Celebrating black history month with creatives at the National Trust

26th October 2022

Art. Belton House. Black History Month. Influencers. What’s the common connection between all of these? The National Trust. Recently we had the pleasure of participating in creating a short film based on the life of Richmond Barthé. This painting, ‘The Seated Man’ was recently attributed to Richmond Barthé. It had been in the National Trust’s collection, and they had only been able to verify the artist after a cataloguing project. This blog will explore how we helped the National Trust to reach ethnic markets. 

After surveying their collection focusing on pieces of art that feature black sitters, they found ‘The Seated Man’, an oil painting which, when inspected closer, had the signature of Richmond Barthé. The National Trust wanted to tell the story of Richmond Barthé in a way that would inspire others and in a way that people could connect with his story. This was told through contemporary artists that gave their own stories and how they resonated with the story of Barthé. This painting is unique because Barthé was a sculptor, and hardly any of his works exist today as ‘he struggled to make money from his paintings, and often destroyed his work or gave it away,’ according to Neglected oil painting identified as work of Richmond Barthé

We worked with them to tell the story of Barthé in a way that challenged how the National Trust would typically do this. This was an exciting project for us to do as we wanted to be able to share the story of Richmond Barthé and open the National Trust to a diverse audience. Most of what the National Trust manages focuses on white British history, and we felt this was an opportunity to bring in some black creatives to share their story. 

Initially, we wanted to look for UK-based artists inspired by the same period Barthé was creating. This proved to be challenging as this artistic period was more prominent in the United States and the Caribbean. Rather than focusing on a period, we decided to focus on modern black creatives to be a part of the film for the National Trust. 

Each of the artists had a different style and medium for their work. They each had a different story to tell. We worked with Mediaworx to create the film, and it shares a unique story as it intertwines the life and legacy of Richmond Barthé with the current stories of our creatives. We saw the creatives in their studio and spoke with them about their work. 

Once the film was created, our next objective was to plan a screening event. We held our event on the 19thof October at Omera House in London. As we wanted to celebrate black creatives, we invited several to attend the event. We wanted this event to be a night showcasing Barthé’s story and the significance of the painting; this film introduces five contemporary Black artists, inviting them to tell their stories and share how their identity shines through their work. The evening will be followed by panel discussions with the people involved in making the film.

‘This film sparked so many conversations about why there aren’t more works of art in the current National Trust collection by black artists; if there are, it’s usually of white sitters,’ said Swarzy, the host for the film screening event. While the evening’s main focus was on the painting, it was also an opportunity for creatives to speak with each other and share their stories.

‘Without GottaBe! Marketing, we would have struggled to reach the right audience. We would have had to rely on our own personal connections or reach out to an agency. GottaBe! understood exactly what we wanted,’ said Nisha Nath, National Trust Head of Brand and Creative. We enjoyed taking on this event and being able to help the National Trust take this opportunity to provide voices to those black creatives. ‘The whole purpose of this campaign was to have people with lived experience share their creativity and to be viewing their story through their lens,’ said Lucy Bickley, National Trust Marketing Delivery.  

At GottaBe! Ethnic, we view these opportunities, such as Black History Month, as an opportunity to create more open and diverse communications. We should be having these conversations throughout the rest of the year. Black History Month is an opportunity to start the conversation about their voice and recognise the challenges that must be fixed. 

Let's see how we can work together