Friday, June 03, 2011

Over the last few days there has been much local media speculation about the future of the Gardeners Weekend event in Kings Heath Park in early September. I hope this e-mail explains what is happening.

The Birmingham Flower show, as it was then known, began in Handsworth Park. The earliest record I can find for it being held in Handsworth Park is 1947. In the mid-1970s, it moved to Perry Barr Park. Then in 1989, it moved to Kings Heath Park, where it was jointly run with BBC Gardeners World and called Gardeners Weekend. With the advent of the Gardeners World Live at the NEC, the BBC ended their involvement with the Kings Heath Park event in 2001. Since then the attendance figures have plummeted, whilst the Council subsidy required for the event has gone up.

The attendance and subsidy for the Gardeners Weekend event is as follows:

2006: Attendence - 19,345; subsidy - £40,000
2007: Attendence - 19,996; subsidy - £50,000
2008: Attendence - 15,740; subsidy - £50,000
2009: Attendence - 15,155; subsidy - £50,000
2010: Attendence - 12,364; subsidy - £72,316

On top of the subsidy, you need to add the cost of restoring the park back to its original condition. In 2010, this extra cost was £17,000. So the cost of hosting the 2010 Gardeners Weekend show was £89,316.

To put the £89,316 cost in perspective, the Council financially support the following events to the tune of £20,000 each: St Patrick's Day Parade, St George's Day, Vaisakhi, Eid Mela and Birmingham Pride. Nearly all these events attract about 80,000 visitors.

So it is only reasonable that the Council questions whether spending £89,316 to attract only 12,364 visitors is good use of public money, especially at a time of a hard financial squeeze.

In my portfolio team, we have been brainstorming ways of reducing the cost of Gardeners Weekend show and increasing the number of people attending. Our events team have over the last few years tried different offers on ticket prices, plus added a small food show. The number of attendances has still continued to drop.

We have therefore gone back to basics of why we spending public money on a Garden show.

Gardeners Weekend can be split into two elements:
  • The flower show – this where the Birmingham and District Allotments Association (BDAA) and the numerous city wide flower societies hold their end of season awards.
  • The trading fair – where horticultural traders sell plants and gardening equipment.

From a Council perspective it is the flower show element that we want to support, since it fits in with the Council objective of encouraging allotment use and for residents to grow plants in their own gardens. For the flower show, the September date is perfect, since this is the end of growing season.

For the trade show, it is difficult for the Council to justify subsidising a trade fair, when there are lots of garden stores around Birmingham who are presently keeping their heads above the financial line.

If we are to just focus on the flower show element, then we can make this financial viable by making it part of ArtsFest in the city centre. We will be able to share marketing, security and infrastructure (eg toilets, car parking ,etc). Also with 250,000 visitors to ArtsFest it is an opportunity for more people to see, be inspired by and maybe join these allotments and flower societies.

The present plan is to have the allotment section of flower show in a series of marques in the City Centre Gardens to the rear of Baskerville House. This is now sorted and the cost is being absorbed within the present Arts Fest budget.

We are looking for a historic building for the flower section eg the former headquarters of the Birmingham Municipal bank on Broad Street, or the Water Hall at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Having the flower section in marques in Kings Heath Park has never worked well, especially when it rained. Whenever, it rained we would have to put bark chippings on the ground, which would raise dust, which in turn would negatively impact on the flowers.

Having these flower displays inside a fine interior will also provide a perfect backdrop to these flower displays which are works of art themselves.

I’m visiting the former headquarters of the Birmingham Municipal bank on Broad Street next week with the events team to measure up this building. The former banking hall is magnificent and if we can use this, it would be an absolutely brilliant. This would also allow residents to see inside this fantastic building for the first time in 10 years, as well as seeing these wonderful flower displays.

No final decision has been made on whether the Flower show takes place in Kings Heath Park or in the City Centre. However, I want to be able to provide my Cabinet colleagues with the advantages and disadvantages of each location, plus the costs.


At 6:15 PM, Blogger terry_firmer said...

This is great news for local residents and other regular users of the park, as it is ruined for months each year by this event.


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