Doors: 6pm, Refreshments Served
Talk: 6.30pm – 7.30pm
Join local writer and artist Sonya Patel Ellis in the Forest Gate Community Garden for a nature-inspired insight into pioneering physician, botanist, and philanthropist Dr John Fothergill, who in 1762 established an esteemed botanic garden in the grounds of Ham House estate. Now known as West Ham Park, Fothergill’s legacy is finally being more roundly celebrated with a dedicated heritage and plant trail through the ornamental gardens, tree trails around the park, and wildflower meadows established in 2015. In the same year Sonya first celebrated Fothergill’s legacy via her botanically-inspired installation Hortus Uptonensis taking up residence in the bandstand for most of that summer (part of Forest Gate’s inaugural Arts Trail).
For Hortus Uptonensis, Sonya recreated an imagined room in Fothergill’s house, complete with desk and archival material plus living and pressed flowers from the surrounding park. Revisiting the subject some seven years on, there’s an opportunity to spread the word about his work further but also explore more complex matters such as how plant collecting affected the peoples and ecology of the countries from which such specimens were ‘discovered’ – a word previously, inappropriately, used to describe such events; a moment to reflect on what ‘discovery’ really means in the context of botanical exploration, science, medicine, and supposed goodwill, but also diversity, conservation, community gardening, local legacy, and future conversations about pressing issues such as climate change. A quick fact to start things off: John Fothergill grew some of the first tea plants (Camellia sinensis) ever seen in Europe at Ham House…
Sonya will also have some of her pressed flower prints and signed, authored books on sale including Collins Botanical Bible (2018), Collins Birdwatcher’s Bible (2020), The Heritage Herbal (2020), and The Modern Gardener (2022). If you wish to order any copies in advance or for more details, please visit www.abotanicalworld.com.
This talk has been specially commissioned by the Forest Gate Community Garden as part of the Learn Draw Grow project, which is generously supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.