What the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden means to its volunteer gardeners

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Thursday, June 22, 2017 - 14:33

Meet Pluto, one of the many volunteer gardeners who, with Providence Row and Grounded Ecotherapy, maintain our Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden.

Created in 2011 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain, the Roof Garden, Queen Elizabeth Hall has, since its inception, been looked after by volunteers who have previously experienced homelessness, addiction or mental health problems.

The volunteering programme aims to provide support and opportunities for both personal and professional development, and is coordinated by Providence Row, a London homeless charity, and Grounded Ecotherapy, who provide therapy through horticulture for people who have lived through addiction or homelessness.

Pluto has been volunteering in our garden since the summer of 2016, after being introduced to the programme by a friend who works for Providence Row. He kindly took a break during a busy week of planting to talk to us about the impact the Roof Garden, Queen Elizabeth has had on his life.

Volunteer gardeners - container steps

What prompted you to start working in Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden?

I started last summer. I suffer from depression, and during last year I had about five people that I was really close to pass away, so I needed to get out the house and stop staring at the walls.

And does gardening help?

Oh yeah it’s great, and you get your hands dirty. I’ve been feeling better because I get the chance to come down here and do some gardening. If I haven’t got appointments, then I’m up at eight o’clock in the morning and I’m raring to go.

How would you describe Roof Garden, Queen Elizabeth Hall to someone who didn’t know anything about it?

The garden is very therapeutic. There are a lot of plants, a lot of birds, like that one there. [Pluto points to a bird on a nearby branch] She’s back again, she’s singing to us. She has a nest just up there.

Finished flower bed on the Southbank Centre container steps

Do you have a favourite part of the garden that you’ve worked on?

Well I’m doing the planting on the container stairs, that lead down to Southbank Centre Square, at the moment. I did all the planting yesterday. As soon as I planted the purple, yellow and red flowers, the bees came and pollinated the flowers and it was like, ‘wow, brilliant.’

Does volunteering here give you a sense of achievement?

Yes it does. It’s really fulfilling, in knowing that you’ve done something for the environment and it makes the place look good. I’ve made some good friends too, and I’m learning a few things as well.

Do you feel that volunteering here in the garden can help you in the future?

The skills I’ve gained in the garden will help me to get up and get out early in the morning. And the experience I get here is helping to keep my mind occupied too.

The Roof Garden, Queen Elizabeth Hall is open throughout the summer from 10am to 10pm daily.

support the Roof Garden

Your donations help Pluto and his fellow volunteers to keep getting up early in the morning, getting their fingers dirty, and keep our garden looking beautiful.