Kew to host annual eco event

The Start@Kew extravaganza had 50,000 visitors last week and looks set to build on its success.

Start@Kew, an "eco extravaganza" at the botanic gardens that showed the benefits of using fewer resources such as energy, water, food, fuel and materials, is likely to become an annual event, according to Joey Tabone, chief executive at HRH the Prince of Wales' eco charity Start.

The initiative's corporate partners - including B&Q, Marks & Spencer and six water companies - hosted activities, entertainment and exhibitions at the London botanic garden last week to up to 50,000 people.

Tabone pointed out that Kew approached Start to host the event and he agreed because of the gardens' captive audience and similar ideals: "They want to reach more people and this initiative is well principled and fits well with their education brief."

He said Kew was "staring us in the face" and a less successful event at Prince Charles' London residence Clarence House in 2010 attracted only 40,000 of the expected 70,000 visitors.

Tabone added that the event would not return after accusations of preaching to the converted and sending out confused messages. He claimed the Start brand was now clearer and that Kew was more accessible than the royal palace.

"If we're going to have any success we need to be a brand that everyone can associate with - not deep green telling people they are bad.

"We want to help people understand that sustainability is not that difficult. Start is all about involving the public in activities that entertain while informing. It's not rocket science. It is engaging, enjoyable, a little quirky, while conveying an easy sustainable living message."

He continued: "Kew is easy to get to and fun for kids. This was not about promoting food growing and eating as at Clarence House. That's not what Kew is about. Kew is about engaging people with ideas about what we can learn from nature. We hope it will become an annual event.

"This brings a lot of publicity for Kew. It's not just a trade show or greenwashing or an eco-festival."

Tabone, who formerly worked in Australian greenhouse gas federal projects, said it was strategic for Prince Charles and other celebrities not to attend. "The Prince is not coming on purpose. We need to demonstrate credibility alone and use him to gather people."

He added that climate change had become too hard a concept. "People aren't interested so we're trying to make things fun. Living in a better way doesn't mean you have to do without stuff."


12,000 - The number of visitors that Kew Gardens expected to attend the Start@Kew event each day over the bank holiday weekend.

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