Futurescape is always a top event in our calendar, but the event this week has had enormous significance for London Stone. That's because (thanks to organisers Jim and Lisa Wilkinson for giving us a spot) we officially launched our new vision for the industry. We were wowed by how many of our industry peers turned up to hear what we had to say - around two hundred! There was standing-room only when the talk began.
“The idea was born out of Futurescape last year,” said Craig Potter, our Garden Design Director, as he opened the talk, “and its theme of needing to share skills across the industry. It's our duty as an industry to give true added value to customers. Landscapers want to get to designer-level gardens and a lot of contractors are working towards RHS shows. Upskilling hard landscapers to understand soft landscaping better, creates the best opportunity for them to converse with designers and embrace their vision.”
Jamie Butterworth, our newly joined Horticultural Consultant, who we introduced on our Blog two weeks ago, added, “The two sides of one beautiful industry never have the chance to communicate,” he said. “Our vision is to bridge the gap between hard and soft landscaping, add more value to what we all do, and make projects more seamless.”
What we really stressed at Futurescape is how much we want your input. We'll be creating hard and soft landscaping CPD days across the country, working with industry bodies, such as the APL, BALI, SGD, RHS and RIBA to get them accredited. Our aim is to help existing organisations, share skills to make the industry stronger, and increase its appeal to younger people as a career option.
It's no coincidence, when you think about it, that the leading companies in our field have very strong horticultural knowledge and planting teams that work with the finest designers and it's important to emphasise that our initiative isn't specifically targeted at existing designers. We're aiming to help upskill hard landscapers and new designers by offering free consultations with Jamie and developing the knowledge of our showroom staff, who are already experts when it comes to Hard Landscaping materials.
CPD and short courses will start appearing early in 2018 and run throughout the year around the country. However, we really want to stress that we can't do it without your help. As Jamie said, “This isn't just another new initiative. We value your thoughts on how it can work for you all.” If you have ideas on what courses you'd like and the information you want to hear, then tell us. We'll be designing our courses with your needs and the industry's at the forefront of our minds.
On top of this, we'll be working with secondary schools and existing initiatives to educate pupils with no understanding of horticulture in what a rewarding industry this is and not just an option for those who struggle academically. We are already in talks with fourteen colleges to see how we can best help them to do this.
The response at Futurescape has made us feel truly optimistic about our vision. Later in the afternoon, Jamie reflected on the immediate reaction, “Everyone has known about it for weeks. The fact that there were very few questions at the end of the talk shows that much of the industry seems to understand the idea and gotten behind it so far. In the short time since the talk about eight people have come up and asked for help. All were emerging garden designers who need assistance acquiring practical skills.”
Craig found the same. “It's something that people want to use; one designer I've spoken to, who's just graduated, struggles to know where to find certain plants. We've got six nurseries on board and can direct designers toward HTA-accredited nurseries. Already this afternoon, we've be asked how to get involved, who to speak to. People love the idea.”
Every year at Futurescape we realise what a privileged position London Stone is in as a supplier, seeing projects pulled together - both the hard and soft landscaping elements – from design to completion. Bringing the two sides of the industry closer can only, as Jamie said, make us “truly more unified, and stronger together”.