Together, we Kitchen Gardeners created a small piece of paradise out of what had formerly been wasteland. Together we brought to many young children - and adults too - what they told us were happy "golden" experiences that they would not otherwise have enjoyed.
In creating our little paradise we have sometimes appeared to be difficult, occasionally strident. I believe that our capacity for not taking "no" for an answer was one of the important early ingredients of our successful programme.
But times and circumstances move on. Today, the renovation of the park is well under way, the walled gardens appear to be pretty much "done". They are appreciated for the wonderful spaces that they are in a way that was simply not the case four years ago.
Our business plan foresaw our handing over the project to the Trust over a period of three years. Before that, we looked forward very much to resuming our activities, rebuilding what we had before and taking it to yet a new level.
The Trust expressed its support for what we planned and we entered into
detailed negotiation as to how we could continue and integrate into the newly invigorated life of the park as a whole. Those negotiations, entered into earnestly and in good faith on both sides, ultimately resulted in a proposal that after considerable reflection and discussion did not provide us with the minimum necessary basis for continued operation of the project, under our management.
While we are very disappointed at that outcome, we take the view that it is the project that is important, rather than our management of it. And we very much want to see continue what we have started.
So we were pleased that following further discussion with the Trust, it has agreed that it makes sense for the proposed hand-over after three years to be brought forward. We have agreed that with effect from 1 Dec the project will be continued under the Trust's management. The Trust has committed to continuing broadly the kind of programme we had envisaged, in the wider context of the activities of the whole park.
There are a number of stories in circulation as to why we felt that the terms on offer could not be made to work for us. We have agreed with the Trust that although our negotiations were and are confidential, it makes sense for us to clarify those reasons, correct any misapprehensions and explain how it is that the Trust's management of the project alleviates the problems we foresaw with our operating it under the terms on offer.
It would make no sense for us to fail to support, or worse to be seen to undermine the Trust in its efforts to execute what I think is a very challenging plan, and made more challenging still by the inclusion of our activities under its umbrella. Instead, for the sake of our belief in what we set out to achieve, and wish to continue, we intend to give the Trust the maximum possible support and cooperation in the hand-over of operation of our project.
Regrets? I have a few. I regret that some people might think that we want to do anything other than ensure the successful continuation of our project. I would like it to be known that the Trust can rely on our support in the handover and beyond. I would like us to be remembered for the positive things we have achieved, and I would very much regret were we remembered as a difficult-to-deal-with group that could not move with the changing times and the evolving big picture.
We will be putting what we have agreed with the Trust to members of the KG at a general meeting to be held in the week of Nov 2. Members will receive notification of the details of the meeting shortly. I hope that our members will agree that this is the best route forward for our project.
I also hope that our volunteers will feel that they wish to support the Trust in its operation of the programme and that this candid explanation of the situation, as I see it, will make them feel that they wish to continue to engage with the enthusiasm and gusto that made the project what it is today.
5 Oct 2009