Thursday, 2 June 2016

Gardener's Question Time review

The recording of BBC Radio 4's Gardener's Question Time at Clements Hall on Monday 18th April proved to be as entertaining and informative as any gardener could wish for. The buzz of anticipation was apparent as we queued up outside the venue early that evening - sharing the wording of our questions and pondering upon whom may be on the panel to answer those who were lucky enough (and brave) to be selected. It was a full house, all tickets sold out within 48 hours of going on sale the previous week, the audience was keen...

Yet, the backstory of how we came to this point will not be known by many. It was more than three years ago that committee member, Sarah Austin first proposed the Association put in an application to the BBC. So together the committee put their collective heads together and duly submitted one. Nothing was heard and it was assumed we had been unsuccessful... that is until the Beeb phoned Graham Sanderson (Chair) just 4 weeks prior to the proposed recording date. Emails flew in all directions... could we deliver in such a short time frame? After meeting with Linda Speidel, manager of Clements Hall, it was clear everyone was on board and keen to proceed. After a successful sound check by the BBC's technical crew we were given the green light... the cat was out of the bag and the horse was running (or is it the other way round?) Tickets went on sale and the rest is history. Our heartfelt thanks are due to Judith and her team at Clements Hall for taking up this unexpected challenge and tackling it so brilliantly and with such enthusiasm. Thanks are also due to Scarcroft School for the loan of their staging, and to all other individuals whose contributions made this event proceed so smoothly.

So what of the recording...?
The questions from ten intrepid participants were selected, and they were duly seated along the front row. The scene was set, the producer had done his warm-up act, and the panel was introduced...

Chaired by Eric Robson, the panel comprised, Matthew Wilson, Christine Walkden and Bob Flowerdew, each tackling the questions, 'discussing the purposes and positives of show gardens and advising on how to get the most out of supermarket herbs. They also recommend climbing plants fit for adorning a child's climbing frame and unusual plants to put in raised planters' ( To hear all questions and answers, the airing of the programme can still be heard here on BBC iplayer.

The recording also provided an interesting insight into how the programme itself was constructed. There was the occassional break in questions for the chair, Eric Robson to say specific pieces, such as his link to the recording made at York Minster earlier that day, as well as the re-recording of brief pieces of speaking.

The airing of the programme took place on 29th April. It was only through listening to it that everything fell into place, including the significance of making a recording in York. For we learned that the concept and design of Matthew Wilson's garden at Chelsea Flower show was inspired by the Minster's medieval Great East Window, and is titled, 'God's Own County - A Garden For Yorkshire'.

To sum up, it was a memorable evening's entertainment born out of a tiny seed planted three years previously, that was well nurtured to the point of harvest, and then supported and consumed by our city wide gardening community.

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