean Artist Movement), had his first exhibition shut down by white controllers due to his black images – images that confronted social indifferences of the time the hostile approach in the 1960s to black people was not only in the streets of Britain but managed to infiltrate all establishments.

21st century artists like Kara Walker depict racism with provocative imagery that shouts out the brutal acts that happened in black people in history to the view. Today, galleries have embraced her art work instead of the opposition that Errol Lloyd had to face, although there is still an inherited imbalance of mainly white males who dominate not only the art scene but the galleries, museums and art schools that decide what and when it is suitable for artists’ material to be seen.

Have positive steps been taken to allow Black artists to gain more of an equal stance or has the committed work by collective groups – such as BAM (Black Arts Movement) and artists like Eddie Chambers, Keith Piper and Lubaina Himid – been eradicated? Who is promoting today’s black British artists and how are these artists addressing racial and equality difference in their art?

The development of people into the arts in recent times has had to start at a grass roots level. Workshops in the community have taken the lead in educating people in different areas of artistic expression and culture (due to the decreasing funding schools receive) and a change to the curriculum has forced a number of small workshops and galleries to set up to promote art and support black artists. Link at Brixton Hill and The Alexandra Gallery represent a few that embrace the development of British black art.

Has the perceived lack of black artists in the art sector made it a mainly white establishment by percentage? Visiting many of the galleries in Britain it is hard to find black artists’ work on the walls and in the cabinets.

If so, what are the reasons behind the lack of black faces in the arts and what is being done to address the matter? Examining the education system, social impacts, careers and role models I see how this has affected the way young black people perceive the arts.

Is this a sign of remorse from the art world or are they getting on the band wagon to make a quick buck? The state of play at this time seems to be in favour of all things black and as a result vast amounts of money are being invested into film, art and other media to promote these arrears.

Just like the transatlantic slave trade, we have rich white men investing their money to gain wealth at the cost of the black society. Let’s hope this time the money gained will find its way down to educate and empower and not keep the black race at a subservient level as history likes to depict issues that black artists have to face in today’s art world. Even the work done by fellow black art movements has not made it easier for black artists to be seen. The education system seems to be inherently flawed in its approach to how and what is taught, so even at this root level inequality already has a foothold.

Aspects of equality are apparently being implemented in all areas of social life including the arts. Unfortunately, with the rise of intolerance against ethnic groups in Britain and around the world, race and equality are still an issue and instead of disappearing into history they have re-emerged for the new generation of black artists to confront.

Chris Day is a glass and mixed media artist, who uses his art to engage audiences on issues that are hard to confront, helping to overcome some of the traumas that haunt society’s collective past. His current exhibition at Harewood House, Chris Day: Craft Spotlight, runs until Sunday 31 October 2021.

Previous posts marking International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade & its Abolition

Joe Williams: Memorialise those who sacrificed everything

Olivia Wyatt: Power. Whiteness. Resistance. Challenging the ‘facts’ of the archive

Elaine Mitchener: Sweet Tooth

The Lascelles Slavery Archive

Bibliography

Bailey, A. D, Baucom, I. and Boyce, S. (2005) Shades of Black Assembling the 1980s. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Chambers, E. (2014) Black Artists in British Art a history since the 1950s. London: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd.
Chambers, E. (1988) The Arts Council Artpack. A history of black Artists in Britain. London: Haringey
Godfrey, M. and Whitley, Z. (2017) Souls of a Nation Art in the Age of Black Power. London: Tate Publishing Ltd.
Honour, H. (1989) The image of the Black in Western Art. London: Harvard University Press.
Ansdell, R. (1861) The Hunted Slaves [Oil on canvas]. International Slavery Museum, Liverpool.
Biard, F. (1849) Proclamation of the Abolition of Slavery in the French Colonies [Oil on canvas]. Palace of Versailles, France.
Turner, W. (1840) The Slave Ship [Oil on canvas]. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Roots (1977) ABC, 23 January
Black Panther (2018) Directed by R. Coogle [Film] Paramount Pictures.
12 years a Slave (2013) Directed by S. Queen [DVD] Fox Searchlight.
Tate (2017) Soul of a Nation. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/…/exhibition/soul-nation-art-age-black-power (Accessed:8 October 2018).

Harewood’s ‘Open History’

Harewood featured in at ITV documentary – ‘Has George Floyd Changed Britain’ – as charitable trust launches Open History programme continuing to explore its history and combat racism.

