Celebrating 20 years of eFIG/plants@work

on Tuesday, 02 March 2021. Posted in News

18 members attended our 20th anniversary celebrations last Thursday evening (25 February) via Zoom. It was great to catch up with those who attended (list below). It was an informal gathering but our Chair Madeleine Evans, of IGD and Deputy Chair Kenneth Freeman of Purposeful Places did have a few words of welcome.

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Madeleine Evans, current Chair

Thank you for joining us to celebrate the association’s 20th Anniversary; we are only sorry that we haven’t been able to meet up in person at this time.

First of all I would like to officially thank our founders Tony Sawyer (Clark and Spears now Living Green) et al and our first Chair, Steve Attrill then of Rentokil and now of Flora-tec who set the standard for the association. I’d also like to thank the ongoing chairs and committees that have kept the association moving forward since those early days.

I’d also like to mention and thank Joanna who has kept the continuity of the association intact. She has been the one ongoing figure that has maintained the association’s existence; not only was she in it right from the start but has continued to keep the association abiding by the rules and keeping us all on our toes by ensuring that we keep to those rules and regulations. She is the 'font of all knowledge' regarding our organisation.

Last year our industry faced many challenges so I am looking forward to taking the association into the start of our next 20 years where plants are going to become a necessary and permanent fixture of each workspace, hospitality venue, home and public space. We are here to carry on our mission of promoting plants and their many benefits to us all.

Kenneth Freeman, current Deputy Chair
Some of our plans to celebrate the 20 years include: the publication of ‘Plants for Wellbeing 2’, a second edition of our book, a conference later in the year, a series of interviews with past Chairs about interior landscaping industry issues, plus a series of monthly special weeks on social media promoting different aspects of our industry. These have already been launched and we‘d love everyone to join in with these if they can please.

We will announce other plans as the year goes on and we really hope that we will be able to meet up at some of these events.

We had hoped that some of our past chairs would be here tonight – unfortunately Tom Palfreyman has had to go already so that just leaves Ian. But perhaps as Joanna is here and was in it from the very beginning, I can invite her to say a few words:

Joanna Hargreaves
Around December 2000 Tony Sawyer of Clarks and Spears approached a few companies to see if they would be interested in starting a federation for Interior Landscapers. Although there was an Interior Landscaping section within BALI, Tony felt it wasn’t working for the Interior's sector. He did a presentation to the members that had shown interest. I started working for the Federation in January 2001. In February, Tony called a meeting at for Purbright Village Hall. We had a good turnout – and the rest as they say, is history.


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One of the main reasons that the Federation was initiated was the uproar over Portcullis House, a new development for MPs offices opposite the Houses of Parliament. The main issue was the Fig trees which had been installed at great expense but appeared to be dying. In actual fact, they were acclimatising. However the press publicised it as public money being spent of dying trees and eFIG provided a platform to speak up for Interior Landscaping and companies offering this service – virtually unknown to most.


Portcullis fig trees

The Fig trees at Portcullis House (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Shirley Smith of Botanica Nurseries added that at that initial meeting companies were very guarded about sharing information about our businesses, suppliers etc. But once we talked and started sharing information, it made sense.

Joanna continued that during that first year everyone was very guarded in particular the smaller companies were very wary of talking to the bigger companies but at the Container Show we organised in 2001, everyone started to talk and understand that all companies had the same problems no matter what their size.

Following the first meeting, Steve Attrill of Rentokil now Ambius was elected as Chairman. With lots of support from the group which included Keith Kirkham of PHS Greenleaf, Alan Page of Urban Planters and others, he lead the Federation forward and established what we know today.

Whilst Tony Sawyer of Clark and Spears was the leading force behind the formation of the Federation after the first two years, eFIG became independent and here, 20 years later, we are still going strong.

Ian Drummond
Kenneth invited Ian Drummond another ex Chairman and Vice Chair to speak. Ian confirmed that he was at the original meeting with Alan Page of Urban Planters as they ran the Interior Landscaper Group (ILG) of BALI which offered no real support to our sector. 'The new Federation gave us our own voice.'

'I spent several years as Vice Chair and Chair, mainly during the recession which is when our National Plants at Work Week campaign was initiated which I believes is one of our greatest marketing achievements.'

Kenneth congratulated plants@work on the PR coverage they get considering there is no budget. Ian agreed that we do get heard and believes that many think we are bigger than we are because of that.

Clarrisa Connor
Kenneth than asked Clarrisa what she thinks of the industry as she is considerably younger than most present. Clarrisa confirmed that she had been with Ambius for just three years having come from a creative background. She confirmed that she loves the industry and that Ambius/Rentokil’s training is second-to-none. She loves the design aspect, the focus on wellbeing and personally feels the pandemic may be a blessing as it forces everyone to be more creative. She thinks it’s a thrilling industry which she loves being part of.

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