Sue Illman reflects and Noel Farrer looks forward

Jenny Abramsky talks about park maintenance and Capability Brown at Presidents reception

Our parks are at a ‘tipping point’ that could result in many of the gains of the last decades being lost, Jenny Abramsky, chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, warned at the Landscape Institute’s presidents’ reception.

Speaking on the day that the HLF’s report, State of UK Public Parks, was published, Abramsky told the audience that ‘We are keen to point out the benefits so that parks continue to be seen as a source of civic pride.  A return to the neglected experience of the 1970s and ‘80s is not acceptable.’

She added, ‘We know the Landscape Institute greatly values parks and has championed strongly their upkeep and regeneration.’ Since 1994, she said, the HLF has given more than £1 billion to natural or natural and designed landscapes, yet it is deeply worried by the lack of money available for upkeep.

Abramsky also spoke about the Capability Brown Festival, celebrating the tercentenary of his birth, which the Landscape Institute is managing. Capability Brown is, she said, ‘relatively unknown when you consider his effect on landscape. If people don’t understand Brown’s landscapes, many will remain at risk.’

Passing the baton
The evening was also an opportunity for Sue Illman to reflect on the two years of her presidency, and to hand over to Noel Farrer as the next president. Illman said, ‘Tonight is a celebration of what’s happened over the last two years, the successes and failures, about relationships and the ways of working that we’ve developed, genuine collaboration and sharing of interests with many of you, plus a look to the future, and metaphorically, passing the baton to Noel Farrer, our incoming President.’

Looking back, she said, ‘It would have been hard to predict what a roller-coaster my term became, when I naively set out on my path to raise awareness over the way we design and manage water in our landscapes. If it wasn’t for the fact that I had been saying that we as a country were an accident waiting to happen, for quite a long time. Not one of those situations where you want to be proved right.’

Broader agenda
She praised LI members, saying, ‘As a profession we have also lifted our heads above the parapet, and been prepared to speak out against a broader agenda. I have rarely spoken directly about landscape architecture over the last two years, rather in terms of how we address the bigger problems of sustainability, population growth and climate change, and the way that we as a profession can make a significant contribution.’

Introducing her successor she said, 'We should be in for an exciting two years'.

Housing and liveability
Noel Farrer explained the way that he sees his role. ‘I shall be focusing the presidency on areas where I am most conversant and can articulate best,’ he said. ‘For me these are housing, urban open spaces and liveability. I believe my messaging must make the same impact using the same language as all members when addressing the particular obstacles in relation to the particular landscape (rural or urban) in front of them to deliver better, bigger higher quality schemes in all areas.

‘My belief is why I’m standing here in front of you!  I come to this presidency because what we do as a profession is of ever greater importance in achieving all meaningful change. The delivery of quality places driven by real consideration of the complex natural systems and the social dynamics of place-making is central to delivering long term economic wealth and happiness – real political outcomes.’

Read the President's Review in the online issue of Landscape and also an interview with Noel Farrer.

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