Samaritans’ Listening Garden, created by garden designer and Samaritans volunteer Darren Hawkes, was awarded a Silver-Gilt medal today
Samaritans’ Listening Garden, created by garden designer and Samaritans volunteer Darren Hawkes, was awarded a Silver-Gilt medal today as it was unveiled at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023.
The conceptual garden has been designed to depict the challenging journey many people take when they reach out to Samaritans and the comfort and sanctuary they find when speaking to a listening volunteer. It has been created using materials that have been reclaimed from demolition sites or salvaged from scrap yards to tell the story of ‘crisis to hope’. Many of the 2,000 plants in the garden are central to the garden’s narrative and have been chosen for their architectural form and varied colour and texture.
As the garden was unveiled to the press on Monday 22 May, HRH The Princess of Wales made a surprise visit to the garden, ahead of the official royal visit, accompanied by a small group of school children. The Samaritans' Listening Garden was one of only three show gardens visited by the Princess of Wales and children from 10 schools taking part in the RHS Campaign for School Gardening. During the visit, the children learnt about sharing feelings, listening and finding a safe space to be heard, as they took a tour of the garden with Darren Hawkes.
As part of the royal visit on Monday afternoon, Samaritans CEO, Julie Bentley, welcomed HM The King onto the garden. In his role as Prince of Wales, The King had been a patron of Samaritans since 1999 and as he toured the garden with Darren Hawkes he was interested to hear how Darren's work as a Samaritans listening volunteer had inspired the design of the garden.
Darren Hawkes said: “It was a tremendous thrill to create this garden for Samaritans. My ambition for the garden was always to encourage conversations about mental health and to create an understanding of the importance of listening to someone struggling to cope or at risk of suicide. Ultimately, I wanted the garden to be a place of hope and sanctuary and a reflection of the life-saving work Samaritans undertake every day.”
It is the first time that Samaritans has staged a show garden at RHS Chelsea. Julie Bentley, CEO of Samaritans said: “I am so pleased that Darren’s vision and tenacity, and the hard work of the entire team involved in creating the garden, has been recognised with such a prestigious medal.
We know listening can save lives, and we are hugely grateful to Darren and to Project Giving Back for giving us this unique platform to remind visitors that Samaritans is needed now more than ever before. This year marks 70 years since Chad Varah took the first call on what was to become the Samaritans helpline. The garden is a wonderful tribute to everyone who has supported us over the past 70 years, and I hope visitors to the show this week might take a moment to think about how they can also play a role to help those struggling to cope.”
After the show, planting and other elements of the garden will be relocated to Samaritans branches across the UK, including in Cornwall. In addition, any build materials not able to be repurposed will re-enter the recycling process from where they were originally sourced.
Speaking about the relocation Darren said: “I am delighted that elements of the garden will have a long-life outside of RHS Chelsea. Having spent the last six months working as a Samaritans listening volunteer in Cornwall, it’s great that branches in the region have been chosen for the relocation project. I hope the planting will be a welcoming and uplifting sight to visitors and volunteers alike.”
Notes to Editor
For further information about Samaritans’ Listening Garden, please contact:
Suzanne Hind or Theresa Osen at HIND + OSEN
Suzanne Hind: [email protected] or 07813 208 168
Theresa Osen: [email protected] or 07931 335 930
For information about Samaritans, please contact:
Joe Bookbinder, Media Officer at Samaritans, at [email protected]
- Anyone can contact Samaritans FREE any time from any phone on 116 123, even a mobile without credit. This number won’t show up on your phone bill. Or you can visit www.samaritans.org
- Every 10 seconds, Samaritans responds to a call for help.
- Samaritans is a charity and it’s the public’s kind donations and 23,000 volunteers that mean we are always there for anyone struggling to cope. Find out how you can support us or volunteer with us.
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About Project Giving Back
- Project Giving Back (PGB) is a unique grant-making charity that provides funding for gardens for good causes at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. PGB was launched in May 2021 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its devastating effect on UK charitable fundraising. It will fund gardens inspired by a range of good causes at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2022, 2023 and 2024.
- PGB will fund a total of 15 gardens at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2023 and intends to fund up to 42 gardens at the show from 2022 - 2024. (Applications for 2023 & 2024 are now closed).
- Project Giving Back was established with funding from two private individuals who are RHS Life Members and keen gardeners. They wish to remain anonymous. PGB will help UK-based good causes recover from the unprecedented effects of the global pandemic by giving them an opportunity to raise awareness of their work for people, plants and the planet at the high-profile RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
- Find out more at www.givingback.org.uk
About Darren Hawkes
Darren Hawkes has been designing gardens for over 20 years. He has two gold medals for creating show gardens at Chelsea in 2017 and 2015 as well as a Silver Gilt medal in 2013 for the charity SeeAbility. Based in Cornwall, Darren is lead designer at Darren Hawkes Landscapes, a design studio working across domestic gardens, and larger public realm spaces throughout the UK. Darren continues to be strongly involved with Maggie’s, the cancer charity he created the ‘Linklaters garden for Maggie’s’ at Chelsea in 2017. He has designed spaces at both the St Bartholomew’s Hospital site and The Forth Valley Hospital site in Stirlingshire.