The RHS is today, Friday 23 October 2020, announcing its plans to safely run the 2021 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, sponsored by M&G, with many new precautions due to COVID-19 to protect everyone at the Show held at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.
We speak to RHS Director of Shows and Gardens Helena Pettit and hear from RHS Director General Sue Biggs to find out more about the plans for next year’s show.
For the first time in its 108* year history the Show will run for six days in 2021, from Tuesday 18 May to Sunday 23 May. The RHS has consulted on its plans and believes that it can operate the primarily outdoor event safely for everyone. “We have lots of measures in place so we can operate while keeping everyone safe,” explains Helena, “we’re talking to our safety advisory group, which involves the council and emergency services, to make sure we take into account any measures that they would like to see at the shows.”
RHS Director General Sue Biggs also commented: “We plan our Shows 18 months in advance and have been planning and researching how to open the 2021 RHS Chelsea safely and securely for our visitors, partners and exhibitors since April this year. We have taken the time to get all our plans finalised and will now be consulting with exhibitors and supporting them further due to the changes we have had to make.
“As the world’s most famous gardening event, RHS Chelsea is vital for the horticultural industry, as well as having a huge impact on inspiring people to garden and grow, which is so important for everyone’s health and for the environment.”
COVID-19 safety measures that the RHS is taking include:
- Socially distanced queuing
- Extra parking/park and ride
- Crowd modelling and increased circulation and space changes to spread popular areas
- Enhanced cleaning and waste disposal
- Cashless transactions where possible
- Increased monitoring to ensure safe distancing amongst visitors
- Masks in indoor areas
- Flexible ticket exchange for ticket holder experiencing symptoms
- Track and trace check-in as per the guidance during show week
- Reduction of closed seated restaurants with restaurants made more open with spaced seating and table service
Tickets go on sale at the end of October, but this year will see 140,000 visitors compared to the usual 168,000 visitors. Helena believes this is a positive for visitors though, “this will definitely be the year to buy a ticket. They’ll be less people, and we’ll be monitoring crowds to make sure areas where people may gather are much clearer, so places like Main Avenue shouldn’t be as congested.”
But what about exhibitors, designers and contractors? How will Chelsea build up look next year? “We’ve moved the sites for the gardens around so there is intrinsically more space for everyone and no one will be on top of each other,” Helena explains, “this will also help when they’re working on the gardens, moving around each other in the spaces they have.”
Though everyone is remaining optimistic, they’re also planning for every possibility. “Whilst we continue to live in uncertain times and May is a long way off,” comments Sue Biggs, “we believe these measures will mean we can safely run the Show, although we will of course be ready to react to any Government advice and if we sadly need to, will offer anyone who has booked a ticket a full refund.”
“We feel that we’re in a really good place to act upon if anything changes over the next few months,” explains Helena, “We are planning for all possibilities. We’re adaptable and we can change quite quickly.”
As well as Chelsea, RHS will be running Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival and RHS Flower Show Tatton Park all with the same safety measures in place. Though both these shows feature more walkthrough gardens, the RHS has a lot more space to manage this at these sites, and one-way systems will keep visitors safe.
Helena – along with many others – is excited the shows are making a comeback, “it’s been a really disappointing year for us both internally and externally. We’ve missed the show season – we can’t wait to bring the world’s greatest gardening event back.”
The RHS will be announcing some of the 2021 content highlights for its RHS Shows at Malvern, Chelsea, Hampton and Tatton at the end of the month.
*The RHS Chelsea Flower Show will be 108 years old in 2021. The first RHS Chelsea Flower Show was held in 1913.