Harewood will open doors on black history

Harewood House features in an ITV documentary about racism and its history and is launching a series of projects promoting diversity and inclusion.

Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 8:22 am
Harewood plans a season of events about its past. Picture Tom Arber

A year on since George Floyd was murdered, Sir Trevor McDonald and Charlene White examined how the United Kingdom has reacted to his death, its effect on the Black Lives Matter movement and ongoing conversations about racism in a one-hour documentary aired on ITV this evening.

David Lascelles, Earl of Harewood spoke of what he, the Countess of Harewood and Harewood House Trust have done to address the estate’s heritage.

He said: “I think it’s a period of history that as a nation, we’ve not come to terms with properly.

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“I think that, until we do, a lot of the divisions, a lot of the conflicts, can’t be resolved until we understand our history.”

The Trust and the Lascelles family have been at the forefront of acknowledging the estate’s colonial past for over 25 years.

A Trust spokesman added: “Being transparent about colonial history and ensuring the Trust hosts much-needed, and sometimes difficult conversations is vital to calling out racism, and to forging new connections with visitors and the communities of the cities and countryside around.”

In the past, Harewood has commissioned artists of diverse heritage and spoken about its roots in the Lascelles family’s links to the Atlantic Slave Trade.

This resulted in a year-long programme of events to mark the Bicentenary of the Abolition of Slavery in 2007, featuring Geraldine Connor’s Carnival Messiah.

The Trust said it will continue this commitment to promoting and celebrating equality, diversity and inclusion, and to combating racism.

“It is central to Harewood’s programming aims, to working with its staff and volunteers, and working with the communities in and around Leeds and West Yorkshire,” added the spokesman.

“Harewood’s Open History programme engages audiences with the urgent issues of our time, engendering empathy and understanding of these issues in order to celebrate diversity, while bringing Harewood’s colonial past into greater focus.”

Launching on June 12, Heritage Corner brings its unique brand of insightful Black History Walks to Harewood.

Joe Williams and Vanessa Mudd will explore black history and hidden connections to Harewood in an imaginative, fun and family-friendly way through the guise of Pablo Fanque and his wife.

Joe Williams, Director of Heritage Corner, said: “We aim to enhance positive engagement and discourse on race and social cohesion from a shared heritage perspective.

“Excluding shame and blame by intent, the aim is to inform and engender pride and hope for all visitors.”

From May 17, a display will open on the life of Harewood’s first known black member of staff - George ‘Bertie’ Robinson - who travelled with the 5th Earl and Countess from St Vincent to Leeds aged 13 to work for the Lascelles family.