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Interviews

‘Our story so far’ with Chair of our Advisory Panel, Rosie Atkins

When Project Giving Back was first conceived at the beginning of last year, Rosie Atkins was an obvious choice to be invited to get involved. Rosie began her career in journalism at the Sunday Times and 30 years ago launched Gardens Illustrated magazine. After ten years as editor, she left to become Curator of Chelsea Physic Garden. She has ​​chaired various RHS committees and served on the boards of several charities. Here Rosie tells us what made her want to be part of Project Giving Back and why she thinks gardening and good causes are such a good fit.

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Rosie Atkins

Published on:

February 14, 2022

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When Project Giving Back was first conceived at the beginning of last year, Rosie Atkins was an obvious choice to be invited to get involved. Rosie began her career in journalism at the Sunday Times and 30 years ago launched Gardens Illustrated magazine. After ten years as editor, she left to become Curator of Chelsea Physic Garden. She has ​​chaired various RHS committees and served on the boards of several charities. Here Rosie tells us what made her want to be part of Project Giving Back and why she thinks gardening and good causes are such a good fit.

In January 2021, in the depth of pandemic gloom I received a call from Arne Maynard asking if I would be interested in being part of a small team of volunteers to help set up a philanthropic project to fund charities in having a garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show. It was irresistible. 

I have always been interested in philanthropy, so I found the generosity of our anonymous sponsors awe-inspiring and their altruism visionary.  I have been a member of the RHS ever since I was put up for membership back when you needed a proposer and seconder and have witnessed the organisation change from a rather archaic, learned society to a more accessible and relevant charity that promotes gardening for wellbeing and for the greater good of the planet. 

The funding PGB was proposing would open up the greatest flower show in the world to a whole new audience and give opportunities to a wide range of good causes and a wave of new garden designers.  PGB made it a prerequisite that designers and charities make use of some of the funding to relocate their garden to a permanent site after the show so that these gardens could have a lasting legacy and continue to bring joy in some form.  

Of course, our donors could have made a direct donation to their favourite charities but through PGB they have provided good causes with an unrivalled platform to reach more people and more potential donations. They’ve also encouraged a real sense of partnership by providing mentors to assist the designers and their charities in navigating the complexities of creating a show garden of the quality that the RHS selection panel requires. 

As the pandemic took its course, we saw people not just battling the virus but suffering from isolation, depression and worse. Many charities were overwhelmed as people needed their help even more and their resources were stretched to breaking point. Creating a garden at RHS Chelsea Flower show was probably the last thing on their wish list, but hundreds were quick to grasp the opportunity PGB was offering for them to tell their stories to a huge audience. It has been illuminating for everyone on the PGB Advisory Panel to see how the garden designers have used their talents and expertise to create the perfect platform for the charities to engage with the public, in person at the show, through the TV and media coverage, and of course through social media. 

We will be monitoring what we can learn from this year’s show and how we might improve how we support charities and designers in 2023 and 2024. One of our hopes is that we can gather data to demonstrate the value charities can get from taking part in a show like Chelsea. One thing is certain, the causes we are supporting this year are getting a lot of attention, and we hope the designers will also have gained experience that is beyond price.

Find out about the gardens for good causes PGB is supporting at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2022

Or find out how to apply for funding for the 2024 event.

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When Project Giving Back was first conceived at the beginning of last year, Rosie Atkins was an obvious choice to be invited to get involved. Rosie began her career in journalism at the Sunday Times and 30 years ago launched Gardens Illustrated magazine. After ten years as editor, she left to become Curator of Chelsea Physic Garden. She has ​​chaired various RHS committees and served on the boards of several charities. Here Rosie tells us what made her want to be part of Project Giving Back and why she thinks gardening and good causes are such a good fit.

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