Leaves of Change

In June 2020, the Director of The Royal Botanic Gardens Richard Deverell wrote an article discussing racism, diversity and inclusion at Kew Gardens.

Richard acknowledges that “Like so many other organisations, parts of Kew’s history shamefully draws from a legacy that has deep roots in colonialism and racism.

“Much of Kew’s work in the 19th century focussed on the movement of valuable plants around the British Empire for agriculture and trade, which of course means that some key figures in our past and items still in our collections are linked to colonialism.”

He admits that they’re guilty of using the wrong language – such as Botanic explorers “discovering plants,” when in fact they have been used as tools for survival by indigenous cultures for thousands of years.

Kew pledges to “decolonise the gardens” by unveiling a ten-year manifesto, which has been met with criticism.

In The Guardian, The Tory MP Sir John Hayes described it as “preposterous posturing by people who are so out of touch with the sentiment of patriotic Britain”.

True to their word Kew Gardens also have a scholarship that is open to anyone and everyone.

There isn’t an age restriction either – as passion can find you at any time of your life.

The National Trust

The National Trust released a racism report back in the summer of last year and in their own words “It draws on recent evidence including the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project and the Trust’s own sources. 

It also documents the way that significant Trust buildings are linked to the abolition of slavery and campaigns against colonial oppression.”

It was also met with criticism and some of their patrons cancelled their membership.

“Please do not ‘educate’ or lecture us,” one person wrote. “I go round houses to appreciate furniture, art and gardens.

We don’t need to have your view of history forced upon us. We know our past was imperfect – think of the servants who worked there. Steer clear of politics – we go for pleasure.”

We have to keep acknowledging the painful past in order to grow greater in the future.

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