Who are you and why do you like Upton House and Gardens?
I’m Jane and I started volunteering at Upton nearly five years ago. I enjoy meeting our visitors and helping them make the most of their day. Being part of the enthusiastic, creative and friendly team in such a beautiful setting makes every day quite special.
What is your role here?
It’s quite varied! I greet visitors at the front door and work as a room guide. I’m part of a small team who run the costume events which are great fun, I am even sewing a 1940s blouse for next year’s Country House Bank during WW2 theme.
What have you particularly enjoyed?
One of the most satisfying activities is being part of a team researching and writing presentation materials for our New Squash Court Gallery exhibitions. It’s really good to investigate an area at some depth; I have always enjoyed contemporary and 20th century art but they were new subjects to me for research and I am fascinated. The Trust New Art programme has been a bold step and it’s rewarding to see Upton’s visitors appreciating this move. It’s even better when they can offer further insights to the exhibition or have come especially so see it.
Currently I am looking at what happened to art in Britain during the Second World War. Artists such as Paul Nash, John Piper and Stanley Spencer played a vital role in painting British landscapes as a record of how the country looked before war might have changed it either by bombing or invasion. War artists also documented life on the home front and in the forces. Kenneth Clarke, of “Civilisation” fame was a key player in establishing this group, he was not only keen to save an artistic record of the time but also to save the lives of artists. Many London theatres and galleries closed in 1939 but it was quickly realised that the Arts were needed and played a huge part in maintaining morale during wartime. Small scale London events emerged and grew, such as the music concerts organised by Dame Myra Hess and the National Gallery’s temporary art shows. Regional venues benefited as orchestras and companies such as Sadlers Wells took music and ballet around the country.
The staff and volunteers who make up our research groups are great people to work with; we look forward to meeting up to discuss our latest finds, more often than not over tea and cake in true Trust tradition!
What are you next looking forward to?
I shall be intrigued to see all the threads of the “Country House Bank” coming together next Spring. And I can’t wait to see what artist in residence Yelena Popova has in mind to bring to our gallery space. Earlier in the year, I was lucky enough to go and visit Yelena’s studio, see some of her canvases and experience her video work. That was a great taster tour – so I’m looking forward to it’s development.