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Return to Kettle’s Yard

Laura Freeman, chief art critic at The Times and author of Ways of Life: Jim Ede and the Kettle’s Yard Artists, and Kettle’s Yard Director Andrew Nairne take us back to Cambridge in this follow-up to Episode 30 of the Foxed pod.

Jim Ede was a man for whom art, books, beauty, friendship and creativity were essential facets of a happy and fulfilled life and, in her acclaimed group biography of Jim and his artists, Ways of Life, Laura casts new light on the men and women who gently shaped a new way of making, seeing and living with art for the twentieth century. In this quarter’s literary podcast Laura and Andrew join Slightly Foxed Editors Gail and Hazel at the kitchen table to draw us deeper into Jim and his wife Helen’s way of life and their life’s work at Kettle’s Yard: a domestic home-cum-gallery where pausing to sit is encouraged and artworks, furniture, ceramics, books and found objects from the natural world live side by side in delicious harmony. We follow Laura upstairs to Helen’s sitting-room to meet Constanin Brâncuşi’s cement-cast head of the boy Prometheus where it sits on top of the piano, we pause in the light-filled Dancer Room to take in Henri Gaudier-Brzeska’s delicate bronze ballerina and we pass by Barbara Hepworth’s strokable slate sculpture Three Personages on the landing before leafing through the bookshelves to discover hand-bound early editions of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and works by Henry James. We hear how Jim believed that art was for everyone and wasn’t just for looking at but also for touching, hearing and engaging with: a belief so central to his ethos that he would lend pieces to Cambridge University students to place in their own living spaces.

For our book-lovers’ day out Andrew takes us on a richly detailed audio tour of the four nineteenth-century former slum cottages and the concert and exhibition spaces that make up Kettle’s Yard today, meeting more of Jim’s friends and influences along the way, including Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Henry Moore, Christopher Wood and David Jones. To finish, there’s the usual round-up of recommended reading including Lionel Davidson’s slow-burning 1960s spy thriller The Night of Wenceslas, Ann Patchett’s dark and twisting family saga The Dutch House, Osman Yousefzada’s prize-winning memoir The Go-Between which recalls his upbringing in a closed migrant community in Birmingham in the 1980s and 1990s, and a bedtime rendition of Eric Carle’s children’s classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar on repeat.

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Show Notes

Books Mentioned

Please find links to books, articles, and further reading listed below. The digits in brackets following each listing refer to the minute and second they are mentioned. (Episode duration: 59 minutes; 46 seconds)

We may be able to get hold of second-hand copies of the out-of-print titles mentioned on the podcast and listed below. Please get in touch with Jess in the Slightly Foxed office for more information.

Laura Freeman, Ways of Life: Jim Ede and the Kettle’s Yard Artists (0:55)

Virginia Woolf, Orlando (18:30)

Henry James, ‘The Great Good Place’ (19:46)

Richard Cobb, A Classical Education (45:34)

Adrian Bell, A Countryman’s Summer Notebook (46:00)

Lionel Davidson, The Night of Wenceslas (46:15)

Lionel Davidson, The Rose of Tibet (46:29)

Lionel Davidson, Kolymsky Heights (46:32)

Eric Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar (48:40)

Ann Pratchett, The Dutch House (49:18)

Osman Yousefzada, The Go-Between: A Portrait of Growing Up Between Different Worlds (50:59)

Related Slightly Foxed Articles

– Episode 30 of the Slightly Foxed podcast: Jim Ede’s Way of Life (0:39)

Living Art, Mark Haworth-Booth on Jim Ede, A Way of Life: Kettle’s Yard, Issue 42

The Pram in the Hall, Laura Freeman on Barbara Hepworth, A Pictorial Autobiography, Issue 69

Russian Roulette, Anne Boston on Lionel Davidson, Kolymsky Heights, Issue 60

High Adventure, Derek Robinson on Lionel Davidson, The Rose of Tibet, Issue 32

  • Episode 30: Jim Ede’s Way of Life
    15 April 2021

    Episode 30: Jim Ede’s Way of Life

    In this twentieth-century story of a quest for beauty, the writer Laura Freeman introduces us to Jim Ede, a man who, in creating Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, changed the way we look at art. We follow Jim from the trenches of the First World War to Lady Ottoline Morrell’s literary parties in Bloomsbury and a curating job at the Tate. He collected artworks by his friends Ben Nicholson and David Jones, acquired the estate of the sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and designed a house in Tangiers that became a sanctuary for soldiers. These were stepping stones towards Jim turning derelict slum cottages into a home and gallery, a space for both tea and tours. And, as ever, we share recommendations for reading off the beaten track.
  • Living Art
    1 June 2014

    Living Art

    One of the most charming and illuminating memoirs I know is also the largest. A Way of Life: Kettle’s Yard by Jim Ede, published by Cambridge University Press in 1984, is almost a foot square and over an inch thick. It is large because its author was above all a visual man, and he wanted to give due prominence to the many subtly toned black-and-white photographs among which his words gracefully flow. The book is like an ideal visit to Kettle’s Yard, the unique house filled with art and objects Ede created in Cambridge. Through Kettle’s Yard and the way of life it embodies, Ede (1895–1990) influenced generations of Cambridge undergraduates and many artists.
  • The Pram in the Hall
    1 March 2021

    The Pram in the Hall

    I lent my copy of Barbara Hepworth’s A Pictorial Autobiography to an illustrator friend who, for reasons of distance and diaries, I rarely see. We had been talking about children and creativity and whether one must necessarily restrict the other: the easel, the laptop, the pram in the hall. I said she must read Hepworth and posted her my copy. It arrived. She thanked me. After that: nothing. Nothing for months and months and a year, and for months after that. I nursed a perverse and very British grievance. I couldn’t possibly ask for it back, because that would be rude. Instead, I did the proper and polite thing of raining resentment, curses and hellfire on her head every time my eye caught the gap in the bookcase.
  • Russian Roulette
    1 December 2018

    Russian Roulette

    I met Davidson in 1994 when Kolymsky Heights, his last and arguably his finest, was published. He was slight and unassuming, with expressive dark eyes that widened when I showed him my early proof copy and said how much I’d enjoyed it. How did he come to be familiar with the ‘howling wastes’ of Siberia, virtually closed to outsiders for decades, so chillingly evoked in the book? It was all based on factual research, he said simply; he had never set foot there.

Other Links

Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge

– Jim Ede, A Way of Life: Kettle’s Yard is available from the Kettle’s Yard shop

– King Charles, then Prince of Wales, on Kettle’s Yard at their inaugural concert

Kettle’s Yard House Tour

Opening music: Preludio from Violin Partita No. 3 in E Major by Bach

Produced by Podcastable

Episode 46: Return to Kettle’s Yard

Comments & Reviews

Leave a comment

  1. L. Taylor says:

    I really enjoyed this podcast and learning about Kettle’s Yard. I’d never heard of Jim Ede before but hopefully I can visit when I travel in the UK.

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