Why everyone wins when you take part in Beautiful Scotland
A blog post by Monica Straughan
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Monica Straughan, from Beautiful Perth, explains the benefits of taking part in Beautiful Scotland.
Since winning the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Britain in Bloom Champion of Champions crown in October our volunteers have been basking in the glory of publicity and public acclaim! We’ve been on the telly and in national and local newspapers, magazines and social media sites; we’ve had letters of congratulation from far and near, including from the ‘other’ Perth in Australia. The Provost of Perth & Kinross Council hosted a civic reception for us and when we’re out and about in Perth tidying, weeding beds or picking litter, passers-by stop to congratulate us and drivers beep their horns and wave.
On 6 December 2019, we heard the amazing news that we had been named as no. 11 in The Courier’s 2019 list of 100 people ‘who inspire us, challenge us and change our world’. The Courier is the best-selling local newspaper, covering Tayside and Fife. It publishes its’ Impact 100’ list every December to recognise people who have had an impact on life in ‘Courier County’ during the year and to provide ‘reasons to feel proud of the part of Scotland you call home’. This unexpected and thrilling honour is a tribute to all of our volunteers, who work so hard all year round to make Perth a beautiful place to live, work and visit.
It’s been very uplifting to get so much positive feedback and to know our work is appreciated. But that’s only one of many reasons why we would recommend that other ‘bloom groups’ take part in national competitions like Beautiful Scotland and Britain in Bloom.
Make no bones about it, taking part in the competitions means hard work – a lot of hard work – not only on the ground in your community, but also behind the scenes. You need to plan ahead so you meet the judging criteria across the three pillars of the competition – horticulture, environment and community. You need to take lots of ‘before, during and after’ photos and produce a portfolio that summarises your work across all four seasons, for the judges to see before they arrive. You need to show how well you are engaging with the wider community and working with other partners. You have to demonstrate that you are financially sound and environmentally responsible and you must, of course, deliver high quality horticulture.
Our Bloom family
So, if it’s so challenging, why do we do it? Well, because we are in no doubt that the benefits far outweigh the challenges, and it’s not just the volunteers who are reaping the rewards, the whole community looks and feels better as a result. We’re extremely fortunate in Perth & Kinross to have the active support of the council, not only for our city-based charity but also for 47 other ‘bloom’ groups in towns and villages across our county. The evidence of success of our bloom family is plain to see when you travel through the area – we are all working to make our neighbourhoods beautiful places to live, work and visit, and it shows. In a part of the country that depends on tourism, this is a vital element of the local economy.
Perth & Kinross had two groups in the RHS Britain in Bloom finals this year – Bridge of Earn was also there in the Large Village category, which it won, along with a gold medal and the Involving Schools and Young People Award! They joined us at the Provost’s Civic Reception where their awards, along with our gold medal, our Parks and Green Spaces Award and of course our Champion of Champions crown were all celebrated.
Being part of the wider Beautiful Scotland family is a huge benefit too. Scotland as a whole punches ‘above its weight’ in UK competitions because of the support provided by the team at Keep Scotland Beautiful (Scotland was represented in six of the 13 RHS Britain in Bloom UK Award categories this year, winning four gold medals, two silver gilts and four of the categories). Sharing that wider pool of knowledge and experience helps everyone, because you know you’re not alone, and you can bet someone else will have wrestled with the same problems and won! We’re very aware that not all councils are as helpful as ours, but there are other ways of securing in-kind and financial support. We’re certainly happy to offer advice to other groups in light of our Beautiful Scotland and RHS Britain in Bloom experience of building partnerships and applying for external funding.
Catalyst for action
Keep Scotland Beautiful nominated us for the RHS Britain in Bloom UK finals in 2018, which was very exciting. The RHS Britain in Bloom UK judges then nominated us for the 2019 Champion of Champions category, which was both exciting and terrifying in equal part. Winning was a dream come true and there aren’t the words to describe just how much it has meant to us.
But you don’t have to be at that level to reap the benefits. Over the years, we have found that just entering local and national competitions really focuses the efforts of everyone involved, from our own volunteers, to our partners, sponsors, supporters and the local press. Going into your local competitions or trying for a Beautiful Scotland Award is a powerful catalyst for action, and it really does bring the community together. So, whether you have been around for years or you are just starting up, we would certainly recommend giving it a try. You’ll find it will provide focus and a framework for planning and delivering excellence, and the result is clear – everyone comes out as a winner!
We’ve put a lot of information onto our website, including our 2019 winning portfolio, and a set of videos we produced for and about the judges’. Visit: https://beautifulperth.org/ to find out more.
To take part in Keep Scotland Beautiful’s Beautiful Scotland programme this year, visit www.keepscotlandbeautiful.org/beautifulscotland or find out about it’s sister ‘non-competitive’ programme It’s Your Neighbourhood here: www.keepscotlandbeautiful.org/IYN. Entries for both are open until end of April.