E-Newsletter (December 16th 2016)
Dear Companions and Friends,
Just over a year ago, I chuckled to hear Ruskin being gently mocked on the Channel 4 sit-com, Peep Show (amusingly, the description of Ruskin given in that episode, called 'The William Morris Years,' was lifted straight from Ruskin's wikipedia entry, most of which I wrote). On Boxing Day, I heard Rev Dr Rob Marshall imploring listeners of Radio 4's 'Thought for the Day' on the Today programme to venture out of doors and explore the landscape as (he said) Ruskin had begged us to do. In the meantime, Michael Portillo has visited Brantwood on one of his BBC television train journeys, and Michael Gove MP (recently described as having, in the course of recent months, suffered a tragic conflict of disloyalties) rubbished the winning entry in this year's Turner Prize, asking what it had to do with Turner, or Ruskin. All quite different iterations of the founder of the Guild, some arguably more valid than others, yet evidence, I like to think, of Ruskin's growing presence in the daily cultural discourse.
The Guild has enjoyed another hugely active and successful year, thanks to the work of so many Companions and Friends. We have notably grown in number to 241 Companions worldwide, and in the past three years the Companionship has grown by nearly 70%. We are a community united by the purpose of promoting Ruskin's values and ideas in the modern world, and it has been gratifying to see the results.
We are always keen to hear from you, to facilitate collaborations, and to respond constructively to your much-valued feedback. We are grateful for everyone's contribution. Some of us have given the Guild money, and if you want to be amiong us then the donation form and gift aid declaration can be downloaded directly. Many more of you have shared your ideas, helped as volunteers at events, written for The Companion, given talks, and supported us in numerous ways. Thank you: you make the Guild what it is.
We are also reaching out to new communities and audiences, in particular by means of Guild-directed projects in Sheffield, and in the Wyre Forest. We have a growing presence in the United States, where Companions hold events in New York, California, Arkanasas and elsewhere. And we have a burgeoining following online, where we have nearly doubled the number of our Twitter followers this year and have established a loyal following of more than 2000 people on Facebook. Nearly 500 treasures from the Ruskin Collection have been shared on social media this year, accumulating more than a million views! Traffic to the Guild's website has grown by 1/3. We have held two public symposia, one in London and the other in Manchester. We welcomed Companions and their guests to the Companions' Weekend at Sheepscombe and the Wyre Forest. We supported two exhibitions, the third Triennial at the Millennium Gallery. Sheffield, and the shortlisted entries in the 3rd John Ruskin Prize (at Walsall and in London). We have hosted two major lectures, the Whitelands Ruskin Lecture and the annual Ruskin Lecture at our AGM. Such lectures, and other titles, are published by the Guild and sold in our online shop.
Even this attempt to summarise our growing charitable activity has probably left something out, and as I apologise for that, I invite you to join me in thanking the Master and Directors of the Guild, its staff, and most of all the whole Guild Companionship for making these things happen so successfully.
This is the time of year to reflect and particularly to remember those who have passed from us, and as such I want to share this new page from our website with you:
VAN AKIN BURD (1914-2015)
Click or tap on the image below to listen to Companion Prof Jim Spates paying his warm tribute to his friend and fellow Ruskin scholar, Companion Van Akin Burd, who sadly died in 2015. You will even be able to hear a clip of Van himself.
With thanks to Mike Salts and the Friends of Ruskin's Brantwood for permission to make this lecture available online.
(NB. In order to listen to the lecture, your browser will take you to a third-party site called Clyp.)
Click or tap below to download the Guild's 100th birthday tribute to Van (image, left) and Jim Spates' obituary of Van (image, right) published in The Companion (no. 16).
I realise that you do not all celebrate Christmas, and I hope that nobody will take offence at being wished a merry time by someone who does. Wherever you are, and whatever festive celebrations you observe, I trust that you will have an enjoyable time. In the new year, I will send news of exciting plans, and dates for you to note in your diary.
Guild of St George.