Modern British & Irish Art

Churchill’s Granddaughter: The First Lady of Glastonbury

By Lydia Wingfield-Digby

Sotheby’s are delighted to be offering two works by Churchill which were gifted on his death to his granddaughter Arabella Churchill and until this sale have been on public view at Chartwell in Churchill’s old studio.

Churchill and Arabella had a particularly close relationship: as a teenager she would sit and listen to her grandfather retelling wartime stories and at the end of Churchill’s life, Arabella was a regular visitor during his final illness in 1965.

After a glamorous early life, as debutante of the year in 1967 who met the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Arabella chose a different path to her conventional upbringing and set out to live her life according to her own moral compass always seeking to help those around her.  A keen supporter of various charities, Arabella was most well known for her pivotal role in co-founding Glastonbury Festival. She went on to set up the Children’s Area and also the Theatre Area within the festival, and ran the theatre and circus fields until her death in 2007. The founder and organiser, Michael Eavis paid tribute to Arabella: ‘Her energy, vitality, and great sense of morality and social responsibility have given her a place in our Festival history second to none’ (Michael Eavis, 20th December 2007). A bridge on the festival site was built as a memorial to Arabella who is often referred to as the ‘First Lady of Glastonbury’.

One of Arabella’s most enduring legacies however is her charity Children’s World which she established in 1981. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the two paintings will be denoted to this charity which was Arabella’s passion throughout her working life.

I'm immensely proud of my grandfather, and I hope he would be proud of me
Arabella Churchill, June 2007

Children’s World uses drama participation and creative play to provide social and emotional benefits for children. Through unique workshops, the charity works with schools across the country but focus particularly on children with special needs. Arabella went on to form Children's World International in 1999, taking play equipment and basic equipment to the children of Kosovo and Albania, and then to post-tsunami Sri Lanka on an old doubledecker London bus. She also worked in Thailand and Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

The charity continues to deliver programs in partnership with NGO’s working with children, families and communities affected by war and natural/man-made disaster worldwide. That this charity is still operating so successfully today, over ten years after Arabella’s death is testament to her achievement and the sale of these two works from her estate will give the charity much needed funds to continue its good work.

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