I’ve mouthed off plenty of times about the importance of gardens to our well-being.The Chelsea Flower Show may come across sometimes as a bit pompous but I’m a big fan in that it’s the one outdoorsy event that gets wall to wall media coverage for a whole week.
This year Gerardine designed an exhibit at Chelsea 09 in conjunction with Gateshead Council… heres an extract from the press release….
How do you stop local youths from one of the most deprived areas in town causing problems on a nearby private housing development?
Designers Wayne Hemingway MBE and Gerardine Hemingway MBE believe that getting them involved in designing a garden for the 2009 RHS Chelsea Flower Show might be one answer.
Last year, acclaimed designers Wayne Hemingway MBE and Gerardine Hemingway MBE agreed to exercise their considerable design flair in a brand new environment – the 2009 Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show.
The design duo, whose Red or Dead label won the British Fashion Council’s “Street Style Designer of the Year” award three times in a row in the late 90’s, have spent the last decade designing award-winning housing developments, including the innovative Staiths South Bank on the banks of the River Tyne in Gateshead.
The task of delivering one of the UK’s most acclaimed affordable housing developments was what first brought them into contact with Gateshead Council – and it proved to be the start of a close and lasting relationship between the Hemingways and the local authority of what was to quickly become their second home.
Staiths South Bank broke the mould for mass housing developments by giving the landscape equal attention to the architecture, resulting in high quality communal outdoor space, pocket parks, stimulating play and “Home Zone” pedestrian-friendly streets.
However, it is the Staiths’ location – in a part of Gateshead that has some of the area’s highest levels of deprivation – that has inadvertently prompted some of the elements of the Chelsea garden design. Wayne Hemingway explains:
“The outdoor play areas, and the seating-and-meeting attractions, that continue to make The Staiths a popular choice with house buyers are also proving an attraction to the local youth, some of which’s behaviour has and is leading to clashes with residents.
“We designed the Staiths as an open development that would boost the public’s perception of Dunston and help to kick-start the regeneration of this magnificent, former industrial Tyne river frontage. The easy solution – and sadly the thing that happens all too often in the UK – would have been to make this development a gated community.
“But in all our urban design work, we aim for our developments to knit in with the existing community, so gating the Staiths was unthinkable. And lets be honest, many young people get a rough deal – no wonder they get bored and boisterous when they have less adventurous surroundings, fewer places to play and more restrictions put on them than previous generations.
“Research regularly shows that give young people a choice between getting outside and doing something constructive or sitting inside watching telly or playing a video game , then most will choose getting outside.
“ So, we decided to work with Gateshead Council to engage with a group of local young people, and to work with them on creating a facility that will ‘belong’ to them and, after Chelsea 2009, will be sited in the heart of their community.
“Their input is contributing directly to the design of the Chelsea garden – and they are then helping to adapt it so it can be installed as a permanent feature in Dunston for everyone to use and enjoy.
“Our ultimate aim is to create a significant facility that will set a precedent for future collaborations of this nature.”
“Our “Window of Opportunity” Chelsea exhibit will not only give local young people a chance to get involved in a project that will benefit their community , it can also introduce them to potential careers in design , landscape and gardening. The young people will work with local craftspeople, will go on wild flower trips to identify content for the exhibit, will go to salvage yards to gain a deeper understanding of recycling and re-using materials, and will even be going to a sewage plant – lucky kids!”
“Gerardine is a gardening and Chelsea Flower Show addict and being able to work with Gateshead Council is another milestone in her design career.”
What the Hemingways, the young people from Teams and Gateshead Council’s own horticultural experts have designed is an innovative garden which not only promises to challenge visitors to this May’s Chelsea Flower Show, but which will then – uniquely for a Chelsea Flower Show exhibit – become a permanent feature of a new community recreation area.
Called “A Window of Opportunity”, the garden features edible plants to emphasise the joy of growing to eat and the importance of water. It also features “living walls” of plants, tiered boxes of vegetables, fruit and plants, and walls and hedges created by espalier trees and grape vines. A pair of static training bikes linked to water pumps are used to pump water over the top of the living wall to filter down throughout the display to feed and water the plants.
One side of the garden is viewed through a giant window frame which has been designed and decorated by young people from a local secondary school. The garden is sponsored by Northumbrian Water and will include a number of unusual water features, promoting water as a precious part of our lifestyle and as a commodity that can also be used for creative play.
You get the gist…if you want more about then try http://www.hemingwaydesign.co.uk/html/chelsea.html
Gerardine + I turned up first thing, before the show opened, on the press day. We had gone to the press tent to make sure the brochures / press info was in place. In pride of place in the tent was list “Celebrity Spotting at Chelsea today”… a list of celebrities that had taken up the offer of free tickets for press day. My name was on it, as a hater of the concept of celebrity I asked it to be removed!!
The “Window of Opportunity” exhibit went down a treat. It won a RHS medal and the concept (especially the water re-cycling concept) received enormous international coverage from India, to New Zealand to Canada.
In the UK we also got a whole raft of media coverage , but the sad thing was that all but one of the bits of UK media coverage (including the BBC) focused on the celebs that chose to cycle on the bikes on the exhibit and failed to mention the community/ sustainability message behind the garden, and how sad is that?