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The Chelsea Fringe – One month to go

On 19 May, the seventh annual Chelsea Fringe will burst into life for nine days of colourful and eclectic events across London, the UK and wider world. Entirely independent but run with the Flower Show’s blessing, the Fringe was launched in 2012 as an inclusive and open festival of community horticulture and has flourished ever since as a celebration of the rich variety of vibrant ways in which people engage with gardening and plants.

Now an established part of the horticultural calendar, the 2018 programme is brimming with eclectic and entertaining events including hands-on gardening sessions, art installations, walks, workshops, talks, food tastings, open days, film screenings, exhibitions and performances. Its open-access principle means that just about anything goes – as long as it’s interesting and legal, and on the subject of gardens, flowers, veg-growing or landscape – and hundreds of events are now confirmed.

Whilst the organisers set no theme, a number of trends have emerged across the 2018 programme:

Many events this year focus on the role of gardens and plants in wellbeing and health. These include a celebration of the work of 17th-century apothecary John Parkinson at the gardens of the British Medical Association (Bloomsbury, London); an exhibition of botanical paintings of plants that promote good cardiac health (The Chelsea Courtyard, London); a workshop with medical herbalist Alex Laird and top chef Arthur Potts Dawson to explore how foods and herbs work therapeutically in us, and a talk and workshop on fermentation and its role in a healthy gut at (both at Omved Gardens, Haringey, London)

Food and drink feature prominently, with edible growing, vegetables, herbs and botanicals strongly in evidence. A herb-boat moored in Hackney will host an exploration of the history of bitters and botanicals and their use in cocktails; you are invited to ‘grow a pizza’ at Lauriston School; Chiswick House’s renowned kitchen garden is hosting open days; or you can learn the art of salad making at the Jetty in Greenwich.

Art is always in evidence across the Fringe, as it is again in 2018. Visitors can follow join a Botanical Sculpture Trail of Walthamstow Wetlands; visit the first London solo show of botanical collages by American artist, Jane Hammond at Lyndsey Ingram Gallery; take part in a human-powered floral sundial at the Patmore Estate in Battersea; or try out cyanotyping and sun printing at King Henry’s Walk Garden.

Trees get a special mention for 2018, with a host of events as part of the first Urban Tree Festival including an online map of London’s favourite trees as chosen by tree officers in each of London’s 33 Boroughs.

As ever, many events defy categorisation, such as a theatrical performance exploring the Great Hedge of India at the South London Botanical Institute, a cycle-based ‘Tour de Plants’ run by the Geffrye Museum, and a series of installations and exhibitions in Sicily. 2018 also sees events taking place in Henley-on-Thames, Bracknell Forest, Exeter and Pentillie Castle in Cornwall.

Founder and director of the Fringe Tim Richardson said: “Every year we as organisers are amazed by thethere have really ‘got it’ so we rarely have to ask them to rethink their ideas. The creativity out there is incredible, and just comes flooding in.”

The 2018 Chelsea Fringe runs from Saturday 19 to Sunday 27 May. The full programme can be browsed online at www.chelseafringe.com.

Individuals and organisations, first-timers and Fringe veterans, can still take part this year. Formal registration continues until the end of the Fringe, but potential event organisers are encouraged to make contact as soon as possible via email: info@chelseafringe.com.

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