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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Sowing the seeds for best Holker Garden Festival yet

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TEAM EFFORT: Holker Garden Festival director Sarah Ross

By Jo Davies

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

Sarah Ross, festival director

What are your responsibilities as festival director?

At one level you could say everything is my responsibility, the buck stops with me. However, as is always the case, such a complex event can really only be successful through the efforts of a very dedicated team, which I am very privileged to lead.

What attributes are required to do your job?

A cool head and a sense of humour.

What makes the Holker Garden Festival so special?

It’s hard to put that into a ‘capsule’. Garden experts love it as they can save themselves a trip to Chelsea, if they want to see great growers and exhibitors. Families come for a great day out. For many, it is a part of their annual calendar and we are very grateful for their support.

Describe a typical day in the week before the festival?

By then the build is well underway. I just need to support those in the show office or on the field. I make sure Lord and Lady Cavendish are kept up to date with developments. Liaison with exhibitors and traders is essential too. And of course, I check the forecast over and over again!

What changes have you seen in the three years you have worked on the festival?

The success of an annual event like this depends on changing a proportion of the event every year, so that it always appeals to returning visitors.

I think our renewed focus on the gardening element of the event has been the most significant development. Last year we had a record number of show gardens – nine in total. Given these cost thousands for the exhibitors to stage, their presence was a real vote of confidence for the festival. Several of the garden designers received commissions at the show.

What is your fondest memory of the festival?

The first time I went into the Horticultural Marquee after all the exhibitors had finished preparing their displays, at 11pm at night the day before the show opened. I was alone, all was still, the stars were shining outside and it was the calm before the storm!

What are the biggest rewards of your role?

The festival is very precious to so many people for many reasons. I just feel very lucky that running it is part of my role here at Holker. Each time a successful show is delivered it feels as if a huge weight has been lifted; a real reward for months of hard work.

What can visitors expect to see at the 20th Holker Garden Festival?

This year we have a new, exciting tepee area and a traditional Victorian Fair. Last year we introduced the Garden Theatre, a great success that we will continue.

Sum up the festival in one sentence?

A wonderful and typically British day out!

lThe Holker Garden Festival takes place from Friday June 8 to Sunday 10. Go to www.holkerfestival.co.uk to buy tickets online.

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