We are delighted to be one of the first groups in the UK to receive a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) All Our Stories grant, it was announced today. Our project, Voicing the Garden, will collect and share the stories of those horticulturalists who have made the Garden and the Friends and visitors who have enjoyed and influenced this this 40 acre oasis down the generations.
All Our Stories, a brand new small grant programme, was launched earlier this year in support of BBC Two’s The Great British Story, and has been designed as an opportunity for everyone to get involved in their heritage. With HLF funding and support, community groups across the UK will carry out activities that help people explore, share and celebrate their local heritage. The TV popular series was presented by historian Michael Wood, who said of the HLF awards, 'It’s brilliant that so many people are being given the change to get involved through the All Our Stories grants. Having travelled the length and breadth of the British Isles this last year filming The Great British Story, I am certain that fascinating and moving stories will be uncovered which will not only bring life the excitement of local history, but will illuminate and enrich every community’s connection with the national narrative.'
At the Garden, we tend to always focus on the prime importance of our collection – the plants – but we have celebrated some significant birthdays this year including 30 years of our support organisation, the Friends, and 60 years of our ‘staying in touch’ organisation for former members of staff, CUBGA. This got us to thinking about the people behind the plants - those who have helped create the collections, gardens and landscapes and also our visitors, whose support and expectations have influenced its past and continue to shape its future. When long serving member of staff, Al Langley, brought in a 1953 cine film of fun and frolics at the Garden, that redoubled our determination to capture these stories, share them and get a conversation going. Do watch the film below.
We have developed Voicing the Garden to bring together both sides of the garden fence and we are delighted the HLF are supporting us in our plans to encourage people to find out more about the Garden.
Volunteers will play a crucial role in uncovering, researching, recording, transcribing and publishing the stories, who will all receive specialist training.
The new oral history archive will then form the basis for an extensive sharing programme that invites further contributions from visitors, supporters and perhaps even detractors! Just as a plant sets seed to ensure its legacy, the ambition for Voicing the Garden is that the treasure trove of stories will inspire a whole new digitally savvy generation to share their memories, emotional connections and understanding of just what the Garden, its collections of plant diversity and its green space means in the lives of all who experience and enjoy it.
Robyn Llewellyn, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said 'Clearly the success of All our Stories has reinforced the fact that we are indeed a nation of story tellers and that we want to explore and dig deeper into our past and discover more about what really matters to us. This is exactly what the grant will do for Voicing the Garden, as they embark on a real journey of discovery.'