Horticulture Week Custodian Award - Best visitor engagement event

Winner - Brown at Work, Croome, National Trust

(Left-to-right): Liz Turrell, Sue Coleman, Kathrin Böhm, Katherine Alker, Ted Rice  and Kiki Claxton
(Left-to-right): Liz Turrell, Sue Coleman, Kathrin Böhm, Katherine Alker, Ted Rice and Kiki Claxton

Funded by Arts Council England and supported by the Landscape Institute’s CB300 celebrations, "Brown at Work" was an extremely successful project and contributed to Croome’s massive rise in visitor numbers from 198,000 in 2015 to 273,000 in 2016.

Although it looks completely natural, the picturesque landscape at Croome, situated near Pershore in south Worcestershire, was created by the visionary "Capability" Brown with the fortune of the sixth Earl of Coventry and the toil of thousands of labourers who worked without the tools we take for granted today.

Brown had the ability to envisage and produce an entire new landscape as well as the vision to anticipate how it would look in the future. The fact that he could do this without the modern aids of 3D modelling and digital advantages still captivates and fascinates landscaping professionals and visitors today.

The Brown at Work installation — a miniature landscape in the grounds of Croome that could be sculpted and resculpted by Croome’s visitors from 23 July to 3 September 2016 — was part of the Croome team’s objective to celebrate Brown’s 300th birthday and to increase the amount of visitors who understand and appreciate that they are walking in a "created landscape" that was formed from a marsh by Brown more than 260 years ago.

Brown at Work gave the opportunity for visitors to experience how it feels to shift and shape the land, albeit on a much smaller scale, on the same site worked by Brown. Tons of sand were placed within an enclosure with simple tools and 2D models of famous Brownian features to enable visitors to create their own landscapes. The installation was a particular hit among Croome’s family audience and delivered the initial objectives set out as well as providing a memorable and creative experience for visitors.

The project was co-produced by a team of National Trust staff (Katherine Alker and Kiki Claxton) along with Croome volunteers (Sue Coleman, Ted Rice, Betty Mills, David Pratley and Liz Turrell) who collaborated with a socially engaged artist, Kathrin Böhm. The installation proved to be so successful that the original finish date of 21 August 2016 was moved to 3 September.

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