Drawing and creativity can take you to all kinds of new places and spaces - especially the beautiful outdoors! For National Trust property, Knole House, their 2022 Big Draw celebrations took on many forms, with a dedicated The Big Draw weekend packed with events, come rain or shine, and a special exhibition with The Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration, working with local artists.
We spoke to Mollie Barden to find out more.
Interview: The Big Draw in conversation with Mollie Barden.
We’re really happy to have the National Trust in Knole as a sponsor partner of The Big Draw Festival! Could you let our readers know a bit about Knole and the parkland?
Sitting proudly within Kent’s last medieval deer park, visitors can explore the vast estate and follow in the footsteps of tourists who have visited Knole’s showrooms for 400 years. Originally built as an archbishop’s palace, Knole passed through royalty to the Sackville family, who still live here today. There are historic showrooms filled with precious art and furniture, grand courtyards, a beautiful and tranquil Orangery or and acres of parkland, which is still populated by wild deer.
In October 2022, you ran The Big Draw Weekend free craft and drawing activities available all day. How did this go, and what are your highlights from your Big Draw events for this year?
The Big Draw Weekend at Knole went well and we tried some new events which were very popular. We were busy with lots of visitors, even with horribly wet weather on the Sunday! We welcomed over 2100 visitors on the Saturday and Sunday. A highlight of the weekend was a lot of the children getting their faces painted and becoming the colourful art as they wandered around the park.
You hosted a lovely exhibition from the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration featuring illustrations of The BFG, and ran events and workshops alongside it over the month. What a wonderful event!
The BFG in Pictures exhibition was great and created lots of opportunities to host new events for budding artists. We regularly run workshops throughout the year here at Knole, but we found new local artists specifically for this exhibition, some of whom had similar techniques to Quentin Blake.
Some of these artists will also be coming back this year to host workshops to link in with our new theme of ‘Framing Knole’, celebrating paintings, portraiture and frames in honour of the tricentenary of the birth of artist Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Our Big Draw theme, Come Back to Colour, is all about capturing, celebrating and finding joy. How do your events this year fit in with that theme?
With Knole being a protected historical site, there are often restrictions on the events we do and how far creativity can be unleashed! However, for The Big Draw Weekend we asked visitors to bring colour to our courtyards using chalk to create their own artwork on the paths in the historic courtyards. This isn’t something that would normally be allowed, but on this occasion we could let visitors to feel like they were a big part of bring colour to the heart of Knole.
What motivated you to take part in The Big Draw Festival, and what do you hope to achieve?
The BFG in Pictures exhibition was a big inspiration, as it took you through the stages of illustration carried out by Quentin Blake, from black ink sketches to the recognisable watercolour images. This was something that appealed to a wide audience, such as multi-generational families and art lovers. Being part of the Big Draw festival allowed us to reach more of these audiences and shout about the different ways we were celebrating art and colour.
Knole has a 400 year history, from the deer park to the residence. How did this weave into your Big Draw celebrations this year?
Knole is home to a large art collection with paintings by Reynolds, Gainsborough and Van Dyke. We are always looking to celebrate these and welcome visitors to enjoy the amazing collection of are that we have. With Knole’s literary links also, there is a sense of creativity that we want to encourage visitors to explore.
For you, what are the benefits that drawing and creative thinking can provide people in their everyday life? How do you incorporate these into events at Knole?
Drawing, painting and creative thinking is something that everyone can get involved in. A key aim of the National Trust is to welcome everyone to enjoy these special places that we care for, whether it be a historic building such as Knole, a formal garden or a wild coastline. Art can be just as inclusive and beneficial, no matter what your ability, age, style or skill, it’s about having a go. The Big Draw helps us do this and spread this message, and invite people to be creative and inspired by our places.
Thank you, Mollie!
Interested in organising your own Big Draw event? Registrations for our 2023 festival 'Drawing with Senses' are open now! Find out the benefits of becoming an organiser here and about this years sense-sational theme here.