I went to the opening event of this year’s Charleston Festival, which commemorated the centenary of the day in October 2016 when eight people, including Clive and Vanessa Bell, their children, Julian and Quentin (aged six), David Garnett and Duncan Grant and a nursemaid and cook arrived in a taxi at Charleston Farmhouse which they had rented from the Firle Estate in order that Grant and Garnett could work on a local farm as conscientious objectors. Virginia Nicholson (née Bell) spoke of her memories of the house, both inherited (the distant sound of the guns in France) and during the summers of her childhood. Claire Tomalin talked of a visit by Contance Garnett not long afterwards. Garnett didn’t make a good impression. Christopher Hampton showed extracts from his film about Carrington, which suggested that Lytton Strachey had first met Dora Carrington at Charleston when really it was at Asheham, four miles away. And Carmen Calil spoke of the long association between the Bloomsbury Group and not just the Hogarth Press, but just as much Chatto and Windus, including the work that Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant did as book illustrators.
The talks gave a strong sense of the multiple meanings and associations of Charleston and Bloomsbury (most of all, freedom of expression) to a generation, many of whom had first discovered Bloomsbury through Michael Holroyd’s two-volume biography of Lytton Strachey published in 1967.