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  • Writer's pictureDebi Holland

Inspiring the Future

I was delighted to be asked by RHS Education to join the ‘RHS Inspires’ Education and Employers charity programme 'Inspiring the Future' as an ambassador for the Royal Horticultural Society.

My first assignment was to present a careers talk to the whole of Year 10 at Digitech Studio School, Bristol. I described my path into horticulture and how although I have changed careers through the years, all experiences have proved to be extremely useful and a good basis for each chapter in my life. Even my A levels stood me in good stead for everything that followed; biology, psychology, english and art have all been integral to my future roles.

So what was my route through the education system and into working life?

After Art Foundation at Hastings College of Arts and Technology, Sussex, I studied Graphic Design then Media and Social Anthropology at the University of the West of England, Bristol, and although I spent a lot of time working on photography and radio projects, I specialised in documentary making achieving a BA Hons degree. And I was very proud that my end of year film 'Surfers Against Sewage' was selected for the 'Start 95' film festival.

As a PADI Divemaster in my 20's I taught scuba diving at schools based in Brighton and Bristol and worked for an underwater, undercover and mini cam film company in a diverse range of roles; camerawoman, safety diver, rigger, lighting, photographer, actor, dive supervisor, to name a few. I needed to adapt to whatever was required per job, working on over 80 television and film productions ranging from pop promos and adverts to TV dramas and films to extreme sports, gameshows and events in the UK and overseas. Exciting times, utilising skills from my studies to date and learning new from generous mentors.

But after a while life on the road, living out of a bag, lost its appeal, so following a stint in the construction industry, then living and working in the French Alps, I settled in Bath and immersed myself in sport working at the University of Bath for 10 years with students from grass roots to Olympic and Paralympic athletes firstly as P.A. to the Director of Sport at TeamBath and then as the Sports Department's Website Manger, working with coaches and athletes throughout Athens, Beijing and London 2012 games, working closely with the press office, photographing sporting events, filming interviews, redesigning the website from scratch as part of the design team, then building the site page-by-page from the content management system and later writing the site manual.

And then suddenly a big change. I found myself lost without a job for a couple of years. I returned to art and worked hard at home as a lino print artist and put together print work for exhibitions and my Etsy online shop but it was very hard to earn a living and I really was not sure what to do or how long I could carry on like that!

Then out of the blue I received a letter from my local council saying I had been allocated an allotment! It was such a surprise as I had put my name on the long waiting list two and a half years previously. The allotment was life changing. The allotment became my world, I went there everyday throughout winter and as New Year peeped its head round the corner, I saw the immense benefits of turning around my weed-filled plot into a productive site.

After a light bulb moment I decided to pursue my love of plants and retrain with an RHS Level 2 Diploma in the Principles and Practices of Horticulture at Bristol Botanic Gardens and Cannington Walled Garden, Bridgwater & Taunton College and discovered one of the most rewarding, fulfilling roles I have ever had - being my own boss. I started up my own gardening maintenance, consultancy and design business alongside writing and photographing plants for national and local magazines, websites and private clients.

My Inspiring the Future talk briefly detailed the qualifications, courses and jobs I have taken from school to now. I explained how these skills and experiences were all relevant and transferable, whatever the future held! Everything can be used as a stepping stone to the next adventure. Be flexible and adapt to whatever life throws at you. Be a sponge - never stop learning!

I found volunteering particularly beneficial for gaining experience, confidence and pride. There is no greater satisfaction than helping others and it is amazing how much it can in fact help yourself too. I volunteered weekly for Tyntesfield National Trust as a harvester in the walled kitchen garden preparing fruit and vegetables for the Cow Barn cafe restaurant and visitor's honest table and was a parent helper for our local scout group for seven years, the latter year or so in an official role as Sectional Assistant Leader, as well being the events photographer. I am very proud to have photographed Bear Grylls' visit to the Avon Scouts 2016 Jamboree. You never know where your path will take you. Embrace every opportunity and enjoy the journey.

Covid times have been particularly difficult and many teenagers face challenging decisions as to which direction to go in. Inspiring the Future hopes to motivate young people and illustrate the diversity of roles and courses available. Hopefully broadening horizons and giving a little insight into the working world.

In July I took part in a virtual assembly, for Heathlands Primary Academy, Bournemouth, which was incredibly fun. I was part of a panel of five professionals and the children had to guess our jobs through a series of 15 questions, of which we could only answer yes or no. After that the children were invited to directly ask us questions and see if they could guess our roles. My final summary of information was I needed tools to do my job, I helped people and worked outside. The first two guesses were engineer and mechanic! Third time lucky, gardener was shouted out!

Honoured to be a part of this programme to help young people and hopefully inspire the future!

Photo © Sawyer Holland 2021


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