The completed cake map, being admired by the crowds before they all started gobbling it up.
As the sun starts to set on the final day of 2015 I’m reflecting on the many things that have happened in the year, and what is in store for 2016. I thought I’d share with you my top ten highlights of 2015 (and the ten things I’m looking forward to in 2016 – see separate post).
My 2015 Highlights
Spring at the Royal Botanic Garden was all about bees, trying to raise the profile of these important and threatened creatures. We had fantastic talks and exhibitions, including the beautiful work of Amy Shelton and John Burnside.
2. Young People
I was privileged to be involved in multiple projects this year that engaged young people. We went from the youngest of babies with Anonymouse, through tots attending 3 Bears (and enjoying yummy porridge), then on to Fraxi Queen of the Forest. But we weren’t just engaging youngsters as audience members, in Watching they were part of the cast, and what a brilliant cast they were.
3. Late nights
Well, working late can be a chore, but not when you are hosting fun filled events like Botanics Late: The Hive & The Still, The HandleBards and Take One Action Bike Powered Cinema!
Yes, this was the year of Cake Fest Edinburgh on midsummer. We attracted unprecedented numbers (like some of our visitors, I never really got a full view before half of it was scoffed up by overexcited cake eaters!) and I was impressed by some of my colleagues amazing baking skills.
5. Plants (especially big smelly ones)
I feel so privileged to come into work and be surrounded by plants every day, seeing the changing seasons, and year by year seeing trees growing higher and higher outside my window (now fully obscuring my view of Salisbury Crags that I had when I started here five years ago, but offering a prime seat to watch Sparrowhawk v. Crow fights instead!).
I love the opportunities I have to go and explore places familiar and new, near and far. Highlights this year were attending the launch of Patterns of Flora on Raasay, revisiting my childhood at Grizedale Forest (whilst taking in Environmental Photographer of the Year including Esme Allen’s winning shots from our trip to Iraq in 2012), and towards the end of the year getting a few days head space at Cove Park, developing some of RBGE’s 2016 exhibitions.
I love books – not only reading them, but the beautiful physical things. We have two great exhibitions connected to books at the John Hope Gateway right now – Another Green World: Lynn Botanic Garden and Plants from the Woods & Forests of Chile. I also continue to be astounded and delighted not only by RBGE’s library collection, but the staggering knowledge of the library staff – spending time delving into rare books, letters, photographs and pamphlets, shedding light on historical plant collectors and collections. My top non fiction read this year has been Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire. In terms of fiction, this year I have become addicted to Barbara Kingsolver – having been told I’d like her work for several years I finally got round to reading Flight Behaviour in January, and have been making my way through her back catalogue ever since.
8. Sustainable practices
Our mission at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is to explore, explain and conserve the world of plants for a better future. Working sustainably requires creative thought, thinking outside the box and looking to the future, considering environmental impact, social equality and economic stability, but also educating and engaging all of society in the planet’s future. We were delighted that three of the organisations we hosted this year were shortlisted for the Fringe Sustainable Practice Award. Long may we continue to strive for greater sustainability, after all, some of the most creative, entertaining and beautiful ideas come out of this challenge.
9. Hands-on happiness
Working in the Public Engagement team here involves a huge variety of work – strategizing, programming, planning, coordinating… but for me a great joy is when it all comes down to getting hands-on, making things happen. Having taken a break from really being involved in the actual hanging of exhibitions for nearly 2 years, when I returned to this aspect in the Autumn I remembered the great joy of it. It has been commented on as to how delighted I look at the top of a ladder with a drill in my hand… some things will never change!
It is the people I get to work with that give me the greatest pleasure. This year I said goodbye to our fantastic temporary exhibition officer Kirsty White and we welcomed Alison Taylor to the team as our new Events Manager. There are so many great people both at RBGE and outside it, including artists, designers, performers, producers and lots of other talented knowledgeable people… I won’t list them all here but you people, you are what makes coming into work each day so great!
Highlights in pictures:
Watching (Photo by Andy Catlin)
Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop with RBGE’s very own Vlasta Jamnicky and her marvellous cakey titan arum
Titan arum in flower at the Botanics for the first time.
Tulips by Arie van’t Riet, part of Photosynthesis exhibition.
Plants from the Woods and Forests of Chile