Kettle’s Yard House and Gallery on Castle Street has recently reopened after a lengthy refurbishment which has enabled Director, Andrew Nairne, and his team to create new gallery space to display modern and contemporary art from around the world.
The opening exhibition, “Actions. The image of the world can be different”, showcases the work of thirty eight artists. “Actions Part 2” will open on 11 April with a two screen film installation, “Auto Da Fe”, from John Akomfrah and paintings by Caroline Walker who, in collaboration with the charity Women for Refugee Women, has painted refugee women housed in temporary accommodation in London.
At the heart of Kettle’s Yard is the house, once home to Jim and Helen Ede who created it from four derelict eighteenth century cottages in the late 1950’s. With a lifelong passion for art and having worked as a Curator at The Tate during the 1920’s, Jim became close friends with many artists including Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood and David Jones. Over the years, Jim acquired a significant collection of art and sculpture which he brought to Kettle’s Yard along with furniture, glass and ceramics. But the Edes equally valued natural found objects and artwork by their grandchildren. More than anything, they wanted their art to be enjoyed in an informal domestic setting, holding open house every afternoon of the university term and welcoming undergraduates to their home.
Natural light was crucial to the Edes. The day I visited, the streets were carpeted in snow and the light had a very special ethereal quality to it. I was struck by the tranquillity of the house and by its colour palette with exposed brick, varying tones of wood, natural linens, pebbles, feathers and shells, all harmonising with the Ede’s art collection to create a wonderful serenity. Jim and Helen handed over the building and their collection to the University of Cambridge in 1966 so they knew it was in safe hands but it must have been a wrench for them to leave this peaceful haven when they moved to Edinburgh in 1973.
The Ede’s musical tradition continues today with a varied programme of contemporary music and chamber concerts in the house. New archive and research areas have given enhanced research opportunities in collaboration with the University’s History of Art Department. A breathtaking double height space is now home to Kettle’s Yard’s education and community programme, hosting a year round schedule of events and activities, many of them free, for all age groups. It includes workshops, talks, panel discussions and artist led drop in workshops for families every Sunday.
At The Garden Kitchen Cafe, you’ll find tea, Fairtrade coffee, cake and light lunches with vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options. The Shop offers a carefully curated selection of cards, prints, books and jewellery with ceramics from The Leach Pottery and from local ceramicists Rachel Dormor and Maree Allitt alongside beautiful bespoke wrapping paper from Cambridge Imprint, its design inspired by a Barbara Hepworth fabric.
Kettle’s Yard is a very special place that I know I will return to again and again. There’s such a lot going on there, far more than I can write about in this post, so do check out the website for full details of all that’s happening over the coming months. Then go and experience the magic of Kettle’s Yard for yourself.
Kettle’s Yard, Castle Street, Cambridge CB3 0AQ