Saturday, July 17, 2010

Are we done with the moral high ground in this country?

Flipping through the Society of Garden Designers magazine, Garden Design Journal August 2010, last night I began to read Tim Richardson's piece at the front. He always amuses me and it felt like the right tone to set before drifting off to sleep. NOT SO this time.

I was shocked and admit still am to discover the depths to which the RHS and associated bodies have dropped. I am talking about show garden judging. Yes the old chestnut that raised it's head publicly at last years Hampton Court flower show.

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2009 - sparks fly in The Daily Telegraph Gardening Theatre

Chief Assessor for Show Gardens for the RHS, responds to Tim Richardson's criticisms of the RHS judging process.

Not only has nothing been done to raise the morale and ethical tone of the situation, indeed it appears to have worsened!

The chief assessor and show garden judge, yes he can sit in both camps!, who also happens to be head of a new garden design school - no potential conflict of interest there then - is, and I quote "putting himself forward as a designer for next year's Chelsea". One assumes he will relinquish head assessors role then but there is nothing confirmed in the article to say this.


I hear you ask. Well apparently NOT.

I am obviously not the only person who can see the blatant conflict of interest not to mention appropriateness in this example but it is only one example of a repeated pattern. Be a show judge and then drop out for  a year and design a garden for the show. A model apparently followed by a number of award winning designers it would seem.

If we Brits used to pride ourselves on our ethics and the moral high ground we followed and demonstrated to the the world, then what in heavens name has happened here in one of our most trusted and loved national bodies? Have they lost sight of basic common sense. Do they not see how difficult it is for the judges to remain impartial and even if they do manage this task, how it will be perceived by a wider, public audience. Have they not noticed the recent political scandals around expenses and conflict of interest?

Of course the wider public is probably blissfully unaware of this conflict of interest. The BBC production on the big RHS shows does not even touch this aspect of the show scene, no real mention is made of either the process of assessing and then judging or of the individuals who judge/assess yet it lauds the winners again and again. Which given the current situation is probably understandable because frankly, it seems pretty hard to defend.

Sadly for me all winners could be tainted with this brush until there is a clear stated and observed line between entrants and assessors/judges, the judges are from a wider variety of associated industries and have a more international flavor. Oh and conflict of interest is both CLEARLY stated and dealt with.

I find later in the magazine that the French are doing it FAR BETTER than us, non c'est vrai, in the form of Chaumont. Exhibitors cannot return for 3 years, to allow new talent to have a chance and assessors are taken from a wide range of expertise including the arts, horticulture and medicine. This year 4 landscape architects, a neuroscientist, an author and a psychiatrist. Now that's what I call diverse!

A career limiting blog post? will I be blackballed by the RHS? perhaps. But one has to ask why this is allowed to continue almost unchallenged.

Do you dear reader find it acceptable?

Do you like me want to have full disclosure and visibility?

1 comment:

  1. A very interesting post as with most peolpe I was completly unaware of these conflicts of interest and I have to agree with your opnion of the french having a better system. This would also allow new talent at events like chelsea where it is very difficult to get a look in due to designers returning year after year.


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