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Chelsea Flower Show and Film 2014 'The Gardeners Go To War'

In 2014, following the success of the first Chelsea Flower Show, Roots and Shoots collaborated with Pennard Plants again in 2014 with another creative show garden stand and accompanying period film. 

Pennard Plants is a heritage vegetable seed and plant nursery based in Somerset which Roots and Shoots came to know several years earlier when both were exhibiting at plant fairs, and who had regularly taken part in our Apple days.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show is an annual international showcase for horticultural companies and green professionals held for a week in late May at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London, UK by the Royal Horticultural Society. It receives an enormous amount of press, with daily BBC shows showcasing the gardens, vendors and attendees across the week. The 2014 Chelsea theme was the beginning of the First World War, and so our stand was called ‘The Gardeners Go To War’, inspired by drafted young gardeners who became soldiers.

There were celebrations and commemorations across Europe for the centenary, and Roots wanted to do something a bit different. We managed to raise £5000 from various Trusts for our exhibit and wanted our students to be at the heart of it.

To get our students involved in history more directly and help them relate personally to the diverse soldiers of the First World War, Roots and Shoots collaborated with the group of young filmmakers to create a period-style film which was exhibited at the Chelsea Flower Show stand. The film told the story of the gardeners and young people who fought in the First World War and to shine a light particularly on the black and Asian soldiers who are often underrepresented. As so many soldiers didn’t return, and so many great houses and gardens went bankrupt, the gardens became derelict.

The film was later shown in film festivals, on Big Screens and at a National Trust festival, and was later shown to over 300,000 school pupils across the UK as an introduction to WW1. 

Filmed at the Archbishop’s Lambeth Palace, the film was created by young filmmakers Genesis Flux, and produced by our now-Office Manager Marc Hankins. Students acted in the film as gardeners, maids and soldiers, with staff acting as army recruiters, friends and family, and Pennard Plant’s Chris as the head gardener.

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We were fortunate to have volunteers help make the film, and with a student parent’s contact we were able to get authentic costumes from the professional Angels Costumier. With permission from the Archbishop of Canterbury and his head gardeners, we were able to film at Lambeth Palace for 3 days. Staff, trustees and friends also took part. The final film ‘The Gardeners Go To War’ was shown on the stand at Chelsea Flower Show.

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For the Chelsea Flower Show garden stand, the story once again was based on a divided country house garden, with Pennard’s side again in the pristine Edwardian style, and Roots’ side a neglected vegetable garden ‘gone to seed’ and beautifully neglected as the gardeners had signed up and gone to war. The garden has been left abandoned, overgrown with weeds and a discoloured shed mottled with moss. Hidden in the abandoned shed is a locket/brooch one of gardeners left for his sweetheart – maid from the house.

Looking out from the garden a wall was been cut away showing a period old school silent newsreel

film depicting the story of the gardeners called up for war. For the show garden we were awarded a Silver Gilt medal, and the film went on to be shown to 300,000 schoolchildren across the UK, film festivals. 

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