My Week: Inga Grimsey
The director-general of the Royal Horticultural Society on showing the Queen round the Chelsea Flower Show – and the message the event has for MPs
Saturday 23 May 2009
I get up early and do some breakfast television interviews about the Chelsea Flower Show. As director general of the Royal Horticultural Society, it's a big week for me. I'm confident enough doing TV.
I've been so involved and have spent most of the weekend at the show. I know all the ins and outs. People are very keen to know if the recession has affected us. It hasn't at all. We sold out of tickets a day earlier than we did last year. We've been keen to promote gardening as a great antidote for the recession. The key themes of the show this year are nature conservation, biodiversity and recycling. We're trying to promote greening up small spaces: roof gardens, small back garden, urban garden and saying that you don't have to spend a huge amount of money to start it up.
I then go to meet Tessa Jowell, as we've launched a gardening design competition with the Olympics to go in the Olympic Park which will be part of a legacy programme. After lunch the Royal Family visits. The president of the RHS and I have the privilege of taking Her Majesty around the gardens. The Queen is on very good form and she genuinely appears to love the whole event. She's very interested and talks about her father, who was a keen gardener. She particularly wanted to see roses and some of the gardens done by schoolchildren.I then go to a gala fundraising event in the evening until about 10pm.
Up at 5am for a fundraising breakfast. The president and I then present all the big awards, such as best in show, best show garden etc. I meet Hilary Benn who has come to look at a climate change stand and he's very interested in the work we're doing with children. I spend most of the rest of the day congratulating the exhibitors. In the evening there's a corporate dinner. It's great that we're still being supported even in these tough times.
I go to see the garden by James May from Top Gear. He has made an extraordinary garden entirely out of plasticine. As it has no flowers in it, it makes it impossible to judge next to all the other gardens so we award him a special one-off gold plasticine medal. A major donors' dinner is in the evening and an informal press party.
Most of the day is spent networking. Figures are up for gardening companies, which is great as people are getting into gardening more with the recession. I then have a corporate drinks event in the evening. We are a charity, and at a time when people are being quite nervous about sponsoring, it's great that we still have so much support. The money that we raise at the flower show goes towards getting children involved in gardening.
We take one of our major sponsors out for lunch today to thank them for their support. We've had such lovely feedback about the show; the weather's been good this week too, which always helps. I think people want something bright and cheerful at a time like this, to make them forget about the recession. I don't think I can comment on MPs' expenses but I would encourage them to take a look at one of our credit crunch gardens. I would encourage every Member of Parliament to grow something. It's good for the soul.
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