Paul Abbott, ESOL Subject Leader, advises Chelsea Physic Garden on visitor information language.

Chelsea Physic Garden is London’s oldest botanic garden, founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. Today its mission is to demonstrate the medicinal, economic, cultural and environmental importance of plants to the survival and well-being of humankind. 

In the spirit of ‘One Garden, One Place’, the garden is committed to inclusion, access for all and embracing diversity. As part of the restoration project for their Victorian glasshouses, Chelsea Physic Garden took the opportunity to consult widely with local community organisations, including Morley College London.

They asked for different people’s perspectives about the restoration project, in particular about how to word, present and display information about their plant collection. As a science-based, botanical and medicinal garden, it was an important discussion to ensure that language and terminology was as accessible and engaging as possible.

As an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) practitioner I was well placed to advise.

It was so interesting to hear different perspectives from other community-led organisations in the borough and learn more about plants; their uses (culinary, decorative and medicinal), history, where they came from, and how they were brought to the UK. 

I was so thrilled to be asked by Chelsea Physic Garden to offer our ESOL perspective on making information for their visitors more accessible and inclusive.

I also got to see their brilliant exhibition, A Dash of Lavender, celebrating LGBTQ+ history month with Queer Botany. Throughout February they had a trail and events such as LGBTQ+ flags and LGBTQ+ people linked to the Chelsea borough.

I look forward to further collaborations between Morley and Chelsea Physic Garden in the near future, and we’re looking at ways to get more students involved. Watch this space!

Paul Abbott

Subject Leader ESOL

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