ECA President Emeritus writes of his visit to ‘a garden party to make a difference’

The ECA and the Prince of Wales are potential allies - no, I'm not referring to the recent ceremony when Prince Charles gave Bernard Godding the MBE, though even that could turn out to be relevant!

I'm suggesting that possible connections should be actively explored, because I became most aware recently of our shared environmental concerns. In early September Prince Charles launched his START programme with "a garden party to make a difference". He wanted to make the point that although not everyone has the time, energy or inclination to campaign about "rising tides, melting ice caps and collapsing fish stocks", we can all play our part in our everyday living. We can all START to make a difference.

This was no ordinary party. It was held along the Mall in the gardens of Clarence House, Lancaster House and Marlborough House. A huge variety of exhibits on display was meant to help us all make our everyday domestic lives greener. There were activities, talks, debates, demonstrations, and performances, planned by curators specialising in home affairs, cookery, children, fashion (Vivienne Westwood), entertainment (Jools Holland), and of course gardens (Alan Titchmarsh). There was live music (some to dance to), and debates with Jonathan Porritt, Ken Livingstone, Jon Snow and David Attenborough. Performers included Rolf Harris. People who did not have gardens were shown how to make and enjoy a "one pot pledge". I was intrigued to see a special beehive providing a home for solitary bees. It was good to note that Charles himself had an allotment in one of the gardens. Practicality and access to products was ensured by the involvement of partners (some of them somewhat unexpected) e.g. Asda, B & Q, BT, IBM, M &S, and Waitrose. They were also learning. Asda for instance wanted to do more "to make green products mainstream... not a niche option for those who can afford it".

This was of course just an event lasting 12 days in central London. Charles also visited different parts of the UK to promote the idea. There's a website to sign on. It is already full of ideas and suggestions. It was inspiring too to see Titchmarsh with Prince Charles in his garden at Highgrove - even checking out the 'sewage garden'! (BBC2 (23rd September).

So the question is: should we see if the connections and mutual learning would benefit from being closer? The world of adult education was not explicitly part of the show. The Prince has made an impressive high-profile ‘start’, but changing attitudes of a whole population is such a big enterprise that experienced adult learning bodies are also needed. Some of us like the ECA are already active, but alliances raise the game.

Brian Groombridge

Date Added: September 28th 2010