We want Kew to be for everyone. In 2021 the Royal Botanic Gardens published its strategy for the next decade, Our Manifesto for Change. It has five priorities to help us fulfil Kew’s mission: to understand and protect plants and fungi for the well-being of people and the benefit of all life on Earth. One of our priorities is to “extend our reach”.
This means ensuring our knowledge and our collections are valued by more people and that we increase the number and diversity of visitors to our two sites, Kew Gardens in London and our wild botanic garden, Wakehurst in Sussex. Whether it’s inspiring a young visitor who experiences Kew’s botanical wonders for the first time or providing online access to our collections to a scientist anywhere in the world, we want Kew to be accessible to everyone.
This is why in January we introduced a £1 entry ticket for people in receipt of Universal Credit, Pension Credit or legacy benefits. We know financial barriers are not the only reason for some people not visiting but we hope this will be a step in the right direction. The new scheme has so far welcomed over 10,000 visitors in just six months.
The feedback has been incredibly positive. Once inside Kew Gardens, everyone can enjoy free access to our stunning glasshouses, the Children’s Garden, the art galleries and of course the 320 acres of our botanic gardens.
This success is proof of the need to make green and cultural spaces more accessible, and we’re keen to remove barriers where we can. However, we would love to see many more people take up this offer. We have also looked at other discounted ticket prices. These include a new Young Person’s ticket at Kew for 16 to 29-year-olds, a reduced price for advance booking, and a significant discount for daytime visitors arriving after 4pm during summertime. We also now offer a half-price young person’s membership.
We’re committed to increasing 10-fold the number of visitors from under-represented groups by 2030, so we are also expanding the range of events on offer. These include our annual Orchid Festival, and our new autumn event in the Temperate House, which this year will celebrate Mexican plants, food and mark the Day of the Dead.
I look forward to working with colleagues across the sectors to ensure this city’s array of inspiring and educational spaces are welcoming to all.
Richard Deverell is director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.