A year on since George Floyd was murdered, Sir Trevor McDonald and Charlene White examined how the UK has reacted to his death, its effect on the Black Lives Matter movement and ongoing conversations about racism in a one-hour documentary aired on ITV this evening.

David Lascelles, Earl of Harewood, spoke of what he, the Countess of Harewood and Harewood House Trust have done to address the estate’s heritage, commenting:

‘I think it’s a period of history that as a nation, we’ve not come to terms with properly. I think that, until we do, a lot of the divisions, a lot of the conflicts, can’t be resolved until we understand our history properly.’

The Trust and the Lascelles family have been at the forefront of acknowledging the estate’s colonial past for over 25 years. Being transparent about colonial history and ensuring the Trust hosts much-needed, and sometimes difficult conversations is vital to calling out racism, and to forging new connections with visitors and the communities of the cities and countryside around.

In the past, Harewood has commissioned artists of diverse heritage from Sonia Boyce to Rommi Smith, and openly engaged in discussions concerning its roots in the Lascelles family’s links to the Atlantic Slave Trade which culminated in a year-long programme of events to mark the Bicentenary of the Abolition of Slavery in 2007, notably featuring Geraldine Connor’s Carnival Messiah. 

The Trust continues this commitment to promoting and celebrating equality, diversity and inclusion, and to combating racism. It is central to Harewood’s programming aims, to working with its staff and volunteers, and working with the communities in and around Leeds and West Yorkshire.

2021 UP+OPEN:
OPEN HISTORY

Harewood’s Open History programme engages audiences with the urgent issues of our time, engendering empathy and understanding of these issues in order to celebrate diversity, whilst bringing Harewood’s colonial past into greater focus.

Launching on 12 June, Heritage Corner brings its unique brand of insightful Black History Walks to Harewood following the success of regular events in Leeds City Centre. In a walking story – A Storm at Harewood, stretched across the House and Grounds – Joe Williams and Vanessa Mudd explore inspiring black history and hidden connections to the splendours of Harewood in an imaginative, fun and family-friendly way through the guise of Pablo Fanque and his wife. Fanque, Britain’s first recorded circus owner of African heritage, brought his circus to the Harewood area in 1847. His circus pantomime was based on a plantation narrative, Obi, or Three Fingered Jack, which unusually places an African rebellion leader as hero and was very popular as a play in London’s West End for over two decades.

Joe Williams, Director of Heritage Corner, comments:

‘We aim to enhance positive engagement and discourse on race and social cohesion from a shared heritage perspective. Excluding shame and blame by intent, the aim is to inform and engender pride and hope for all visitors.’ 

Harewood have teamed up with Leeds-based DSRG (the Diasporian Stories Research Group) to bring to life the story of Harewood’s first known black member of staff, George ‘Bertie’ Robinson, who travelled with the 5th Earl and Countess from St Vincent to Leeds aged 13 to work for the Lascelles family. The display, Bertie Robinson: The Footman from St Vincent, shown on the State Floor from 17 May, is the first in an annual series which will celebrate and share the histories of people of African descent with Yorkshire connections throughout history. Bertie lived at Harewood from 1893–1922. Letters, diaries and photographs chart his life, as well as exploring the Lascelles’ links to the West Indies in the early 20th century, the impact of colonialism on St Vincent, and attitudes in Britain towards people of colour at that time.

On 26 June an exhibition by glassblower Chris Day will open in Harewood’s All Saints’ Church as part of a brand new Craft Spotlight series. The series provides a platform for emerging makers of diverse ethnicity. Inaugural artist Chris Day creates work to open conversations around Black history including the Transatlantic Slave Trade and under-representation of makers of diverse heritage in the craft sector. 

Hannah Obee, Harewood Director of Collections, Programme and Learning, comments:

‘A report published by Crafts Council prior to our 2019 Harewood Biennial, Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters, stated that 96% of professional, full-time crafts people identified as White British. We had already decided this lack of diversity would be a key subject for debate – Craft Spotlight now acts as a consistent response to this lack of racial inequality in Craft.’

UP+OPEN:
OPEN LEARNING

As part of the British Museum’s Where We Are programme, Harewood continues its long-standing relationship with the Geraldine Connor Foundation to work on a joint project with young people who define themselves as from the African diaspora. ‘Harewood is my House’ will see a group of ten young people define what they consider arts and culture, identify barriers to engagement and create a response that addresses a local need identified by them.

