REFLECTIONS OF THE KEW GUILD DINNER 2019 – Graham Heywood.
On a very pleasant sunny evening, 51 members, family and friends gathered at the Cambridge Cottage on Wednesday 22nd May in sight of a scene reminiscent of days gone by. I mean of course the cricket match playing out on Kew Green that evoked memories of my time at Kew when many an hour was pleasantly passed watching the men in whites following my two or three hours of botanising in the gardens. For a couple of years I thoroughly enjoyed being a member of the Kew Student Cricket team. Just one of the many happy memories that still linger in the depths of my ever increasingly failing mind.
Inside Cambridge Cottage the atmosphere was one of anticipation and excitement as we all conversed with friends we hadn’t seen for many years.
Enthusiastically welcomed by Sparkle Ward and Jean Griffin we collected our badges and were guided to the inner regions of the ‘Cottage’ towards the bar. It was pure delight as members, family and friends swelled the numbers over the next hour or so and we were all able to have a most relaxing catch -up. The ladies were all, as perhaps expected, beautifully attired in their finest clothes, but it was a close call as to who shone the brightest among us once Leo Pemberton arrived. I allude of course to Leo’s tulip adorned tie. How very appropriate and how very flamboyant did he look? Well he was in his 91st year after all and at that age one can get away with anything, almost!
At the appointed time, our Past President Jean Griffin, who on this occasion was our MC, called us to our tables, took control of proceedings and called us all to order and we ‘clapped in’ our President Mr Peter Styles. The President said grace. Again during dinner, which was, many later judged, the very best Guild dinner they had experienced, we were catching up with our friends and making new introductions.
As the last vestiges of the tableware were cleared away Jean announced a 15 minute comfort break and precisely 15 minutes later she again called everyone to order at which we stood to toast Her Majesty The Queen.
Jean, on every ones behalf thanked the catering staff for a splendid meal. and proposed a toast to the President Mr Peter Styles and shared with us a little history relating to the President. During his studentship, Peter won a prize for his plant collection, no doubt in part due to his having included a Bee Orchid collected from the Avon Gorge- really? During Peter’s stretch in the Palm House he was known to regularly hang his Jeans to dry from the balcony walkway. He was also given to wearing an ear of Frangipani behind his ear until he discovered whilst in India that it was often interpreted by many as a sexual preference. We have come a long way haven’t we? At Kew Peter was recognised as a future Landscape designer when, as part of his Diploma he designed a ladies lavatory. He has a quick wit and is known throughout both Kew and the Landscape profession for his expertise, dedication and professionalism. Peter reminded us there is a danger that the title Landscape Architect is often used erroneously for to be a Landscape Architect one needs to be a chartered Landscape Architect. A full biography of Peter’s career can be found in the 2019 edition of the Kew Guild.
Following Peter’s address he proposed a toast to the Kew Guild and our Guests Helen Tranter and Mike Fitt. A toast was proposed to absent friends by student representative Daniel Le Cornu.
At the Dinner it is usual to award the Kew Guild Medal to that year’s recipient. This year the award goes to Laurie Olin, American Landscape Architect. However, the President informed us Laurie was unable to attend the Dinner this year and therefore arrangements are in hand to present Laurie with the Kew Guild Medal in the Autumn when he is expected to be in the UK.
The President then introduced us to Helen Tranter, Vice President of the Landscape Institute. Helen said she was delighted to be among Kew people and emphasised that she was not a Landscape Architect but a Landscape Manager. Helen is a Green Flag Judge and manages a plantation of 200 Cricket Bat Willows for her family. She has previously worked in local government and is linked with many of the landscape managers who look after our green spaces. Kew graduates are well represented within this group.
The Institute engages regularly in its work with no less than 20 influential organisations and representation was based upon the Institute’s Corporate Strategy for 2018-2023 entitled People Place and Nature reflecting the link between the three. Helen reminded us that over 20% of our landscapes are designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and so the LI regards these as important partner organisations. Staff from the AONB teams are being encouraged to join the LI.
She said that increasingly, Governments and agencies now understood the need for landscape-led approaches to urban living spaces. Helen shared with us the Landscape Institute’s Continuing Professional Development Programme ( CPD) for 2019-2020 that included subjects from Plants and Bio-security to Climate Change to People and places, Digital integration and Transformation to Health, Wellbeing and Place.
One of Helen’s tasks is to widen the breadth of membership of the Landscape Institute by introducing new entry standards that cater for a wider range of disciplines. The profession is becoming more diverse and specialised. A dual system is being introduced with one track for the traditional landscape architects and another for landscape professionals. In the past, there were three categories: Landscape Architect, Landscape Manager and Landscape Scientist. By keeping Landscape Architecture as a separate track, it helps to protect the identity of this group of members whilst facilitating growth.
The current LI President, Adam White, is particularly keen to involve children in a Back to Nature initiative and has been supporting them with the involvement of the Duchess of Cambridge in designing a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. This is particularly appropriate as the LI was founded at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1929, so is celebrating its 90th anniversary.
The President thanked Helen for her presentation and members gave a round of applause. Following Helen Tranter’s presentation came the presentations; firstly Honorary Fellowship of the Kew Guild was awarded to Michael Fitt OBE and The George Brown Award went to Marcella Corcoran. In responding to his award, and taking receipt of a copy of the Kew Gardens Guide Book from the President, Mike thanked all present and took us back in time as he shared highlights of his career . Although he didn’t study at Kew, he has always been inspired by Kew. Before his retirement, Mike was Deputy Chief Executive of the Royal Parks, being responsible for the day to day management and maintenance of London’s eight Royal Parks. He continues to have an involvement with The Royal Parks as Honorary Archivist and Chairman of the Royal Parks Guild. Mike is involved with numerous initiatives and particularly he is passionate about involving people from diverse backgrounds in Horticulture, particularly young people and disabled people. Mike is a Freeman of the City of London and a Liveryman of The Worshipful Company of Gardeners and the writer was not the only one to feel humbled to hear of the many achievements and passion for Horticulture and people of this lovely Man. In closing, Mike said he always had the same words of encouragement for anyone finding things difficult whilst making their way, no matter at what level, and that was ‘Don’t Give Up’. A more detailed Biography of Michael Fitt OBE can be found in the Guild Journal of 2019.
At the conclusion of Mike’s address, overseas representatives and past Presidents’ stood to a round of applause and a very sincere and heartfelt thank you went to Mr Tony Overland for his meticulous organisation of the Dinner and to Jean for executing the task of MC with wit and precision.
To round off a splendid event, Jean and the President called the numbers for the raffle which on this occasion raised £230.00 for the Kew Students.
Graham Heywood, Vice President, Kew Guild
PS: Keep an eye on this post for more photos as they arrive…