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“Let your imagination run free”: Lord Whitney talk creativity, childishness and mindfulness in Upon a Christmas Wish

Amy Lord and Rebekah Whitney

Amy Lord and Rebekah Whitney. Photo by Tom Joy

Lord Whitney is the the Leeds-based creative studio behind Upon a Christmas Wish at Harewood House. Led by Amy Lord and Rebekah Whitney, it is an innovative artist-led studio creating immersive experiences and spaces that spark wonder and inspire curiosity. They build cinematic worlds that allow audiences to journey into their imagination, see things differently and explore the possibilities.

We sat down with Amy and Rebekah to chat about the studio’s origins, their inspirations, and the importance of unlocking your inner child…

Thanks for making time for us – it’s been a very busy few weeks installing Upon a Christmas Wish at Harewood! To start, can you tell us how Lord Whitney came to be?

Rebekah: The two of us met at university in Leeds many moons ago, on a graphic art and design degree. We had a similar aesthetic, but we were working on opposite sides of the studio – I was all about illustration while Amy was more into photography. Our tutor noticed the similar themes in our work and put us together – and we instantly hit it off. We found we had the same mind’s eye. We’d talk about an idea, go away to develop it, and when we came back together we’d have drawn the same picture of how we wanted it to look.

Amy: It was the worst timing though! It was practically the last week of our third year, all our work had been handed in, and only then did we find eachother. We were so excited to have finally found something that made us giddy. It felt like we were playing as children again – time would pass so quickly and the security guards kept having to kick us out of the studio at night.

Photo by Tom Joy

I love that phrase, ‘the same mind’s eye’. How do you two see the world?

Rebekah: I think we’re able to return to being kids, and see things as a child would – just letting your imagination run free. It turns out we were basically the same child, both enjoying taking things down to set them back up again, and now we’re able to do that as adults. I think that if you can tap into the thing you enjoyed as a child, you’ll probably enjoy it as an adult.

Amy: Definitely – that’s an important message we have in a lot of our work, things that gave you joy as a child will give you joy now.

Returning to the origins of Lord Whitney – you’ve graduated, having only just found eachother as creative partners. What happened next?

Amy: We didn’t set up Lord Whitney straight away – we both had a few years trying things out and feeling quite lost, not knowing if or how we could get a creative job in Leeds. We’ve both worked in film and TV, festivals, children’s workshops, photography… we’ve been on a journey, and all those different experiences feed into what we do now. It makes us unique!

It’s actually really interesting to note that we’ve had our studio for 10 years now, having started up after the last recession; and we’ve met lots of other creative businesses who are also 10 years old. There was clearly a phase when lots of creative people decided they wouldn’t get a job through someone else, so they may as well do it themselves! And now, after the initial shock of the Covid pandemic, we’re seeing people do the same thing again – new creative businesses are springing up all over.

Rebekah: Creative minds will thrive in a crisis – we’re problem solvers!

The Lord Whitney team install Upon a Christmas Wish. Photo by Paul Craig Photography.

What’s Leeds like as a base for a creative studio like Lord Whitney?

Rebekah: It’s great! There are so many more opportunities than when we first started and we have an amazing studio that we couldn’t afford in London. It’s the same in Sheffield and Manchester. In fact we haven’t done a London job in a while. We did plenty when Lord Whitney first started, and we never made it an issue, travelling to London several times a week. I’m glad we did that, because it encouraged London brands to look further afield for their creative work. But we love Leeds – we did consider moving in the early days but just couldn’t give up the north!

Let’s chat about Upon a Christmas Wish, the remarkable experience that you’ve created for Harewood. What was behind the concept of the House telling the story of a little girl’s Christmas wish?

Rebekah: Last year was awful, very traumatic and difficult [Upon a Christmas Wish was originally planned for Christmas 2020, and had to be postponed due to Covid restrictions]. When we began thinking about it in the first lockdown, we had a conversation about doing something positive. It was a scary time – like everyone we were navigating our business and worried about family and friends, but we were starting to see creatives trying to do positive things in their communities. So what could we do to create a moment of respite? How we could create an experience that helped Harewood’s visitors to feel relaxed or try to forget what they were going through?

Amy: When we started talking about positivity, we quickly got to how Bek felt being a mum, and specifically reading to her kids. We talked about the lull of a story – children don’t necessarily understand the words or meaning but when stories are read out loud they are really calming. Stories were so important to us as children, and still are now. In our work, you can see bits of Narnia, bits of Peter Pan… all these references peeking through. So we wanted to use a story to help people reconnect with their inner child and imagination, and make something relevant for adults and kids.

The Lord Whitney team install Upon a Christmas Wish. Photo by Paul Craig Photography.

