The Cotswolds are among the UK’s most scenic locations and the region’s gardens are very much at the heart of this year’s Broadway Arts Festival. Opening the Broadway Arts Festival on June 9 is Sir Roy Strong, who will talk about his own Laskett Gardens, the largest private formal gardens to be created in England since 1945.
He and his late wife, the designer Dr Julia Trevelyan Oman, have transformed a four-acre field in Herefordshire into a series of stunning garden rooms, vistas, ascents and descents, which include a rose garden, orchard, kitchen garden, knot garden, fountains and parterres, as well as a spectacular array of topiary and rich herbaceous and prairie style borders. Uniquely, the garden tells the story of both their marriage and their creative lives in the arts.
This year’s festival also features renowned 19th-century artist and garden designer Alfred Parsons RA, a key figure in the Broadway Colony, a group of predominantly American artists, writers, actors and musicians who made the picturesque Cotswold village their home between 1885 and 1914. In 1885 Frank D. Millet, an American artist, journalist, and diplomat, rented Farnham House, overlooking Broadway’s village green, later purchasing Russell House. With wide connections among the expatriate American artistic community, many based in Europe, the summer of 1885 saw a steady stream of visitors, including the artist John Singer Sargent, who was recovering from an unhappy experience at the previous year’s Paris Salon, when his Portrait of Madame X had been much criticised. Henry James, Edward Elgar, J M Barrie and anyone who was anyone in intellectual circles at the time made Broadway a destination, either to live or as a visitor.
Parsons also made his home in Broadway. Several local gardens still exist that are based on his design of a century earlier and his paintings of gardens are among his most sought-after works.
In 2008, a local group started to plan the first Broadway Arts Festival, to celebrate the work of these various artists.
The first biennial event took place in 2010. This is the second, from June 9-17. The associated charity’s aim is to encourage the talent of the future through a bursary or grant that will provide financial support to young people in the community who need financial support to start or continue their studies. For the first time in decades, the gardens of Russell House and Court Farm will be open to the public, offering a rare opportunity to view some of Parsons’ garden design.