New year message: Kenwood can play its part in our recovery

Kenwood House. Picture: Ken Mears

Kenwood House. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

The Friends of Kenwood would like to send best wishes to all those who have supported Kenwood throughout this long and difficult year.

Who would have thought when Noel Gallagher was photographed in front of the Christmas tree by the great Adam Library in 2019 that Kenwood House would be closed for much of 2020?

In April, 85% of English Heritage staff were furloughed and Kenwood House and its estate were closed. Those staff who remained at Kenwood throughout did the normal work of dozens of people, working all hours to protect Kenwood and plan for its reopening, and they deserve the gratitude of us all for doing such an amazing and valuable job.

The closure of Kenwood was the longest period the estate had been closed to the public since the Second World War. It was welcome news indeed when it reopened on May 27 and it helped our neighbours, Hampstead Heath, where so many people had taken their daily exercise since the very beginning of the pandemic.

Visitors, volunteers and staff at Kenwood House the day before it reopened on September 2. Pictured

Visitors, volunteers and staff at Kenwood House the day before it reopened on September 2. Pictured from left to right are Helen Payne of the Friends of Kenwood, Wendy Monkhouse, senior curator for English Heritage, staff Judy Krlickova and James Baniecki supervisor, volunteers Phil Bye and Rose Wilson, and operations manager Chris Small. - Credit: Polly Hancock

In the face of Covid-19 the Friends of Kenwood have gone virtual; we regularly have online talks and if you have a spare moment over the festive season, why not listen to them on our YouTube channel, just search for Friends of Kenwood. It will make a change to the New Year’s Day film!

Looking forward, our magnificent heritage asset at the top of the Heath will surely play its part in helping everyone’s physical and mental well-being.

The good news is that the Kenwood estate is open, though the tier 4 restrictions mean the shops and the cafes, along with the house itself, are shut.

READ MORE: Memories of the Heath and Highgate in the 1940s and early 1950s

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As soon as Kenwood House itself reopens, why not book a visit – it’s free! When you look at the stunning paintings inside, where people from past centuries stare out at you, think about the threats they might have faced, threats as grave as the current pandemic.

We hope you will leave feeling inspired by beauty, certain that Kenwood is a great jewel for us all to appreciate.

We can’t wait for 2021! We look forward to a brighter year ahead and wish all your readers good health, much happiness, and a restful festive season.

  • Helen Payne is secretary of the Friends of Kenwood House.