Kewite-mail May 2021

Dear Kewites and Friends,

The Kew Guild has supported education from its inception, having grown from the Kew Mutual Improvement Society, members of which shared knowledge of horticulture and plant science in a regular formal way under the guidance of Hooker.

The following century-plus has seen the Kew Guild grow from these beginnings and is soon to embark on the support of a new initiative, the ‘Introduction to Horticulture @ Kew’ programme.

The aim of the programme will be to encourage greater ethnic diversity in horticulture by targeting ethnic minority groups. This will be a twelve-month programme running from August 2021-2022 in the first instance. The content will be familiar to many of us with hands-on practical work at Kew. Participants will rotate through the two main garden departments, Glasshouses, Nursery & Display Horticulture, and Arboretum, Gardens & Horticulture Services.

The Kew Guild has agreed to fully support one of these positions. Further funds have been secured for another two positions, so a cohort of at least three will be ready to begin this autumn. The financial support from the Kew Guild has been essential to enable this programme to commence, we will meet the participants as they begin and will follow their experience with regular reports.

Frustratingly, it is evident that ethnic minority groups are not attracted to horticulture as a career option, there are many reasons behind this, the following article provides some background information on the topic:

A new beginning for the Kew Guild

This autumn will see Trustees work towards extending our alumnus to include all present staff, students and volunteers in a new category of membership. It is appropriate here to outline more fully the proposal to widen our alumnus role.

The alumnus, which we hope to become live in September 2021, will be offered to the full workforce within RBG Kew and Wakehurst place, include volunteers and the Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Membership of this alumnus endures for free for the period of engagement with Kew. We hope that on leaving the organisation (if not before) the alumnus member would wish to join the Kew Guild as a fully paid member – inspired by the actions they have seen the Kew Guild take during their time at Kew. When this goes live, each person outlined will receive a copy of our Journal. They will not receive another until they join fully. New arrivals in the capacities listed above will receive a copy of our most recent Journal.

This “front loading” alumnus will give good opportunities to the Kew Guild to create dialogue which may best be via electronic means. I hope that closer linkage to RBG Kew will enable us to work in partnership with RBG Kew IT to facilitate this; Richard Barley has agreed to look into this. As the Kew Guild increases its support for Kew a clear case can surely be made for some reciprocal support.

We have printed an extra run of Journals ready to distribute in autumn, we hope to see this coinciding with the beginning of the Introduction to Horticulture programme, a new chapter for the Kew Guild. Discussions are ongoing and we will bring you more news as it happens.

The success of the Award Scheme

The most direct form of charity work of the Kew Guild is our Award Scheme, which has been operational throughout the pandemic, supporting applicants where restrictions allow. Easing of these strictures will now allow projects already supported to go ahead, travel overseas for study will be possible once again and reports made available online and in our Journal.

The Award Scheme was able to make an award in March 2021 for a career changing proposal, and has held applications for the July meeting by which time their viability will be clearer. A most interesting nomination was wholeheartedly supported for the George Brown Award, to Anthony Ross for his work in designing the Kew Guild Medal. I’m pleased to say Mr Ross had accepted and will receive the Award at our next Annual Dinner. The Trustees of the Kew Guild have also made a financial contribution to the Vicky Schilling Bursary, managed by The Tree Bursary. The Vicky Schilling Bursary will provide others who have a passion for trees to share the pleasure she enjoyed by travelling around Britain and Ireland, visiting parks and gardens discovering our rich tree heritage.

The Kew Guild has made some impressive financial commitments so far in 2020/21. These should continue within the themes we have begun (clarity on our plans will be given in the five-year plan currently being worked upon) but growth is of equal importance. Our commitments thus far have come from existing reserves; we should now be seeking to expand significantly not only to recover financial outlays but also increase in scale. Trustee Harvey Stephens has agreed to lead on this item and will report at each Trustee meeting. Harvey has proven success in developing support partnerships, and will chair a working group dedicated to bringing funds into the Kew Guild. Our most recent financial report shows the Kew Guild in rude health in the broadest sense. Covenants have given us restricted funds, we also need working capital from unrestricted funds to support our growing activities.

The AGM – Monday 6th September 2021, Cambridge Cottage

The AGM will be different again this year. We have booked Cambridge Cottage on Monday 6th September, to include a bring-your-own picnic in the garden from 12:30pm. More details and booking will follow soon – and of course, it all depends on any Covid restrictions in place at the time.

The EXCEPTIONAL Annual Dinner 2022

Plans are continuing for our ambitious annual dinner in 2022. Having missed two years of this event, there is an appetite for a dinner on a scale exceeding that even of the centenary dinner held in the Natural History Museum.

We are proposing a date in early May in the Temperate House at Kew, with up to 200 people in attendance – watch this space!

COVID stories

Sparkle Ward and Richard Ward are asking you to send in your COVID-19 stories – how it has affected you, your work life, your student life, your business or your retirement. Given impact this has had on all of us we believe that this should be recorded for posterity in the ‘Events of 2020’ Kew Guild Journal. Please email very soon.

Your views and comments on the Guild and its activities are always welcome, contact Sara –

Not forgetting News of Kewites – we always want to hear from you, no matter what your story, contact Pamela –

Kew Guild Journals

We have had a request from the Secretary General of the European Orchid Council looking for hard copies of the first five volumes of the Kew Guild Journal (1900 – 1940). Would any member be prepared to part with their copies? Contact Sara if you can help.  


Thank you to everyone who has signed up to pay their subscription by Direct Debit. DD is a much safer way to pay and also helps the Guild with the administration of payments. For those that haven’t changed their standing order yet, we urge you to do so asap. Please contact Sara if you have any questions or need assistance.

Wishing you all a very safe return to normal life as restrictions continue to be lifted and we hope to see you sooner rather than later. 

Floreat Kew. Chris Kidd, President 2020-22.

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