I am delighted to support this exhibition which celebrates the glories of the Royal Parks and Phoenix Park.
The Parks featured here are amongst the very best in the world. Over the years, artists have sought to capture the essence of what makes these places so special and loved. Some remarkable pieces of art and craft have been assembled to give a picture of both the variety of landscape and architecture in these wonderful parks, but also the bonds and shared heritage between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.
The Royal Parks estate includes eight parks covering five thousand acres. Each has its own distinctive personality and history. They are known across the world, whether, like St James’s and The Green Park through coverage of ceremonial events; or Hyde Park with its long tradition as a place of public protest at Speaker’s Corner or more recently as the host of global events such as Live8. Greenwich Park is home to the Meridian Line which separates the world from West; and The Regent’s Park is not only home to one of the country’s best rose gardens but also to the capital’s only open air theatre. Nestled on the Thames, Richmond and Bushy Parks are equally special and much loved by visitors for their natural landscapes, biodiversity and deer herds.
The Parks were originally noted as Royal hunting grounds, but earlier they served as sanctuary to those fleeing the Black Plague. More recently they provided space for housing and hospitals during wartime. Today they are public amenity spaces, open for everyone to enjoy, with a wide range of activities catered for.
In addition to their rich history, the parks, above all, offer us an inherited privilege of natural beauty, whether it be a quiet meadow to share with family, a lakeside path on which to stroll and relax or grassland and woodland in which to seek that elusive moment of inspiration.
Around 77 million people now visit the Royal Parks every year. London would simply not be London without them. Likewise Phoenix Park is one of the jewels of Dublin and a place I love.
With a collection procured from across the globe, this exhibition offers a fascinating insight into the rich heritage of The Royal Parks, and Phoenix Park shedding light on secret histories and personal connections to some of their well-known visitors and patrons.
I would like to offer particular thanks to The Hearsum Collection for its contribution to curating this exhibition, and crucially providing many of the items on show. I am also grateful to colleagues in the Office of Public Works for their huge support and generosity.
It has been a pleasure to work with our friends in the Republic of Ireland on this project. I hope it will encourage those on both sides of the Irish Sea to seek out these remarkable places. Our shared interests in environmental conservation, art and historical monuments, and preserving a legacy for future generations, have cemented a like-minded relationship. I hope this is also the beginning of an even closer and more fruitful relationship between The Royal Parks and Phoenix Park.