As a first step in Harewood’s action plan to increase diversity and inclusion, the Trust is prioritising local children of colour experiencing obstacles (financial and societal) to accessing Harewood’s collections and the site. This begins with reaching out to schools through free online teaching resources beginning with Bertie Robinson: The Footman from St Vincent.

The Trust also works with partners Bradford Prevent to develop free resources for use in Bradford Schools, funded by the Home Office. By sharing Harewood’s involvement in the slave trade, wider conversations around Black Lives Matter can be opened with students and upskill teachers to address diverging viewpoints through discussion.

BEYOND 2021

Looking to the future, the Trust’s commitments as part of its continuing discourse around Harewood’s heritage and its responsibility to combat racism is something which it approaches through its programming in order to build engagement, empathy and understanding. 

A performance project with Leeds Playhouse is currently in development, future artists to feature in Craft Spotlight are in discussion and Harewood is looking ahead to the next subject in its series uncovering prolific Yorkshire figures of African descent, amongst other conversations.

Harewood is continuing to review its Learning Strategy and Plan to make explicit its commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion. Consultation with local young people, teachers and the wider community will shape our Learning offer to fit their needs so our collections are open to all.

The Trust also believes that empowering its staff to feel confident in having conversations about racism is paramount in combating racism. Every member of the team has undertaken unconscious bias training and is invited to regular all staff talks with guest speakers on such topics, and three company-wide working streams – People, Place and Programme – focus on how equality, diversity and inclusion are central to Harewood’s values.

Jane Marriott, Trust Director comments:

‘It is vital that we continue to call out racism and discrimination, that we use Harewood as a safe place in which to have open conversations and to bring communities together. Harewood can provide the knowledge and understanding of difficult histories, including our own, and it will lift-up marginalised voices, promoting equality, diversity and inclusion. 

‘Our commitment to being open and transparent about Harewood’s past has led to the creation of our Open History programme in 2021. This programme will engage our audiences with the urgent issues of our time in order to engender empathy and understanding so that we can truly celebrate the diversity of our society today.’

Download the Full Release including Editor’s Notes >>

Announcing Harewood’s 2021 season

Harewood reveals first part of 2021 UP+OPEN programme with a focus on Wellbeing, Culture Outdoors and Open History.

Yorkshire’s 2020 Large Visitor Attraction of the Year is open throughout the week once more as Harewood House Trust invites everyone to enjoy its 250-year-old House and its Gardens, Bird Garden, Play and parkland. Aiming to inspire and enrich, it today announces a programme to help us all recover from the ongoing effects of Covid-19, opening up new parts of the site for the first time with a brand new circular walk, and continues to push the agenda in being open about its past, calling out racism, and reiterating that Harewood is a place open for all.

UP+OPEN:
GET OUTDOORS, FIND YOUR WELLBEING

Harewood’s spring season has begun, welcoming people back to enjoy its beautiful surroundings bursting into spring life, its gardens coming into bud, and to find a moment of respite from the last year. In line with dates to be re-confirmed by government, from Monday 29 March there’s no better place to re-meet friends and family as the rule of six comes back into play; our Courtyard Café, run by the Harewood Food & Drink Project, will be open again (for take away only until 17 May). The Harewood Bird Garden, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, will open on Monday 12 April, along with the Courtyard Shop.

Together We Are, by graphic artist Anthony Burrill, launches a brand new three mile circular walk (see below) taking in Harewood’s North Woods featuring this latest commission. Opening in mid-May and featuring six unique flag artworks, Burrill’s work will encourage moments of mindfulness, giving pause for thought set against a backdrop of stunning views of Harewood and beyond.

The circular Big Harewood Walk unlocks brand new parts of the site for the first time. Split into three sections – the North Woods, the South View and the Lakeside Tour – the circular route will take in All Saints’ Church with its beautifully-crafted alabaster tombs and a secret tunnel in the North Woods, with our Horsebox newly relocated for an energy-boosting treat; it will open up Harewood’s East Terrace and South View for the very first time, and link up with the Lakeside Tour which takes in the Bird Garden, Himalayan Garden, Bothy and Walled Garden.

