Oscar-nominated screenwriter makes ‘major donation’ to Charleston project

Charleston Farmhouse SUS-150722-234700008
Charleston Farmhouse SUS-150722-234700008

A major donation by social historian Virginia Nicholson and her husband, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter William Nicholson, will allow the first phase of a transformative £8.5m Centenary Project development at Charleston to begin.

A century ago, post-impressionist artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant moved to Charleston, beginning the association of the culturally significant Bloomsbury Group with the Sussex farmhouse.

Charleston has been a haven of creativity ever since, having hosted influential thinkers from John Maynard Keynes to Virginia Woolf and now inspiring the public through its outstanding interiors and gardens and regular literary gatherings.

With the support of several foundations and generous individuals, the Charleston Trust has already raised more than £5m for the Centenary Project.

The Nicholsons’ donation of £250,000, with the addition of Gift Aid and a matching grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund is a tipping point, which will generate over £500,000. This means that work on the development, which will help protect the past but also return Charleston to being a living artistic environment, can now at last begin.

The donation will kick-start the building of a new art gallery, an archive store, a creative learning studio and enable it to carry out much-needed preservation work on its Grade II listed barns.

Alistair Burtenshaw, Charleston’s Director, said: “This is an extraordinarily generous gift from the Nicholsons and will play a huge part in helping Charleston see its vision become reality.

“The Centenary Project is the boldest undertaking the charity has embarked on since Charleston was originally saved in the 1980s, and its completion will enable us to protect this vitally important cultural landmark.”

Virginia Nicholson is the granddaughter of Vanessa and Clive Bell. Both she and her husband William have continued the Bloomsbury creative tradition by applying their talent as writers. It is particularly William Nicholson’s career, as novelist and screenwriter of acclaimed Hollywood dramas from Gladiator to Everest, which has enabled the couple to donate.

Upon making the donation, Virginia said: “I see this donation as helping to ensure the future of the place I have always loved, and where I spent the happiest times of my childhood.

“Our capacity to give this level of contribution to Charleston is entirely owing to Bill’s creative talent, industriously applied over thirty years, but we both feel that benefiting our community and helping to preserve and revitalise the inspirational and creative environment that is Charleston is an appropriate way to celebrate a lifetime’s imaginative output.”

William added: “The friends of Charleston have become my friends: they’re people who love art and books, of course, but more than that, they’re people who want the world to be a kinder place. Knowing them has hugely enriched my life. I want Charleston to survive and prosper not only to honour its past, but to foster its spirit today and into the future.”

The Charleston Trust hopes news of this donation will encourage other Bloomsbury Group fans and heritage supporters to contribute to its Centenary Fund. A further £2.8m will enable this phase of the project to be completed.

Find out more at www.charleston.org.uk/about-the-trust/centenary-project.

Donations can be made at www.charleston.org.uk/support-charleston/donate-to-charleston.

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