It’s 2015, already, and we’re well on our way towards the tercentenary festival year for Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown of 2016. All the chatter about doing something to celebrate Brown’s 300th Birthday has grown, thankfully from a small group of industry professionals to a significant Funding bid, related activity, and a host of Brownian landscapes and people keen to be involved.
A thirst for knowledge is being triggered as we move closer to 2016, engaging people and creating new research opportunities. Who knows what information will surface as we move forward. Furthermore, new people will be drawn towards landscape who may previously not have. Filling real landscapes with real people for walking, rolling, rowing, artistic endeavours and a range of sporting activities will breath new life into these gardens.
So why the criticism? Why do some folk feel the need to sneer at the efforts people are making towards 2016? There may well be a focus on one man by the name of Brown, but surely there can be many many winners from this focused period of activity and celebration?
Take one individual, who otherwise may not have found the time to visit or understand a historic landscape. If through a quirkily titled event, polished TV feature by a popular gardening celebrity, or through some centimetres in a local circular they pause and think about landscape, then a box can be ticked.
That ticked box could lead to an individual journey into landscape, venturing on a course that will take them through fascinating stories of achievement and onto real places where those achievements can be appreciated and celebrated. They may even join a gardens trust or history society that can widen their field of landscape exploration. Who knows where it can lead.
A festival focusing on Brown may be seen by some to be ignoring the valid efforts of many other notable and worthy landscape designers. I would however suggest that any efforts to celebrate Brown are themselves celebrated – as opportunities to champion historic landscapes and their creators in general, promoting one and all.
The Capability Brown Festival year of 2016 will I hope be seen as an opportunity to trigger much needed interest in historic landscapes, which in turn will lead to their support in one form or another. Whether a landscape is given 100% attribution as an authentic Brown creation, or whether it is vaguely similar, Brown having stayed, possibly, in a local inn whilst passing nearby. Does it really matter?
Accuracy and rigour are essential in some respects of course, but let’s not lose focus – 2016 is one huge shop window for landscape and English gardening as a whole, and an opportunity to engage the next generation of fans, artists, workers, fundraisers, gardeners and more. Furthermore, through the focus on Brown, other designers will come into view, be discovered and celebrated, and landscapes supported.