An Interview with Flower Show Manager Mig Kimpton

Sian Brett

Whilst managing the prestigious Blenheim Palace flower show may seem a daunting task for some, for Mig Kimpton it’s second nature. After years of working in theatres, running them and manging tours for stars such as Lily Savage and Sandi Toksvig, Blenheim Palace Flower Show (among his many other horticultural endeavours) might seem a world away, but really, the two are not so different. We caught up with Mig to ask him some more about it.

Culture Calling: Where did your love for flowers and gardening begin?
Mig Kimpton: When I was a child I used to be a chorister at Tewksbury Abbey and I used to help the ladies at the Abbey do the flowers in the summer holidays, and found that I enjoyed flower arranging because it was a creative activity - and I was really rubbish at drawing. Creating things with flowers was my creative outlet. Then I began my career in theatre as an administrator and producer and so flowers were always the side-line.
 
When I hit a momentous age having balanced the two careers, flowers and theatre, I decided that I would give up theatre and look for more work with flowers. Then came an opportunity to work for Aztec on their flowers show. To be paid to be in a marquee and to be with flowers and plantsmen and gardens and flower shows seemed the perfect opportunity. And of course it’s a great transition, having spent 30 years putting on shows in theatre, to now putting on shows in marquees in fields in wonderful places such as Blenheim, and Highlands House in Chelmsford, and at the moment I’m working on a huge exhibit for this year’s Chelsea flower show. In the last four years it all seems to have become very busy and absolutely flower focused.


Image Credit: Blenheim Palace Flower Show
 
CC: How does managing a theatre show compare to managing a flower show?
MK: The wonderful thing about producing a flower show in any form is the fact that it’s only there for a very short period of time. Whereas if you’re running a theatre then one does it 52 weeks a year.
 
The thing about producing flower shows is that you create the environment, you create the space, you put up your marquees; and of course Blenheim Show has a huge enormous marquee. You put in all the infrastructure to support the visitors and everything’s there for a maximum of three days and then it’s gone. I like the fact that you turn up in an empty field and you work very hard for three or four days and then everything is set up and created and the visitors come and enjoy it for three days and then you take it all down and it’s all gone in a matter of hours. I like that transitory nature, it’s a bit like flowers, flowers aren’t here all the time. You buy your bunch of flowers and enjoy them for a few days and then sadly they die. That’s kind of the same with a flower show. I work on Blenheim from September the previous year to the June when it opens and then it’s all gone. It’s there for three days and the public enjoy it. A bit like nature – nature works hard to produce a bloom or a flower and then the flower goes and you look forward to the next bloom.
 
CC: What’s the process for a show like Blenheim?
MK: It begins by setting out the overall schedule of what new show features we can include, and how we can move things forward. I’ve been fortunate enough that my contract has been renewed and I’m now doing my fourth Blenheim show. We develop the shows in order to give visitors a different experience. Last year we had a small floral arch and this year we’ve expanded it so it’s become a 30 foot long orchid walkway. Coming up with ideas and being inspired by other shows not just in this country but abroad, we try and make sure that there is something different for our visitors to see at the shows and therefore give them interest and excitement and of course for us as a show team, a challenge. I’m in the process of deciding how many plants we need for the orchid walkway, what they will be like; and of course I like sorting out the logistics. Trucks and vans and lorries will have to come from Holland and there’s also the excitement of when those plants arrive, making sure they’re all good and… what I ordered. It’s a big challenge, especially when you’re importing things from another country.


Image Credit: Blenheim Palace Flower Show
 
CC: So for people who have no idea, what should we expect from the Blenheim Garden Show?
MK: Well the ground floor pavilion is basically a feast of plants and flowers from the top growers in the country. We will have around 50 growers; I’ve just said yes to another person at this very moment so we’re still adding exhibitors to our list. That’s one really wonderful experience, to walk into that huge marquee and see it full of plants and of course to be able to take some of those plants home and put them in your own garden. We then have another marquee which is the flower arrangers and the local area of floral art which creates some amazing floral art installations. We have some show gardens and it’s always a pleasure to work with garden designers on creating something that’s for those, so that there are miniature gardens five metres by five metres. And then of course this year at Blenheim we have the wonderful orchid walkway which will be a wonderful spectacle of tropical plants and foliages that you’ll be able to walk through. Those are all the aspects and features that I’m working on. There’s also all our wonderful retail stands, with everything from a Jacuzzi to a pot plant or a new garden bench. We also have our talks theatre to pick up tips from experts. Our show is being opened by Carol Klein from BBC television’s Gardeners World she’ll be on hand on the Friday to take any questions so that people can bring their gardening problems to her, and she’ll doubtlessly solve them because she’s an expert and full of absolute knowledge. It is always a wonderful show in the great surrounding of Blenheim Palace, designed by Capability Brown all those years ago - and to have a break from the show of course you can go into the palace itself and experience all the wonderful things that are in there. As a day out it really is truly a day full of wonderful things to look at and it’s always a real pleasure to be at Blenheim; it’s such a beautiful spot and so popular with our visitors.
 
Blenheim Palace Flower Show is on 22-24 June at Blenheim Palace.

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