Ben Derrick, Gardener Trainer at St Mungo’s writes about a visit the young people on the Putting Down Roots for Young People project, took to Kew Gardens.  

One of many beautiful shots captured at Kew Gardens

At Putting Down Roots for Young People we’ve been working with young people who are unable to access mainstream schools. This means that, without us, they would miss out on the enrichment activities and school trips which are a really important to a well-rounded education. We believe it’s important to have fun too!

We worked together with the Kew Gardens youth programme who were running a project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, on photographing nature and exploring art using this as a medium.

They came to visit us at our training site in East London and gave us a lesson about the history of Kew Gardens (have you been before? It’s AMAZING!) They brought with them some natural ‘artefacts’ such as a piece of cactus ‘wood’ and giant seed pods with an amazing story.

They taught us how to use natural light to compose a photo and how the background could be changed to get different effects. Everyone was then given a camera and let loose to find natural objects outside and use their imagination to create some masterpieces. What an interesting workshop and such a great way to engage with nature. We even discovered the ‘art and beauty in decay’, by taking pictures of a decomposing sunflower up close and the small fungus that were living off it.

The next week we all went to Kew Gardens (have we mentioned how GREAT Kew is?) We visited the newly re-opened Temperate House where students got to use their new skills. They photographed some really unique plants and created their own portfolio of their favourite photos. Amazingly, they have a chance to have the best pictures on display in Kew this spring!

We then took a walk round some of the other great displays and greenspace at Kew. We’re planning to go back again in the spring to spend a day checking out everything we missed. There’s so much to see and Kew is massive! We of course want to check out if any of our pictures are on display!

This has been a great way to engage young people with the environment and look at the green sector and the living environment in a new way. As a project we were really impressed with the workshops and how inspired our young people were. I think you’ll agree our pictures really reflect what a unique, positive experience this was.