Kingston community rallies round to bring Kingston bloom back

Surrey Comet: Graham Rollinson with wife Mary Graham Rollinson with wife Mary

The Surrey Comet is proud to announce this year’s Kingston in Bloom is back on after community groups rallied to save the popular gardening competition.

Kingston Council was forced to cancel the competition, which cost £5,000, due to “unprecedented financial pressure” on spending.

But thanks to the Kingston Orchard Project, which has agreed to help us judge the competition, and John Lewis, which has agreed to put up a prize, the competition is back on.

It was the heartbreaking story of Graham Rollinson, whose hope of fulfilling his dying wife Mary’s wish to create an award-winning garden, which sparked our campaign into action.

Mary Rollinson lost her battle with cancer in December last year, but in honour of her memory the Surrey Comet will dedicate the competition’s flagship category to her.

There will be three categories – best back garden, best front garden and a third community garden category which, in honour of Mr Rollinson’s wife, will be named The Mary Rollinson award for best community garden.

Mr Rollinson, who will also judge the category, said he was “over the moon” that Kingston in Bloom was back on.

He said: “This is the best news I have had in a long time. It would be an absolute pleasure to judge Mary’s competition. It was really tough when Kingston in Bloom was cancelled, but now it is back on I am really pleased.”

Kingston Council said it could no longer justify the £5,000 expense and 20 days in officer time per year it took to run Kingston in Bloom, which attracted a core group of about 40 residents on a regular basis.

A spokesman said: “While we appreciate that the competition was highly valued by these residents, the council felt it was no longer able to justify the expense or the investment in time.”

However, it has agreed to offer advice and support, putting us in contact with a committee of volunteers, to ensure the competition is run to the previous high standards.

We are now accepting entries in the three categories –best back garden, best front garden and best community garden – with green fingered residents expected to submit their entries to us before the closing date on Monday, July 16.

Anna Kwilecka, founder of the Kingston Orchard Project, said she agreed to help put on Kingston in Bloom after hearing Graham Rollinson’s story in the Surrey Comet.

She said: “It is so important for the community that events like these continue to take place.

“It is a shame that Kingston Council cannot afford this anymore but out of a negative something very positive has come.

“The community has come together and the Kingston Orchard Project is proud to be part of that.

“Along with the Comet we hope we can inspire people in Kingston to keep this wonderful competition going.”

Councillor Andrew Day, who had been instrumental in helping the Comet find a partner for the project, said he was happy to help.

He said: “I was very sad to hear Mr Rollinson’s story and that Kingston in Bloom had been cancelled. I really wanted to help in any way I could. I am really pleased we have managed to get the project off the ground.”

Inspired by the heartbreaking story of Graham Rollinson, department store John Lewis has agreed to donate a top gardening prize.

The environmentally friendly Wiggly Wigglers Worm Cafe with value pack, which costs £120, helps to convert kitchen waste into compost for the back garden.

Louise Wood, community liaison coordinator for John Lewis Kingston, said it was a competition the company was happy to back.

She said: “Graham’s story is so sad and so anything we can do to help we will. We hope our prize will encourage as many green fingered gardens in Kingston to get involved and get Kingston in Bloom back on track.”

John Lewis has kindly offered a prize, but we still need other business in the borough to step up and help us make this Kingston in Bloom one to remember.

If you think you would like to help please call reporter Tom Barnes on 020 8744 4273 or email him at tbarnes @london. newsquest. co.uk.

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