A new garden designed to appeal to all the senses has been opened in Leicester by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
Mr Chris Smith opened the Leicester University Richard Attenborough Centre's Sensory Garden on Wednesday 26 May, when he visited the Centre to give the first of its annual lectures later in the evening
Patron of the Centre Lord Attenborough himself was there to preside over the event, and the occasion also included the presentation of the two Category Awards that the Centre won in the 1998 RIBA Stirling Prize.
Work has begun to transform a patch of gravel at the front of the Centre into a flourishing garden of herbs, shrubs and flowers, that has been planned since the Centre first opened.
The Sensory Garden has been funded by donations from the public with sponsorship from Ibstock Building Products Limited and planting will be carried out in consultation with the Centre's architect, Ian Taylor, of Bennetts Associates and the University gardeners.
Mr Barrie Frankland, Superintendent of Gardens in the University's Estates and Buildings Office, said: "We have chosen plants with scented foliage, including a number of herbs like lavender, sage and thyme. There are also plants and shrubs with contrasting foliage, such as conifers, grasses and New Zealand flax. The emphasis is on touch and scent."
The bed, which is raised by 700 mm to make it easily accessible for wheelchair users, is 8 sq metres in size and has been planted with perennials initially. Keen gardeners at the Richard Attenborough Centre may add to it from their own gardens as time goes on, and Barrie Frankland may plant appropriate annuals and half-hardy plants, such as scented geraniums, later.
Last year, the Centre won the RIBA Architecture in Education Award and the RIBA/Department of Health Architecture in Healthcare Award - and was among the nominees for the coveted Stirling Prize 98. The presentation of the prizes will be made during the evening by Mr David Allsop, Chairman of the East Midlands region of RIBA.
Formally opened by the late Princess of Wales in May 1997, the Richard Attenborough Centre for Disability and the Arts is open to everybody, but has a special focus on people with disabilities and other members of the public who may have found access to arts education difficult. Its work has evolved from courses run by the University's Department of Adult Education for groups under-represented in adult and community education.
Sculpture workshops specifically designed for visually impaired people, formed the beginnings of the project in 1982. From these grew the current programmes of classes, workshops, training seminars, research projects and exhibitions, not only in sculpture and art, but also music, dance, drama and creative writing.
Further information on the work of the Centre and on the Secretary of State's visit is available from Dr Eleanor Hartley, Director of the Richard Attenborough Centre, telephone 0116 252 2455.
More details on the sensory garden are available from Mr Barrie Frankland, Superintendent of Gardens, Estates and Buildings Office, Leicester University, tel 0116 271 7725.
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