How did the work develop once you’d had the concept?

Rebekah: There was a lot of research, working with the Harewood Collections team. They dug out articles and artefacts relating to Christmas, and we pulled out gems and nuggets to be included in the fictional story, like the Christmas theatrics. We also spoke to David Lascelles, Earl of Harewood, who remembered amazing Christmas parties when he was a boy, with plenty of merriment and Christmas cheer.

Amy: Absolutely, the research phase is so important. You come with an idea but the project is Harewood specific, so it has to be developed in its own context.

We wanted a strong narrative, so we found an amazing collaborator in Toby Thompson, the poet and writer, and got Buffalo on board for sound design early on. We love collaborating, it adds such strength and creativity to a project.

Rebekah: Obviously we did have to consider how to create an immersive experience during a global pandemic! Everything had to be spaced out, you can’t touch anything – so voice and sound was really important to make a safe, immersive show.

What’s your favourite part of Upon a Christmas Wish?

Rebekah: The toy room really excites me. That room in particular is a moment for children, and for the adults who remember setting up the games. When I was little I had a book called iSpy Christmas, which was full of detailed photographic spreads – you had to spot the tin soldier or the bear playing a drum – and that book heavily inspired this room. The toys have come alive and they’re setting up games for Sophie to play. And I love the big moon for the moment of calm and stillness.

Lord Whitney work on the toy room in Upon a Christmas Wish

Amy: I like the dining room because of the contrast to the previous room. You’ve started the experience in the music room, with a film and audio – it’s clear what’s going on. But then you step into the dark dining room as if you’re stepping into Sophie’s imagination. It’s unexpected and we like to challenge people’s expectations!

What would you say to someone about to enter Upon a Christmas Wish?

Amy: Let everything go and step into it with an open mind. We thought a lot about mindfulness and healing in creating this piece – we tried to create moments of mindfulness even if people don’t realise they’re having them. So really, we’re interested to see what people feel like when they come out!

Rebekah: If people feel a sense of wonder, like you feel as a child, at any moment, then that’s fantastic – job done.

 

Upon a Christmas Wish by Lord Whitney is open now at Harewood House. Christmas at Harewood tickets include timed entry to the House, as well as Harewood’s beautifully decorated gardens and grounds. Pre-booking is essential at harewood.org/christmas.

2018

A big thank you to all of our visitors and members who supported us in 2017!

We are very much looking forward to 2018 and this year, we will be doing things a little bit differently, with a changing theme for every season.

In the Spring, we will be celebrating the 300th anniversary of Chippendale’s birth. Through a series of exhibitions, events and activities, Designer, Maker, Decorator offers a new way of looking at Chippendale’s work and a story unique to Harewood. Chippendale was born just 7 miles down the road from Harewood in the town of Otley and in 1767, he received the largest commission of his career, to furnish the newly built Harewood House. The season will also include a contemporary response to Chippendale from artist Geraldine Pilgrim, with both internal and external installations.

Throughout the Summer, we will be working in creative partnership with Lord Whitney, looking at life at Harewood at the end of the First World War. Seeds of Hope will explore the life and experiences of the local community and the people who lived and worked at Harewood during this period. Featuring crops, livestock and exhibits that will take visitors back in time, we will create a picture of the Walled Garden as it was in 1918.

Towards the end of the year, our thoughts will turn to artisans, designers and the contemporary with exhibitions, installations and events that celebrate craft.

Throughout the year, we will also have an exciting range of external events taking place, from our ever-popular annual Great British Food Festival and Rolls Royce Rally, to Classic Ibiza – a new, family friendly addition to our events programme.
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Look out for more details and a full programme coming shortly. We look forward to welcoming our visitors and members for this exciting year ahead when we re-open on Friday 23rd March.

Sir Cliff Richard, Just Fabulous Rock ‘n’ Roll, UK 2017 Tour

Visit Harewood to see Cliff Richard in concert
Legendary Singer To Play A Series Of Fully Seated Outdoor Concerts In Intimate Arenas Built Especially For Sir Cliff And His Fans

Support Act To Be Announced

To celebrate the release of his incredible new album “Just…Fabulous Rock ‘n’ Roll“, the UK’s most successful hit-maker, Cliff Richard, will be heading out on a summer tour of the UK’s most beautiful castles and historic locations in 2017 for a series of fully seated outdoor concerts in fabulous intimate arenas, built especially for Cliff Richard and his fans. Tickets will go on general sale on Monday 14th November from www.livenation.co.uk.

