The RHS is set to build a £2.7m eco-project at its North Yorkshire garden, Harlow Carr.
The multi-million-pound learning centre will attempt to reach out to local Asian communities through “the common factor” of food. The RHS hopes the centre will attract funding from ecological and ethnic grant-givers.
The RHS council has given the go-ahead to the scheme with the next step for it being to win planning permission from Harrogate Borough Council.
Curator Matthew Wilson said: “We’re also looking at how to diversify the audience. Garden visitors are white Anglo-Saxons predominantly. There’s not much point in trying to change that — it’s part of our culture — but if you look at the Indian subcontinent, gardening is not a big thing. It’s a big cultural issue so we have to reach that audience through other means.
“That’s why food is so important. It’s the thing we have all got in common. We’ve got the biggest Asian population in the UK on our doorstep and it’s an audience we’re not catering for.”
But the project has its critics. Former TV presenter and superintendent of Harlow Carr in 1954-74 Geoffrey Smith said: “I’m totally and completely baffled that they should have to spend £2.7m to cater for one sector of the community. I don’t think we need any compost heaps up there because I think there’s enough bovine waste animal manure being talked.
“We never did just cater for the middle-class white gardener. My own vegetable garden [at Harlow Carr] always attracted a totally cosmopolitan audience.”
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