Civic pride overcomes austerity for show design

Sponsorship contributes to medal-winning Chelsea displays by councils from Stoke and Birmingham.

Stoke-on-Trent garden is show debutant - photo: HW
Stoke-on-Trent garden is show debutant - photo: HW

Local authorities and similar bodies battled austerity to show civic pride at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Stoke-on-Trent Council raised nearly £300,000 by value from sponsorship to show for the first time, winning silver for its Story of Transformation.

The design, using materials and services donated by local businesses, featured a decaying bottle kiln and sculpted fire pit, representing the city's past, unfolded through curves and spirals to a modern sunken seating area promoting the town's Central Business District. The garden was built by Bartholomew Landscaping.

Design team member Matthew Unwin said: "We want to put Stoke-on-Trent on the map and say we're open for business. We've got a fantastic skill force and fantastic connections, but a lot of unemployment."

The project involved the whole community, promoting local skills and industries, with white bricks and ceramic flowers made by retired pottery makers working with local children.

Design head Annita Gibson said the project was "a partnership" between council and industry: "To do this from local authority side presents a big challenge. The main thing you need is time."

The Enlightenment display by Birmingham City Council also mostly relied on sponsorship. It promotes the forthcoming opening of the £188.8m Library of Birmingham in September through the work of authors, Benjamin Zephaniah, Annie Murray and JRR Tolkien, and won a Gold Medal.

A representative for the local authority said: "Birmingham City Council's award-winning display cost £35,000 of which £30,000 was provided through generous sponsorship.

"The display will also be on show at the BBC Gardeners' World Live show at the NEC next month before moving to Centenary Square in front of the new Library of Birmingham, bringing additional visits to the city, so it represents incredible value for money."

Boost for tourism

Welcome to Yorkshire's Le Jardin de Yorkshire was created to promote the Tour de France coming to the county in 2014. Chief executive Gary Verity said he saw a direct link between exhibiting at Chelsea for the past four years and an increase in British tourists in Yorkshire.

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