Cliff has returned to his roots to record an album of his favourite songs from the golden era of rock ‘n’ roll. These include Cliff’s renditions of seminal tracks such as Roll Over Beethoven, Great Balls of Fire, Sweet Little Sixteen and his very own debut single, Move It. The album also features a duet with fellow idol Elvis Presley on Blue Suede Shoes. This has been a career long dream of Cliff’s, which now becomes reality. The new release follows the huge success of his last studio album, ‘The Fabulous Rock ‘n’ Roll Songbook’ in 2013, and the celebratory ’75 at 75 – 75 Career Spanning Hits’ in 2015.

Cliff released his debut single Move It in August 1958. It is credited with being the first British rock ‘n’ roll hit, bringing what had previously been an American genre across the Atlantic, for the first time. ‘Just… Fabulous Rock ‘n’ Roll’ will, astonishingly, be his 102nd album.

The ‘Just Fabulous Rock ‘n’ Roll Tour’ will stop by the following UK venues through June and July 2017:

SIR CLIFF RICHARD
JUST FABULOUS ROCK ‘n’ ROLL
UK 2017 TOUR
With support to be announced

JUNE

Saturday 17thEastnor Castle, Herefordshire
Sunday 18th Stansted Park, Hampshire
Wednesday 21st Walcot Hall, Shropshire
Thursday 22nd Catton Hall, Derbyshire
Saturday 24th Lincoln Castle, Lincolnshire
Sunday 25th Euston Hall, Suffolk
Wednesday 28th Harewood House, Leeds
Thursday 29th Open Air Theatre, Scarborough

JULY

Saturday 1st Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich London
Sunday 2nd Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich London

Tickets go on-sale at 10am on Monday 14th November (subject to per-ticket charge plus order processing fee) and are available from www.livenation.co.uk. Please note, Harewood House will not be selling tickets. All sales will be arranged via www.livenation.co.uk.
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For more information head to CLIFFRICHARD.ORG

Triumphant Brownlees set to return for Brownlee Tri 2016

Visit Harewood to see Ali and Jonny Brownlee

  • 2016 Olympic gold and silver medallists Alistair and Jonny Brownlee have confirmed their attendance at Brownlee Tri 2016
  • 2016 Brownlee Tri date: Saturday 24th September
  • Entries close Sunday 11 September: brownleetri.com

Brownlee Tri is delighted to confirm that our Olympic heroes Alistair and Jonny Brownlee will be attending this year’s event on Saturday 24 September.

Back-to-back Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee and Olympic silver medallist Jonny Brownlee will be bringing their gold and silver medals from Rio 2016 to Harewood House, Leeds for their fourth annual legacy triathlon event.

Alistair Brownlee said: “We’re really looking forward to seeing everyone at this year’s Brownlee Tri for what promises to be another great event. The countdown is on and we’re sure it will be another fantastic day.”

Jonny Brownlee added: “To see so many triathletes young and old taking part at a stunning venue in our home county of Yorkshire is amazing. Best of luck to everyone competing and we’ll see you there!”

More details on opportunities to meet and greet the Brownlee Brothers will be announced prior to the race.

Entries for Brownlee Tri 2016 close on Sunday 11 September 2016.

Registrations are still open for individual super-sprint and sprint distances, along with the exclusive youth-junior wave for 15-18 year olds and the Team Relay.
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Whether it’s your first triathlon, an experienced racer or simply want a great day out, there’s something for everyone at Brownlee Tri 2016. Find out more or sign-up at www.brownleetri.com

ENTRIES NOW OPEN FOR 2016 BROWNLEE TRI

Brownlee Brothers at Harewood

  • Entries now open: www.brownleetri.com
  • 20% discount from 9am Friday 25th until midnight Monday 28th March
  • 2016 Brownlee Tri date: Saturday 24th September

The Brownlee Tri will be returning to Harewood House in Leeds for its third consecutive year on Saturday 24th September 2016. Alistair and Jonny Brownlee’s hugely popular triathlon will once again offer Sprint and Super-Sprint distances for individuals and a Sprint relay for teams around the spectacular Harewood course.

As an Easter Bank holiday special and to celebrate the launch, entries will be discounted by 20% until midnight on Monday 28th March.

The 2016 Brownlee Tri will build on the success of the 2015 event, when over 6,000 people descended on the beautiful Harewood estate. With over 1600 registered participants, the event was a huge success bringing together triathletes of all ages and abilities to experience the unique and exciting course. Alistair Brownlee commented “We are excited to bring the Brownlee Tri back to Harewood House again this year. The 2015 event was great and enjoyed by many. We can’t wait to do it all over again, this time even bigger and better.”
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The event will once again offer a packed Entertainment Village and the opportunity for competitors and spectators to explore the grounds of the Harewood Estate, including the Bird Garden and Adventure Playground.

To enter online, visit the website here: www.brownleetri.com