In 2016, Berrington Hall celebrated Capability Brown’s tercentenary year with much excitement and innovation. A visit to Berrington this year is to experience heritage in a riot of colour and spectacle; the stories of Berrington and its original architect, Capability Brown, have been brought to life in myriad ways: Delicarta’s paper art; the Embroiderers' Guild; the contemporary art project Genius Loci; authentic Georgian costumes, a newly designed ‘Brown’ parkland walk and a parkland restoration to return it to its Brownian heyday have all contributed to the most exciting year Berrington has had since Brown first cast his magic over the estate some 241 years ago. The year culminated in ‘Strange Magic’, a spectacular evening of fire, pyrotechnics, music, light and song that was a fantastical celebration of the impact Capability Brown had on the landscape at Berrington Hall. Feedback around this event is summarised by Ylva Dahnsjo's (National Trust Scotland) recent feedback;
“It was indeed magic and totally unforgettable; unexpected; beautiful; haunting; joyful; thought-provoking. And it somehow gave one a better connection with the landscape and the earth.”
When planning Capability Brown's tercentenary at Berrington, the team made the bold decision against a ‘traditional’ approach, and looked to new mediums of interpretation to engage and intrigue visitors. The approach was innovative for using creative vehicles within the context of the traditional historic house experience and asking the visitor to join us on that journey. We developed collaborative working practices by forming artistic partnerships in response to the Capability Brown Festival.
The Capability Brown Festival was instrumental in forging the partnership between the National Trust and Herefordshire College of Arts by funding the Morton Ride Project. Facilitated by Red Earth, the project engaged students based in the urban community to create a unique site-specific installation at Berrington. This process offered insight into the creative methodology of Brown’s use of 'landscape as art', as well as exploring contemporary artists' working practices for creating site-specific work in a landscape. The legacy of this project, apart from celebrating the creative process of Capability Brown, has been to establish an ongoing collaborative partnership with the arts college.
Berrington has seen a 10% growth in visitors this year, making 2016 the busiest year since the National Trust opened Berrington Hall to the public. General Manager, David Bailey says “The increase in visitor numbers has undoubtedly been down to our programme of activity in celebrating the Capability Brown tercentenary.” Not only has the property seen many more visitors come to the property, there has been a very signifianct increase in the numbers of "Very Enjoyable" scores visitor have given about theitr visits. Finally Berrington held a pledger and donor day in June on the back of the 2016 programme, highlighting the aims of parkland and garden restoration, which generated £25,000 additional income to invest in the future care and conservation of Berrington Hall and its landscape, Capability Brown's final commission.
About the author: Ellie Jones, Berrington Hall, National Trust.