Festival feel and autumnal horticulture for east London's first big flower show

Plantsman Nigel Gibson is teaming up with a company which works on some of Britain's biggest festivals as well as doing corporate events for the London Flower Show.

Nigel Gibson
Nigel Gibson

Thought to be the first London show to be held in east London – in Victoria Park - the London Flower Show is to have the feel of a festival with live music and" family-friendly vibe", say organisers.

Gibson, who is a Provender sales executive but is doing the show in his spare time, is working with Continental Drifts, an events and performing arts company which runs the Shangri-La field at Glastonbury Festival, and works on Bestival festival in the Isle of Wight as well as council festivals and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew’s recent Incredible Edibles festival.

Show curator Gibson, brings horticultural credentials to the show and said he had thought for some years that there should be a garden show in September because Autumn ornamentals and vegetables did not get the attention they deserve.

"Seasonality will be a prime thing. What I’d really like is for people who live near Victoria Park to get involved, it will be on their doorstep, we’re talking to local schools."

Gibson said many of the details had yet to be firmed up, including the size of the show or who will design the 20 show gardens. A budget of £30,000 has been set aside to give to garden designers to build gardens and the organisers have announced cash prizes worth £10,000 for top medal winners.

A "city fair" in a marquee with a fruit and veg competition involving amateurs and professionals and possibly local schools is also being considered. Trade stalls will be able to sell plants and other goods.

"It’s noticeable that you meet quite a lot of young people who actually know absolutely nothing about growing and it would be nice to get them more involved," Gibson said.

"I want it to be a really good day out for the family. I want a little bit of the feeling of a festival that you get when you go to Glastonbury but not so wacky and off the wall that you don’t know what’s going on. It can just be a bit more interesting. I just feel it would be nice to have a different sort of flower show.  

There’s always going to be a market, there’s so many people interested in hort. It’s the biggest hobby in England. People don’t usually take it up until their children leave home. It would be nice to get younger people involved."

One option is a ‘Twilight Garden’ inside a blacked out marquee where designers can make use of lights in their creations. A similar concept is popular at the Singapore Garden Show.

Gibson said the team had looked at several venue options but chose Victoria Park because it is "such a lovely park". He hopes to make use of the bandstand in the show, possibly for music performances.

It is also close to the City of London, where the show’s two mystery backers are based. Gibson would not reveal who they are but he said they were busy raising funds from City sources. He also declined to say how much needs to be raised for the show to go ahead.

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