Hardwick Hall Pop-Up - By Jemma Burton

Junction Arts were very excited to be delivering our first workshop in person since March 2020 at the fantastic Hardwick Hall. We arrived at 8:30am and it seemed the project team were a little too excited for our first face-to-face workshop in 15 months as the gates were still locked...We were soon on site and welcoming our home educating families to explore Hardwick in unexpected ways. First, we headed into the Hall and were guided by Charlotte and Melissa from Hardwick’s House Team on our exclusive tour. No other members of the public were on site yet and we were able to ask our guides all the fascinating questions that popped into our heads. Throughout our tour our younger participants were fascinated by the lives and stories of its inhabitants, most notably Bess’ granddaughter Lady Arbella Stuart.

“We are NT members so we’ve been here for walks, food festivals and been inside before but we’ve definitely had a different experience today.”

Privately, participants had the chance to view the 400-year-old ‘Noble Women’ embroideries commissioned by Bess of Hardwick herself. In a darkened room with warm UV lights hang Penelope and Lucretia, two of the most fragile embroideries in Hardwick’s collection; due to their fragility the embroideries are encased and curtained off from sunlight. We learnt how through their construction and symbols within the embroidery, Bess conveyed her wealth, power and virtues to her visitors.

The National Trust conserve and care for Hardwick Hall and in doing so monitor light levels, temperature and more within the property. We wanted our participants to collect light information of their own using an app, and it was incredible to see that outside the Hall LUX levels reached into the twenty thousands but within the room of the embroideries, LUX levels were as low as 1.

“It’s amazing the difference in light levels as it’s something you don’t necessarily notice with the eye”

Back outside in Hardwick’s beautiful grounds we began our STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths) workshop with artist Cora Glasser and creative technologist Claire Garside. Inspired by Hardwick Hall’s large windows we used sunlight to create pieces of art called cyanotypes. Much like film photography the cyanotype fabric reacts to sunlight and begins to develop; by laying foliage and drawings on top of the fabric participants created beautiful artworks.

“We weren’t expecting this. I really enjoyed creating my picture and seeing how it turned out, even Monkey had a go”

Participants drew inspiration from the nature on the site around them, the Noble Women embroideries, as well as their own lives, with one Mum creating a family portrait. Continuing the overlap and conversation between the heritage site and the present day. We’re looking forward to exploring these themes and Hardwick Hall through our Curiosity Academy on site at the end of July!

“We’ve got all that history there, and this new art here, just lovely…it’s great going out again and going on trips…we really enjoyed collecting the leaves and layering of artwork”“The girls really enjoyed the hands on stuff”

Jemma Burton is the co-project coordinator for This Girl Codes and administrator of Junction Arts.