A Visit to Kettle's Yard
Fictions of Home summer course, July 2019
Kettle’s Yard House
We were very fortunate to spend an afternoon visiting Kettle’s Yard, a fascinating house which was once the private home of art collectors Jim and Helen Ede. Jim Ede had been a curator at the Tate Gallery earlier, in the 1920s and 30s. He and Helen lived in Kettle’s Yard from 1958 until 1973. They collected art and turned their house into a kind of gallery, into which they welcomed everyone, especially students. It is still a beautiful, relaxed, and welcoming space, and it gave us further insights into the ways that ‘home’ can be imagined – even curated – and the different ways that home might be shared with others.
Jim Ede gathered a remarkable collection of art in the house, with paintings by Ben Nicholson, Winifred Nicholson, Alfred Wallis, Christopher Wood, David Jones and Joan Miro, as well as sculptures by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Constantin Brancusi, Henry Moore, and Barbara Hepworth.
At Kettle’s Yard Jim carefully positioned these artworks alongside furniture, glass, ceramics and natural objects, with the aim of creating a harmonic whole. His vision was of a place that should not be
an art gallery or museum, nor … simply a collection of works of art reflecting my taste or the taste of a given period. It is, rather, a continuing way of life from these last fifty years, in which stray objects, stones, glass, pictures, sculpture, in light and in space, have been used to make manifest the underlying stability.
Kettle’s Yard was originally conceived with students in mind. Jim kept ‘open house’ every afternoon of term, personally guiding visitors around his home. In 1966 he gave the house and its contents to the University of Cambridge. In 1970, three years before the Edes retired to Edinburgh, the house was extended, and an exhibition gallery added. The house is still, by and large, as Jim left it. There are artworks in every corner, and there are no labels.
This information is adapted from the Kettle’s Yard website.
We finished the visit with a sobering talk by Elliot Harris from Cambridge refugee charity CamCrag. This is a group of local volunteers who give practical help to stateless refugees in France and elsewhere in Europe. The group started their work in 2015, when many refugees were living in very poor conditions at the Jungle camp at Calais. This camp was dismantled in 2016, but conditions are still very difficult for refugees in the area. Elliot recommended a powerful documentary entitled Calais Children (2018), which asks about the fate of 2,000 unaccompanied children who were living at the Jungle when the camp was closed.
There are still many refugees needing support, and CamCrag works with other charities to help them, in the face of considerable difficulties. Elliot also works with homeless people in Cambridge. Our sincere thanks to Elliot for his talk, and to CamCrag for their valuable work.
‘You don’t need permission to do good.’
• Radio 105, Cambridge. Leigh Chambers interview with Elliot Harris and Ed Sexton on Refugee Week, 2018
• Radio 105, Cambridge, Neil Whiteside, CamCrag update, September 2018.
• CamCrag website. Poncho project: making warm ponchos. Sewing sessions 13 and 14 September 2019.
• Kettle’s Yard website.
Thanks to Jeremy Peters @JezPete for the photos.