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Saturday, 04 July 2015

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AS the Holker Garden Festival prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary, we take a behind the scenes look at preparations for this annual celebration of all things gardens, countryside, food and crafts and meet some of the festival faces, old and new, that are working tirelessly to make this year’s festival the best yet.

This week we meet Graham Dobson, showground coordinator

How long have you worked on the Holker Estate?

I’ve worked at Holker since 2005, so I’ve been a part of eight Holker Garden Festivals in total.

Can you tell us what your role as Showground Coordinator involves?

My role during the festival is very much about overseeing the preparation of the festival showground prior to the event, including ensuring the grounds look immaculate ready for the three-day event. This can involve anything from clearing the parkland, erecting fences, attending to the hundreds of sheep that graze in the parkland and coordinating the marquees going up. I view the 200-acre estate as Lord and Lady Cavendish’s front garden and we all take pride in its upkeep, as if it were our own.

How many people help to prepare the showground?

I work in a small team of two to three people but I oversee the festival stewards as well as various teams as we get closer to the event. For example, this week the electricians will be on the showground preparing lighting. As the festival approaches these teams swell in number and everything gets quite busy!

What is the most time-consuming part of your role?

Keeping the showground looking at its best is something we take great pride in and this can take time. It’s down to the work of a small team ensuring that no area of the showground is left untouched. At Easter we do what we call a ‘stick pick’. Basically, walking the parkland and collecting every stray branch or twig. It may sound like an easy job but we could be talking 10 trailers full by the end – in all kinds of weather!

Describe a typical day in the weeks prior to the festival.

A typical day could involve anything from filling in potholes on the exit roads through the parkland, to ensure vehicles have good access, to overseeing that the marquees are going up in the right place. For the 20th Festival we have the new Wild Holker Tipis which is a completely new area, so I’m really interested to see the Tipis being constructed.

Are there any unusual facts you can tell us about preparations?

The sheep are left as long as possible in the Holker Parkland, as they act like a natural lawnmower. They are then moved and the grass is left to grow before being mown one final time in the days immediately prior to the festival.

What’s the best part of your job?

The variety – one minute you could be cutting the grass, the next hanging a gate or fixing a fence. There’s never a dull moment! Plus working outdoors, the Holker parkland is a magnificent office!

Sum up the Holker Garden Festival in one sentence.

The Holker Garden Festival is a triumph of team work and Cumbrian spirit.

The Holker Garden Festival takes place from Friday June 8 to Sunday 10. Tickets are available to buy online at www.holkerfestival.co.uk.


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