Pop-up play is back after being such a big hit last summer with children and grown-ups alike. Harewood’s Woodland Wonderland features willow mazes and tunnels by artist Leilah Vyner, nestled next to the Church, opening up yet more of this beautiful site for families to adventure into.

UP+OPEN:
OPEN HISTORY

Harewood’s Open History programme is part of our commitment to bring our past to life. Being transparent about colonial history and ensuring the Trust hosts much-needed, and sometimes difficult, conversations is vital to calling out racism, and to forge new connections with visitors and the communities of the cities and countryside around us. Open History is therefore devised to engage our audiences with the urgent issues of our time, and aims to engender empathy and understanding of these issues in order to celebrate diversity.

Harewood have teamed up with Leeds-based DSRG (the Diasporian Stories Research Group) to bring to life the story of Harewood’s first black member of staff, George ‘Bertie’ Robinson, who traveled with the 5th Earl and Countess from St Vincent to Leeds aged 13 to work for the Lascelles family. The display, Bertie Robinson: The Footman from St Vincent, which launches in the Yellow Drawing Room from 17 May, is part of an annual series which will celebrate and share the histories of people of African descent with Yorkshire connections throughout history. Bertie lived at Harewood from 1893–1922. Letters, diaries and photographs chart his life, as well as exploring some of the Lascelles’ links to the West Indies, the history of St Vincent, and attitudes towards people of colour at that time.

Launching in early summer, Heritage Corner bring their unique brand of insightful Black History Walks to Harewood following the success of their regular events in Leeds City Centre. In their walking story – A Storm at Harewood, stretched across the House and Grounds – 
Joe Williams and Vanessa Mudd explore inspiring black history and hidden connections to the splendours of Harewood in an imaginative, fun and family-friendly way. Walks go on sale from mid-April.

The Trust looks forward to revealing more aspects of its Open History programme later in the year, as part of its continued commitment to combating racism.

UP+OPEN:
HAREWOOD UNLIMITED

In the coming weeks, we will unveil a new series of exclusive opportunities to experience Harewood in UNLIMITED ways. Summer twilights on the Terrace with live music and great food, bird watching tours, behind-the-scenes access to Harewood’s Attic Rooms and Below Stairs, early evening boat trips with fizz joined by expert zoologists and gardeners, curator tours and more will give audiences fascinating ways to explore Harewood like never before.

SPECIAL EVENTS

Harewood will be the first venue to host MAMMA MIA! in an outdoor performance of this West End hit from 13 to 30 August. The feel-good musical, now in its 22nd year, gives families and friends a great opportunity to enjoy a fun-filled show with Harewood as its stunning backdrop, whilst enjoying great food and drink under open skies.

Much missed last year, the Great British Food Festival returns for the late spring bank holiday weekend from Saturday 29 to Monday 31 May. The Luna Drive-In Cinema makes a welcome return between 3 and 21 June bringing more box office hits to Harewood, plus more Outdoor Theatre will be announced for the summer months.

Jane Marriott, Trust Director comments:

‘Covid-19 has changed, perhaps permanently, how we live and how we enjoy our time. After such a difficult year, we are delighted to welcome everyone back to Harewood for our UP+OPEN 2021 programme to take advantage of our wonderful site to its fullest – discover new parts of Harewood they’ve never seen before and offer a timely moment for both fun and exploration, or more mindful calm and respite.

‘Our Open History programme continues our commitment to being open and transparent about Harewood’s past as part of bigger commitment to ensure Harewood is a place for everyone. We cannot change the past, but we can use it as a stark, unequivocal truth to build 
a fairer, equal future.’

Tickets for Harewood’s 2021 season are now on sale, with tickets for 17 May onwards being released as and when the government moves forwards with its roadmap.

For further press information on Harewood, please contact info@harewood.org

Download the full press release here.

Sue Sharpe: In memoriam

Sue Sharpe

Whilst places like Harewood are built in stunning surroundings, feature beautiful architecture and remain as awe-inspiring as they always have, there’s one thing that truly makes a place – its people.

Harewood is blessed with its volunteers and staff members, some who not only love Harewood but make everyone else love it to, and the Trust was particularly saddened this week to learn of the passing of one such person who had a gift to draw people into Harewood’s magic – Susan (Sue) Sharpe who sadly passed away at the end of January.

