Graham Burgess' Story

Author: Graham Burgess
Graham Burgess' Story

Graham Burgess travelled to several countries in Europe in 1972 to explore the potential of botanical gardens as places of leisure.

The Fellowship

At the time of his Fellowship in 1972, Graham worked as a manager at The Royal Botanical Gardens Kew. He had become concerned about Kew’s financial sustainability; previously much of its revenue had come from colonial industries like coffee, cocoa and rubber, but these were now gone. Additionally, it had become much easier to travel to remote places to study plants, and hence Kew’s status as a place of scientific study was also diminished.

Graham realised that Kew’s saviour would be the leisure industry. He decided to use his Fellowship to visit major botanical gardens and zoos in Europe and find out how they were maximising their potential as leisure destinations, and diversifying their revenue streams. His trip took him to Holland, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Belgium and Switzerland.

The Results

Soon after returning to the UK, Graham secured a Directorship at the John Lewis Partnership. The job involved care for gardens across the UK, some of which far exceeded the acreage of Kew, and included the finest water garden in the world at Longstock. He was also responsible for Waitrose car parks, roof gardens and business parks. In all these locations it was crucial that Graham’s work took account of the needs of the public, and here the experience of his Fellowship was valuable.

In 1981, Graham left John Lewis to set up his own company, Artscapes, which enabled him to build on his experiences and work all over the world. At the International Garden Festival in Liverpool in 1984, Graham and his collaborator Randoll Coate won the Premier Prize for The Beatles Maze, which included a 51 foot long model Yellow Submarine at its centre. The Yellow Submarine has since been moved to John Lennon Airport.

Graham has been active in supporting WCMT for many years and is now Chair of the Southern Association.

Graham's website:  

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