Technology, social media, fundraising and volunteering all on the agenda at south west parks gathering

Parks professionals and volunteers from the south west of England and beyond met at Exeter University this week to debate the way forward for the sector following years of parks cuts at the Green Connect conference.

Some of the speakers at yesterday's event
Some of the speakers at yesterday's event

Technology, social media, fundraising and how parks professionals and volunteers are increasingly working together to secure the future for parks were key themes for a mixed audience with places for community group representatives sponsored by Glendale.

Another was awards and the mentoring and community involvement which goes with them. Green Flag Award scheme manager Paul Todd and SW In Bloom chairman Jon Wheatley spoke about their respective schemes.

Parks policy adviser at Heritage Lottery Fund Shaun Kiddell, Bob Ivison of The Parks Alliance interim board and chair of the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces (NFPGS) Sarah Royal recapped recent developments, including the HLF State of UK Parks report, The Parks Alliance progress and the NFPGS 'Save Our Parks' Change.org petition to politicians about parks maintenance funding

Senior research fellow Dr Ben Wheeler outlined Exeter University Medical School's research which aims to quantify how green and blue space benefits mental and physical health. Exeter colleague Sarah Bell also gave a talk about a more in depth study which looked at how people used green space and how it made them feel.

Parks boss-turned-communications consultant Jim Hardcastle of Viper Marketing spoke about the value of social media, "not just frivolous" but vital, he said. Delegates tweeted from the event using #SWparksconference2014.

Organiser Karen Hughes of Green Connect summed up the day as fascinating and positive.
"We're ready to look ahead and start moving forward and see these cuts as a bit of an opportunity, perversely, rather than a threat," she said.

For more see the next issue of Horticulture Week.


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