Belinda Harding

Belinda Harding

Belinda, now in her 80s, shares her ‘life well lived’ story.  Art, family, and charity are major themes running through her life underpinned by an “it’s never too late” attitude to taking on new projects and learning new skills. Belinda embodies core Circle Square values of lifelong learning, following your passions and embracing opportunity, regardless of age. She continues to live life to the full, with her gorgeous dog, Fudge, by her side.

I always wanted to be creative.I’ve got an old postcard that I found recently that I’d sent to my grandmother. It was just after the war, and I had returned to London from the countryside.  I had written that I wanted to be an artist and own horses. I did manage to persuade my grandmother to pay for horse riding lessons, but when I realised the cost to buy a horse, I put that career on hold!  But art, I pursued.

I went to Beadles school, and studied extra art.  I had wanted to go to university at that point, but my parents did not allow it, as they believed it to be a waste of time.  Instead, I went to a very respectable art school called Byam Shaw School of Art (now part of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design).  I had a great time there; I did very well and met a lot of interesting people.   In fact whilst there, I had my portrait painted by a friend and the well-known portrait painter, George Bruce.  He died last year and very kindly, left the portrait to me in his will. I went to pick it up from his studio, and very fondly remembered him painting it all those years ago.

After art school, I married my husband, Frank, and we went onto have 4 wonderful children. During those years of bringing up my children, I still painted, but in a fairly low key way.  I still exhibited and still very much believed in the value of my work.  But, I was sensing that figurative art, which is what I did at that time, was becoming less fashionable.  Plus my focus was on my family.

Aged 49, when my children left home, I decided it was time to go to university.  I knew I could draw well, I had nurtured that skill but now I wanted to learn “about” art.  So, I studied Art History at the University of West London and I was blown away.  I dissected not just the artists but the politics of making art, and this helped me enormously.  My family had always been serious conservatives, but I had been uncomfortable with this viewpoint.  Finally, I was learning about the beginning of socialism; my political attitudes started to fully form and I felt confident about sharing them. My experience at university taught me so much more than purely Art History.

On leaving, I got my first “real” job, in the sense that I received a monthly paycheck and I worked for someone.  I continued to paint and draw, but I also took on an administration role at the Investor Relations Society.  It was very technical and not in the least creative!  But I learnt a lot and it certainly helped me in my next transition … Some years later, my children came home from a trip abroad, and said “Mum, you really should consider trying to open a museum for women’s art” and that set me on the most exciting journey.

I created a charity to raise money to exhibit the work of early female artists that had never previously been seen or had been bought and stuck in museums.   I remember walking around the Tate Britain in 1990 and finding only 4 paintings by women in the whole museum.  And I really wanted to change that.  The charity succeeded in holding exhibitions around the country, showcasing some of these artists including Dora Carrington.  But then the charity started to go off in a different direction, and I learned that if you set something up, you need to hold on to your own beliefs rather than bend your beliefs to the majority, so I walked away.  I went onto to be involved in various other charities, one of which was Children Law UK and became a Magistrate in family court.  All this time, I was still drawing and painting.

Then aged 79, I took two years to go and do a master’s degree at The University of Creative Arts in Farnham, Surrey.  Here I really learnt what creativity means to me and committed to my 3-Dimensional work.  Glass became a perfect material for me to use as I can see through it as much as I want to.  The last eleven years, I have pushed myself in my work and exhibited in many places including the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, The Yong Contemporary Exhibition, the Edinburgh Festival, Ben Uri Gallery and Boundary Gallery.

Even though I am older now and the physical effort of sculpture is more of a challenge, I don’t envisage ever stopping.  I have an exhibition coming up in July at Marlborough Open Studios and I am busy polishing glass sculptures for that.

But life isn’t all roses.  Tragedy hit us in the most aggressive way when my grandchild was killed in a bicycle accident.

It taught me that having my family close and together is the most important thing to me.  I love spending time with my children and grandchildren.  I find it hard to judge the worth of my sculptures and paintings.  But I am completely confident that my husband and I have created four amazing individuals.

I also feel incredibly privileged to have reached my 80s and have seen so much.  From my early childhood of living through the war, to more recently living through Covid.  Not many people can say they lived through both.  For that, I feel very grateful and fortunate.


What 3 words best describe you?
Creative, Insightful, Honest.

If you could offer your younger self one piece of advice, what would that be? Listen to people when they’re telling you something.  Think less about what is going on in your own head, and more to what someone is saying to you.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Exhibiting my work and selling it.

Which person (dead or alive) would you most like to invite to dinner?
Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun

How has age strengthened your advantage?
It has taught me to be more patient and accepting and tolerant of other people’s pace.

What inspired you to join Circle Square?
I joined Circle Square due to the stimulating ideas and opportunities that its members share, Plus, I really enjoy being part of the Art Club

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