It’s fair to say that Sue led a fun and rather glamorous life. Her late husband was the former England cricketer Phil Sharpe, and she herself was an ‘Air Hostess’ (she’d never allow the term cabin crew) in the air industry’s hey day – a role where she could excel by combining her welcoming charm and witty personality in huge style with great aplomb.

Sue with VE teamA chance occurrence in 2007 bought her into Harewood’s fold. Whilst visiting the House as a potential venue for her daughter’s wedding, she was unable to see one of the rooms due to interviews taking place for House Steward positions. Having told her husband Phil, he remarked that the role would have been right up her street, to which Sue picked up the phone to ask if she was too late. Of course, she wasn’t too late, and even if she was it’s fairly certain she would have talked whoever answered the phone around – the rest is history.

For many Harewood Members and visitors Sue was such a recognisable figure and someone who was repeatedly mentioned in visitor comments with overwhelming warmth and thanks. Latterly she was often based in Harewood’s Old Kitchen, where not a soul could pass without Sue learning part of their life story intermingled with a totally effortless imparting of Harewood knowledge. Everyone left Sue’s presence not only feeling that they had learned something new, but also like they’d made a friend. Sue became renowned amongst the team for causing visitor congestion because she’d engaged so many people in conversation or because she’d started a free impromptu talk, but not a soul could’ve minded waiting as by the time they reached her she would soon envelop them with her warmth. Sue was also part of Harewood’s tour team – needless to say a short introduction to the House would be an hour and a half minimum.

Sue at Prince of Monaco eventSue didn’t just bring the House alive to general visitors either, she often helped with education projects (a true Jackanory) or at events (meeting the Prince of Monaco being a particular career highlight for her), she volunteered in several roles and whenever there was an opportunity to learn more or be involved she would grasp it.

The staff loved her too, and Sue loved them, taking a keen interest in everyone and never forgetting a soul. She had a way of getting away with things that no one else ever would – hiding a tea thermos under her chair, arguing a point without you even noticing, writing her Christmas cards whilst on duty but in a way that you’d think it was part of the visitor experience.

Her generosity knew no bounds too, not least with her time. Her time was her gift to everyone, and sharing a moment with Sue made you feel special. Harewood will be forever in her debt and she will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with her family – daughter Catherine and nephew Fergus who himself now works for Harewood House Trust too – and all her dear friends.

Sue’s family have set up a Just Giving page, in thanks to St Gemma’s Hospice for the care and comfort they gave Sue.

Sue Sharpe worked at Harewood from 2007 to 2021.

With thanks to Jackie Gascoigne & Aileen Larsen for helping to compile this tribute, and the many who have sent their memories and condolences to the Trust.

Sue with VE team

In memory of Dame Fanny Waterman

Dame Fanny Waterman 1920–2020

Harewood is deeply saddened to hear of the news of the passing of Dame Fanny Waterman, who died peacefully in December having reached the age of 100. Dame Fanny leaves an incredible legacy, she was a true ‘force of nature’ in the world of classical music. Through the Leeds International Piano Competition, which she launched in 1961 with her husband Dr Geoffrey de Keyser and Marion Thorpe CBE (then Countess of Harewood), affectionately known worldwide as ‘The Leeds’, she helped launch the careers of many of the most talented pianists of our time.

David Lascelles, Earl of Harewood, remembers her fondly:

‘I’ve known Fanny Waterman, Dame Fanny, since I was a boy. She and my mother were close friends, they wrote highly successful piano tutor books together and Fanny was always very generous in acknowledging her central role in the early days of the Leeds International Piano Competition, ‘The Leeds’.

‘I was, briefly, Fanny’s pupil, one of the worst she ever had she confided later, which I suppose is some sort of a backhanded compliment.

‘Fanny was 100 when she died – of course she was, her determination and extraordinary fighting spirit could have no other outcome. She was an extraordinary woman, a true embodiment of that over-used expression ‘a force of nature’.

‘It has been a privilege to know her and Diane and I and the rest of my family join together to send our condolences and warmest wishes to her sons Robert and Paul and the rest of her family.’

21 December 2020

Our condolences go out to Dame Fanny’s family, and to all those whose lives she influenced with great positivity, affection and acclaim.

A full tribute can be read on The Leeds International Piano Competition website >>

Photo courtesy of the Leeds International Piano Competition, pictured: Dame Fanny Waterman, Benjamin Britten (composer and close friend of George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood), and the then Countess of Harewood, musician Marion Thorpe.