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Trust Director Jane Marriott

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.

Taking Inspiration from Beyond Harewood

Chateau_de_ChaumontTrust Director, Jane Marriott, gives an insight into what has inspired her this season and how this plays into Harewood’s future.

Two weeks ago, I was on the train to France with two rather different purposes in mind. One was very much looking to the future, as I constantly scan the horizon for new ideas linked to the best artists and creative directors to bring back to Harewood. Secondly, we were celebrating the past, the stunning Renaissance times, as a new exhibition dedicated the artist El Greco opened in Paris, and features a loan of one of our star works; Allegory.

No matter what turmoil Brexit is currently in, we will continue to work with our brilliant colleagues overseas, drawing inspiration from what they are doing and working hard to attract many visitors back here to enjoy Yorkshire. One such beautiful place is Chateau de Chaumont sur Loire, founded in the 10th century and rebuilt in the 15th century. It was there that I hoped to explore not the historic architecture, but rather their hugely ambitious international garden festival, now in its 28th year , which showcases incredible contemporary art, placed imaginatively around the landscape.

Bringing historic houses and gardens alive with great programmes is only possible if we seek to work with the best artists and creative teams. Only then can we hope to encourage people to return time and again to Harewood, and even better, to join us as a Harewood Member.

Finding projects which will inspire us and genuinely enrich our lives, has to be balanced with protecting and sharing our heritage. A garden festival needs to be environmentally sustainable and like Make It Harewood earlier this year, needs to offer a full programme of talks, workshops and a hands-on learning, where people can engage on a deeper level. Watch this space as we look to develop the next exciting chapter for our gardens.

Meanwhile, as an Arts Council accredited museum, we have significant collections of Renaissance art, as well as the largest commission of Chippendale, beautiful Sevres and Chinese porcelain and 19th century portraits and landscapes. To see Harewood’s El Greco taking pride of place in the Grand Palais, before the show travels to America, was rather wonderful. We need to share our treasures, not just at Harewood, but with partners all over the world. If you are lucky enough to be in Paris this autumn, I really would recommend a visit!

Follow us on social media @HarewoodHouse to keep up to date with the latest stories and news.

A night at the movies: Downton Abbey première

Walking down a red carpet will always be thrilling, but even more so last night at the Downton Abbey world première of the film in Leicester Square.

With the Earl and Countess of Harewood, I waited with bated breath to see Harewood on the big screen and it didn’t disappoint. From beautiful sweeping shots of the house outside, to gorgeous drawing room scenes with Princess Mary (6th Countess of Harewood), and the final ball scene with such glamorous costumes … The grandeur of Harewood was captured by moonlight for a final romantic scene, demonstrating just how beautiful Harewood is.

As a charity, filming always provides such a vital income stream, in order to keep the house and collections open. But it is also a juggling act as I am determined to try and keep as much of the house and grounds open to the public whilst filming commences. It does pay off though, as glimpses of Maggie Smith walking back to the Base unit of over a hundred people in our main car park, give visitors an unexpected treat!

You may notice that throughout the film, the characters pronounce ‘Har-wood’ as it would have been known at that time. Today we are all one ‘Hare-wood’ whether it is the village, house or family. The truth is also skewed for fiction as you see the relationship between the 6th Earl and Princess Mary unfold … it makes for a good storyline, but in reality we know there was actually a great deal of affection between these two. In over 170 boxes of Princess Mary’s personal letters, objects and diaries, which Harewood House Trust is now responsible for, the Earl refers to himself as Princess Mary’s little ‘owl’ (she loved these birds) and she was his little ‘canary’. We’ll be giving all of our visitors a very special glimpse into this personal archive in an exhibition in the house this autumn.

It’s a hard job of course (!) as we spent a rather glamorous few hours at the after-party chatting to actors Jim Carter (Carson) Kate Phillips (Princess Mary), to the Director and Producer and of course to writer Julian Fellowes. They all praised Harewood for its beauty and how well we managed the filming. The lavish scale and opulence of the film far outstrips the TV series.

As Julian Fellowes said, it has been ten years since the beginning of Downton and none of them could have predicted where it would lead. America is next as they all get on the plane next week to New York. In the meantime we’ve invited Kate Phillips back to Harewood to delve into her character’s life – Princess Mary, sister to two kings and a fascinating, thoughtful Countess of Harewood.

Photography © 2019 Focus Features LLC

Bold, ambitious and exciting shows, says Trust Director, Jane Marriott

Why Craft Matters, Harewood House

Picture Credit – Charlotte Graham

When we are going through such turbulent political and economic times, we clearly seek reassurance, that hope, and indeed joy, can still be found in our own backyards.

Once more, we seem to be placing a greater importance on supporting local communities; buying local and supporting those who endeavour to make objects on our doorsteps in order to keep skills alive, or indeed supporting industries that seek to resurrect whole communities. It is this and many more questions we would like to pose, in the opening of our first Harewood Biennial and one of our most ambitious shows to-date.

