Goodbye and thank you to the RHS, by Anne Wareham

February 27, 2012

in Editorial

Just before Christmas I received notice that the RHS would be withdrawing funding for thinkingardens, as they can no longer afford to support it. 

In January I wrote to Sue Biggs (RHS Director-General) and Elizabeth Banks,  (President of the RHS) as follows:

In 2005 Stephen Anderton and I decided to see what we could do to create a forum for the serious, in depth discussion of gardens and garden related issues that was missing from the mainstream media.

With this in mind,  in the spring of that year Stephen Anderton  took this idea to the RHS President Sir Richard Carew Pole and the Director General  Andrew Colquhoun, who proposed that he should set up a group of people, with the blessing of the RHS, to take these ideas further. I understand that part of Sir Richard Carew Pole’s attraction to the idea was that it filled a gap in the RHS’s profile – to act as a learned society within the world of the arts and the specialised art of gardens.

The thinkingardens Group was formed, drawing members from the wider world of garden thinkers and from the staff of The Garden magazine. Latterly the committee consisted of Michael Balston, Ian Hodgson, Corrine Julius, Chris Young, Lesley Hegarty and myself.

We were always independent of the RHS but working alongside it, with its support. We launched with a symposium at Vincent Square with the great and good of the garden world. We held a variety of events, for example, suppers where ideas about gardens were discussed over good food and a drink.

And I created a website = http://thinkingardens.co.uk/

I have edited the website for the past six years, during which time  it has gone from strength to strength. For the last few years the RHS paid me an honorarium of £1800 a year and paid for the web hosting and design.

I have ended up spending about two days a week working on the site and have published an enormous range of articles, usually fortnightly, by some of our best garden professionals such as John Brookes, Mary Keen, James Alexander-Sinclair and Noel Kingsbury, and also many pieces by budding garden writers and designers. The site was recently mentioned by Tim Richardson in his review of influential gardeners in the Telegraph. We have an average 250 page views a day from all over the world.

Last year the site was awarded Website of the Year by the Garden Media Guild..

For some reason the funding always seemed to come via a back door, through ‘The Garden.’ Last month Chris Young informed the committee that after consultation with his managers this funding will be ending and with it the association between thinkingardens and the RHS.

It seems to me that the project is too important and too vital to the garden world to abandon, so I will find a way to keep it going independently.

I am writing this to reassure myself that you are aware of this history and of  the esteem that the RHS and thinkingardens have mutually gained from this association – and of its abrupt termination.

It seems wrong to simply end this association without some acknowledgement of the mutual benefits which have accrued and without some expression of regret.

Yours sincerely,  Anne Wareham

______________________________________

 I have had no reply.

Thinkingardens is now commercial and is taking advertising to help fund it – so welcome to Everedge. An excellent product which I am delighted to have on the site as our first advertisement. I am grateful to them for kicking this off and giving me some confidence that thinkingardens will continue to flourish.

That – and the amazing contributions from all who write for thinkingardens. Maybe if it is really successful I’ll be paying you one day.

I am determined to keep the site fresh and good looking and to use advertisers I trust and feel good about. Wish me luck!

Anne Wareham, editor

Anne Wareham, portrait copyright Charles Hawes

 

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