Twenty-three years ago Jane Sterck and Lizzie Dymock were asked to set up a garden show at Stansted Park in Hampshire to create a forum for start up businesses and to showcase the work of talented groups like The Princes Trust. We also thought that this might also be a good opportunity for local gardeners, designers and artists to exhibit; particularly those who had previously avoided the larger, more commercial shows.
Gardening was becoming more fashionable and accessible by the second as people were discovering that you didn’t have to be that knowledgeable to make your garden look great. Even better for us, there was a thirst for good design, plants and garden products and a gap in a market that we were sure we could fill …… the moment was ripe!
Our first show consisted of about 30 enthusiastic stands, an art exhibition and a series of lectures given by well known garden experts who had kindly agreed to come and talk for practically nothing. Anthony Paul, Penelope Hobhouse, John Brookes and Paula Pryke were among nine speakers to kick us off in style. Our visitors were impressed and liked the calibre of the Show. They enjoyed chatting to local plantsmen, locating a suitable garden designer or specialist plant or buying a piece of innovative sculpture. They approved of finding all this in one location without the hassle of the bigger event. It was a success and we believed in what we were doing.
We now have about 350 exhibitors with a gate of approx 17,000 and have extended our remit to highlight important issues such as the organic movement, environmental awareness and fair trade. We have a series of interactive workshops and the popular Gardening Doctors who love to solve any gardening conundrum.
Over the years the show has supported many charities by giving them either free or subsidised exhibition space and we feel this is important. As well as the Accessories & Fashion, Garden & Home, Studio Shops and Art & Design marquees, enjoy being tempted in the Country Food Marquee.
We are told that we have an appealing and eclectic range of stands and Stansted Park is a fabulous place to hold the event – families can spend the day exploring and playing in its stunning grounds and the scenery and atmosphere provide a great back drop to the Show.
Our learning curve has been steep but worthwhile. We have been amazed how well or how badly things can go but have been supported throughout by wonderful friends and long suffering family, all happy to take the weekend off and be the staff! Not only that but both Jane and Lizzie were delighted that Emily and Lucy, Jane’s daughters, joined the team full time to bring young and fresh ideas to the Show.
None of this would have been possible without Lizzie, who very sadly died on the Sunday of the show in 2015 after a short battle with cancer. Her charm, laughter, ideas, behind-the-scenes hard work and her ability to spend the day collecting litter after the event will be remembered as well as her wonderful art of persuading family, friends along with anyone and everyone (however important, and not usually persuadable) to get involved and do something. The extraordinary Lizzie herself is missed immensely by all of the team who worked with her. Lizzie’s wonderful legacy lives on in the show as it continues to appeal and provide a good day out for all.
The Show has grown, its landscape has changed but we are confident that its original essence has held true. Talented individuals continue to gain visibility celebrating all that is very good about the garden and life!
Jane Sterck & The late Lizzie Dymock
Jane may be pictured with the lovely Pepper, but at the request of Stansted Estate, dogs are not allowed on the show ground except those needed to assist.
Thought 4 the Day!
“When the root is deep there is no reason to fear the wind.”