Chairman's Letter, Spring 2018

Letter from the Chairman

Mark McGilchrist

I start this letter with the good news that the Friends have received £20,000 from the Community Infrastructure Fund after gaining the second highest number of votes in the West End ward during Dundee Decides 2018 [1]. This funding is concrete recognition by the community of the River Line project and should fill us with confidence as we move forward with our planning. I would like to offer the thanks of the Friends and all our partners in the project to the West End Community Council who kindly agreed to include our project in Dundee Decides 2018 and the citizens of the west end for their support. Future newsletters will keep you fully informed of progress.

Many of you will have recently received an email regarding the Committee’s intention to support evening opening of the Garden during the months of June, July and August. This is a very important opportunity as it will allow many people who work during the day considerable flexibility when choosing to visit the Garden. We intend to advertise evening openings in the press and, if successful, this could bring in significant extra revenue for the Garden. The Friends can play the enabling role by manning reception between 4.30pm and 8.30pm every evening of the week but excluding Friday. The need to bring the Garden and community together is pressing as ever and I do hope some of you can find the time to help with the rota. Training will be provided, and the Garden has full network capability (University and Cloud) to keep you connected. I would refer you to the article in this newsletter by Marie Rollins where volunteers talk about their experience helping out in the Garden.

As you read this letter the first Children’s garden event will have taken place. After consultations earlier in the year it was decided to present this opportunity as a series of events for young children, each event covering significant moments in the growing season to enhance the educational impact. The events are hands-on, but do not commit any family to tending a plot over the season. We will place photographs on our blog showing the children’s events and the results of their efforts.

Our Anthology project [2] is now into the final third of the time allotted, but these are the best months of the year for those participants who have yet to submit. There has been great interest, with over 100 registered to participate. A number of recitals of poems and presentations of art have already taken place which demonstrate the quality of the work we are receiving, and you can see examples on the cover of this newsletter. You can still get involved by contacting the relevant lead [2] or through

It was with great regret that the Friends received the news that Alasdair Hood, our Curator for nearly 20 years, is to move on to pastures new. Alasdair has worked tirelessly through thick and thin with his staff to keep the Garden relevant to the University and local community. It is Dundee’s premier Garden and all of us who remain, must work to maintain that reputation and build on the foundation that Alasdair and his predecessors have created over the last 45 years. This comes at a time of other significant changes within the University that touch on the Garden: the appointment of a new Director of Estates and the year-end retiral of the Principal. A copy of Alasdair’s final annual report can be found on our blog [3]. On behalf of the Friends’ membership and the Committee, I wish Alasdair well in his new endeavours, and we hope, and expect, that he will continue to visit.

In the early days of botanic gardens around the world, a principal function was the cultivation of plants for medicinal and therapeutic purposes. This link with medicine ultimately broke down with the age of exploration and a greater emphasis on display and education. The curator’s creation of the herb garden close to reception was an attempt to recover that role, but through an educational lens. Recently, the Friends and curator have pushed this further by enquiring whether the garden may be used for social prescribing by local medical and other practitioners. This is not a small endeavour and we are moving slowly with external parties, such as the Directorate of Public Health, Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership and Sustrans to mention a few, to see a clear way forward. We will keep you posted.

We will again have a Summer Gathering this year, which takes place on August 4th. Many of you will be familiar with the format of good food and music and pleasant company. We hope to add some additional interest this year and we will keep you posted by email. You will find an invitation and booking form enclosed with this newsletter, which can be returned with your annual subscription.

We also have a full events schedule for April to October, which you will find at the rear of this newsletter and on our blog. I would particularly draw your attention to the annual plant sale on 20th May. This year, we also hope to offer used books for sale which have a horticultural slant. You may have books you would like to donate to the sale; we will place a box in reception to receive small quantities of books (4-5), but for larger donations please get in touch so we can make alternative arrangements.

We continue to make our regular contributions to fund various aspects of the Garden and this coming year is no exception. We will continue to fund the Garden’s horticultural technician for one day per week, and again support a variety of applicants for the Friends’ Hugh Ingram bursary permitting the experience of working in the Garden for six weeks during the summer. I am also pleased to say that the Committee recently agreed to the purchase of a 10’x8’ greenhouse for the Food Growing Hub in the allotment area. The hub is enthusiastically run by Jade Cawthry and colleagues [4].

Some of you may be wondering whatever happened to the idea of a viewpoint over the river, situated close to the airport? Rest assured, this project has not gone away, but varying conceptions of the design and the possibility of multiple uses for the structure have slowed things down. We do hope to get a resolution of all the issues within the next few months.

As you can see from this letter, the Friends’ committee continue to work hard to encourage and enhance relationships between the Garden and the local community, visitors to the city and the University.