Looking good now
The multitude of golden black-eyed Susan is setting the Autumn Garden aglow.
The multitude of golden black-eyed Susan is setting the Autumn Garden aglow.
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Could you help tell the story of the Garden?

Botanic Garden staff are calling for help with a heritage project, urging visitors to rifle through cupboards and shoeboxes for any archive home movies of visits to the Garden that could throw new light on its history.
These will be used to illuminate and illustrate the spoken word recorded in more than 50 interviews gathered by a team of trained volunteers for Voicing the Garden, an oral history project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Garden's organisation for current and former members of staff, CUBGA. The interviews are very diverse in voice ranging from the 8 year-old first time visitor to former horticultural trainees who have gone off to run botanic gardens all over the world, but together they build up a picture of not only how the Garden's landscape and collections have changed, but also how the role of the Garden in the City has developed. Project leader, Juliet Day, says:

It all began when our longest serving member of staff, Alan Langley, brought a wonderful 1953 cinefilm of a coronation garden party into the office one day which brought back to life for a new generation many of our most influential members of staff, creators of some of our best-loved features including the Rock Garden and Chronological Bed. This got us to thinking about what other stories might be out there that we could enjoy, learn from and share more widely. Luckily the Heritage Lottery Fund agreed with us, and made the project possible through an All Our Stories grant.

You can watch the original 1953 film, which has now been digitized, by clicking on the still frame below.

We’ve been so inspired by the stories we’ve collected and we now want to share them with the wider community in lots of new ways, including a community group touring exhibition, workshops with younger visitors and also through a special Voicing the Garden website, where members of the public will be invited to contribute their own stories and memories in a visitors' book and to map their love by pinning stories of their favourite Garden spot on an online map.

We would love to hear from anyone who has any film footage in particular of visits to the Garden. With permission, we would like to use these on the Voicing the Garden website and to inspire our workshops with young film-makers from the Cambridgeshire Film Consortium, based at the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse. Trish Sheil, Education Manager at the Cambridgeshire Film Consortium, is planning a special screening of Botanic Garden footage both from our archives and received from the public, which will coincide with the launch of the Voicing the Garden website. She says:

The Cambridgeshire Film Consortium regularly programmes rare films from the National Archives, so we are really pleased to be screening these unique and local films of the Gardens in the wonderful setting of the cinema. Creating archive films is always an ongoing process, so to be also screening contemporary films produced by local students, inspired by the stories of people's memories of the Botanic Garden, will bring new work to our audiences and we are very much looking forward to contributing to this project through our film production projects with young people.

If you do have film or footage you could share, please do get in touch. All film formats will be converted for digital use and the original film will be returned to you along with a digital copy. We are also still keen to speak to potential interviewees. Have you brought your parents here, or your children or grandchildren? Or perhaps you have come in need of some solace or the rejuvenation that a green space like the Garden can offer. We would really like to hear from anyone who came to sniff the stinky Titan Arum when it flowered in 2003 and the Garden stayed open until 2am so that visitors could experience its full whiff! Whatever your story, we would love to hear from you and include you in Voicing the Garden. You can contact Juliet via the Contact Form or telephone 01223 762994.
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