In 1749-50, Sir Francis Greville commissioned Capability Brown to work on Warwick Castle’s grounds, the first large commission Brown had received following his training at Stowe Gardens. Brown’s technique was to craft man-made landscapes inspired by natural habitats and harness the beauty of nature’s untamed characteristics - which was extremely controversial in some elements of Georgian England. Brown is also reported to have used “exotic” plants and wildlife in his creation of landscapes, inspired by trips abroad by those who commissioned his work.
Throughout the Georgian period, the Transatlantic Slave Trade was at its height, with tens of thousands of (predominantly West African) people being sold into slavery in the West Indies and the Americas. Many of the landowning aristocracy in the UK were beneficiaries of the profits from slavery, particularly in the West Indies, and many also owned plantations and slaves. Francis Greville, the 1st Earl of Warwick, owned a plantation in Tobago and is likely to have commissioned Capability Brown with profits from slave labour.
Beatfreeks, an arts organisation based in Birmingham, were commissioned by the Capability Brown Festival to explore this subject further and asked 6 artists to respond to Warwick Castle and Capability Brown through visuals and spoken word.
We took the artists to a research day at Warwick Castle where Richard Shepherd, the Castle Historian, took us on a tour and gave the artists space to create responses to what they discovered. Each visual artist has been paired with a spoken word artist and their work be printed on postcards for a sharing event on 1st October at Warwick Castle.
For Beatfreeks, topics like this are important to cover and give artists a chance to explore for multiple reasons:
1. Artists have a chance to take ownership of stories and recreate them for people to listen to and take on.
2. Politically, issues like this can be brushed under the carpet. For Beatfreeks, spaces are created to brush out that dust and acknowledge it.
3. To give audiences difference perspectives on the topic and give full creative control to the artists involved.
The artists responding to work are Kamil Mahmood & Rue Gumbochuma, Jose Cifuentes & Myah Jeffers and Jordanne Cameron & Letisha Stuart Green.
Meet Beatfreeks and all the artists as well as the producers of this event, Aliyah Holder and Amerah Saleh, on 1st October at Warwick Castle. There will be a coach going from Birmingham and tickets are just £1 for the first 30 people (aged 16-25).