Adam Speaks launch day

The Adam Speaks Treehouse

The installation, an Adam inspired, accessible ‘tree house’ was officially opened on Saturday 25 November and was celebrated with a program of site-specific dance, music and poetry.

What was the project all about?

To continue the ethos of the 6th Earl of Coventry of using up and coming artists, as he did with ‘Capability’ Brown, the we put out a call to all emerging artists to respond to a brief inspired by, Neo-classical architect, interior and furniture designer Robert Adam. 

The Long Gallery in the house is Adams’ first complete room design, creating everything from the ceiling, plasterwork, mirrors and chimneypiece to the furniture and decorative grisailles.  The aim of the project was to find an imaginative way of presenting Croome’s history to visitors. 

Chris Alton received the commission after being chosen from ten shortlisted artists.  He ran workshops with groups including The Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts, St Barnabas First and Middle School, Writing West Midlands and Kimichi School.  Chris was mentored by internationally renowned artist Hew Locke.

The Adam Speaks Launch Day

The installation, an Adam inspired, accessible ‘tree house’ was officially opened on Saturday 25 November and was celebrated with a program of site-specific dance, music and poetry.

The treehouse wraps around one of the cedar trees which stands proudly at the foot of Church Hill in the ‘Capability’ Brown parkland.  Being built at a low level the treehouse is accessible to all visitors including those with impaired mobility, meaning everyone will be able to access the structure.

An army of volunteers from all areas of Croome were involved in a variety of roles helping visitors get the most from the day and ensuring the programme of events went as smoothly as possible.

The Adam Speaks ideas board
The Adam Speaks ideas board

During the day visitors were able to enjoy dance, music and poetry and continuing the participatory element, cupcakes were given out to visitors in return for their suggestions of what they would like Adam Speaks to be used for in the future.

Children in the Treehouse with Adam Speaks cup cakes
 children with Adam Speaks cup cakes

Poet, Kurly McGeachie kept visitors entertained near the treehouse whilst music, spoken word and dance filled the Long Gallery of the house as BITA and the Sixth Form College performed a selection of works for visitors. 

Poet Kurly McGeachie performing at the Adam Speaks launch
Poet Kurly McGeachie performing at the Adam Speaks launch

To conclude the day the treehouse was officially opened by Hew Locke and Chris Alton who cut the ribbon. 

Hew Locke and Chris Alton cut the ribbon to open the Adam Speaks installation
Hew Locke and Chris Alton cut the ribbon to open the Adam Speaks installation

This was followed by a stunning, site specific, performance by the Birmingham Institute of Theatre Arts, to the words of Writing West Midlands created especially for the launch whilst the sun set and the treehouse was lit with ever changing coloured light.

BITA performing a site-specfic dance at the Adam Speaks launch day
BITA performing at the Adam Speaks launch day

Why a Treehouse?

In his own words Chris explains how he decided to create a treehouse.   

“After finishing the workshops, I collected together all the material we'd produced; either in the form of drawings, collages, writing or photographic documentation.  I then started sticking images and notes up on my studio walls, making links where I could, as well as going off on research-tangents.  As I sifted through the stacks of paper and files of photos, I began to notice certain commonalities and patterns.  There was a definite sense of play and malleability with regard to Adam; his work had been made tangible and accessible throughout the workshops. 

One particular trend was an abundance of plant-life, which had made its way into various drawings, collages and models.  There was an entire swathe of improbable and impossible structures, which incorporated trees in some capacity.  They looked somewhat like treehouses - in the broadest sense of the word.  I suppose this was my 'light bulb' moment.  I began to make digital collages and watercolours of my own, riffing on the designs made by participants.  These eventually developed into the treehouse that now stands in the parklands of Croome Court.

Leading the workshops with the participant groups has been an incredible experience, I've been astounded by the creativity, generosity and curiosity exhibited by the participants.  I could never have come up with the idea of a neoclassical treehouse without them.”

The ethos at Croome

“We are working with new talent artists and mentors to help support the next generation of great designers to establish their craft, finding innovative and exciting ways to tell our historic stories, where better to do this than in a place that’s important enough to be preserved for the nation.

The Adam Speaks project has been our largest to date, working with over 200 people to find ways to make the great Eighteenth Century designer, Robert Adams story relevant to today’s audiences.  Participants spent time with Chris Alton, workshopping ideas and the final result is simply stunning.”   - Rachel Sharpe, National Trust Creative Partnerships Manager, South Worcestershire.

The ‘Adam Speaks – Treehouse’ will be available for visitors to experience in the parkland until November 2018.