‘Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters’, opens on 23 March to present and explore the work of 26 makers, including three very special commissions for Harewood. It was really important that we did not restrict our choice to those who work by themselves, but rather, that we included the widest range of craft from studios to manufacturers, all taking pride in creating beautifully crafted objects. By doing this, we can exhibit everything from beautiful glass pieces, to denim jeans, to paper sculptures, to handmade ballet shoes and glorious copper pans. We hope this will inspire debate on why craft matters. Why have we become so interested in these objects? We seem fascinated by the way they are created with care and thought, often using materials in interesting ways and celebrating, or indeed, supporting our very local communities. We want to understand how they were made.

Our ambition for Harewood is to create bold and exciting shows that our visitors and members will never forget. To do this, I realised very early on, that I needed to partner with the best people to make this happen. Hugo Macdonald is one such person, whom I met over a year ago, and was clearly the right person to curate our show on contemporary craft. He is a writer, curator and I would argue a great philosopher of our times. He is also clearly making excellent choices, as in the last two months alone, one of our exhibitors, Yinka Ilori, has just won New Designer at the Elle Decoration Design Awards.

Likewise, as a charity, none of this would be possible without the support and foresight of our supporters, including the Arts Council of England, the Crafts Council, Art Fund and our Harewood House Members. Indeed, one of the most innovative ways to support us, has come from a great Yorkshire based firm; G.F.Smith, based in Hull, known for their passion for paper and ‘a belief in its beauty and possibilities’. It is the innovative use of a seemingly very simple material that has allowed us to shine a light on these great craft pieces, without detracting from the magnificence of the surroundings of Harewood House – a balancing act we’ve all thought long and hard about.

I hope you come and see the show and let us know if we have succeeded in igniting this debate, and shown you some of the most beautiful, and yes sometimes even useful objects, as well. We don’t expect you to all feel the same about the pieces, nor indeed that you all explore this show in the same way….I suspect some of us prefer the twilight private tours with a glass of bubbly in hand, whilst others will want to roll up their sleeves and learn new skills as part of our brand new workshop programme. Sometimes though we may find ourselves with our kids who want to run around the house and grounds delighting in what they see and perhaps even be inspired to look at objects they see every day in a very different light. We really don’t mind as long as you get the chance to explore and perhaps to dream…..”

Read more about The Harewood Biennial 

Jane Marriott, Trust Director, looking forward to 2019

HarewoodBiennial19_GlassWe are all now great Mary Berry fans at Harewood. Over Christmas over 2 million people watched Mary at Harewood House on the BBC.

But what we particularly enjoyed was showing Mary and the wonderful crew at Shine TV, the many stories that have developed here over two centuries, and give an insight into how the future might look.

Starting the year with so many political and economic uncertainties in the face of Brexit, it is perhaps not surprising that we look to the comfort and steadfastness of spending time at home, surrounding ourselves with our treasured and familiar objects, spending time with friends and family. The holiday industry is also anticipating that it will become a sector driven less by exotic spa-breaks and overseas far flung holidays, and more by a growth in accessible, affordable ways to take time out and enjoy what is on our doorstep.

Interestingly, everything is now seemingly based on buying local, supporting great makers and surrounding ourselves with beautiful, tactile objects, from thick wool rugs, to velvet throws and gorgeous objects on display – this is reassuring and helps us feel as though we have some control in how we look after ourselves. Our homes are a place to retreat to and replenish ….I’d like Harewood to feel the same as you drive through the gates into another world, which is just as familiar, warming and enjoyable.

Craft and design will always be affected by what is happening in the world and this current moment is no exception. We will celebrate great makers this year with ‘Useful/Beautiful: why craft matters’, the first exhibition of our newly launched Harewood Biennial. We’ll pose questions about craft in a digital age and our yearning still for something physical and sensory. To explore objects that give us a thrill to look at, touch and ponder. To wonder how something was made, who was involved and why they chose to make it. Our ambition is to create the most significant craft and design show outside London every two years.

We are clearly moving towards a rejection of a throw-away society and a pace of life so fast that it is exhausting. This year at Harewood we’ll continue to help visitors find their oasis of space, perhaps by wandering through the engaging sound installation of the Pleasure Garden, sited in the Walled Garden this summer, or by celebrating 30 years of working with great contemporary artists at Harewood, in a new exhibition in the autumn called ‘Postcards to the Future’.

For now, after a day of meandering through the glorious work of great craftsmen from the past at Harewood, from expansive Adam ceilings to intricate carvings on Chippendale furniture, I am happy to be inspired to create my own corner of luxury at home. Let’s not kid ourselves, my house is far from an architectural gem, revealing a mix of Georgian, Victorian and 20th century additions…but I can’t deny the thrill of pulling back old carpets and chipboard to reveal striking slightly battered floorboards yearning to be restored. My husband and I may yet be our own versions of great craftsmen ….!