Volunteer Award 2023 Nominee – Gail Falkingham

Photo of Gail Falkingham, Yorkshire Gardens Trust volunteerNominated for: reaching out to new audiences to encourage interest and/or involvement in garden history.

Yorkshire Gardens Trust nominated Gail for ‘her effectiveness in realising her outreach vision, leading to step-changes in YGT’s outreach, and creating the foundations for further development’.

Gail’s work with Yorkshire Gardens Trust’s social media

Gail set up the YGT Instagram account in May 2022, and recently collaborated on a joint campaign with the Gardens Trust. The source material was based on historic designed landscapes visited as part of the Gardens Trusts’ Yorkshire Weekend 2022 – using an existing event to gather material. Gail took photographs during visits, and written material came from articles, primarily by YGT members, for the delegates’ handbook. Gail turned this into weekly Instagram posts for 5 consecutive weeks and related blogs on YGT’s website, signposted from Instagram. The GT collaborated, posts were broadcast on YGT and GT Instagrams, under both brands, reaching both audiences and beyond.

Yorkshire Gardens Trust Chair Chris Webb says: “Gail’s deftness of touch in introducing Instagram, building on existing online platforms, has brought previously apprehensive trustees to realise its usefulness and consequences in an unchallenging fashion. One long-serving trustee comments: Gail has ‘kick-started YGT properly into a social media presence’. Trustees now understand the effectiveness of social media in broadcasting to a new audience and attracting people to participate in YGT’s activities. Moreover, there are the Instagram and related social media statistics to evidence YGT is reaching a wider audience than before, laying a platform for work (with the tools and skills to do it) to increase the diversity of our audience.”

Gail’s impact on YGT’s Outreach

Because of Gail’s work over the last 12 months, YGT will be a prominent part of the Harrogate Autumn Flower Show in September 2023. They will occupy a significant area of the garden at Newby adjacent to the Hall, close to main circulation areas, to showcase their purposes and achievements in the research and conservation of Yorkshire’s designed landscapes. It will be staffed by new and long-standing volunteers.

Because of its heightened social media presence, YGT has attracted more new volunteers. The appeal for help at the Flower Show elicited responses from a range of people who have not volunteered with them previously. The Show gives YGT access to a receptive audience that might not otherwise find it. Attracting new volunteers helps to cement memberships and demonstrates in practice the real-world social importance of volunteering around our core interests. It has also enabled YGT to build a relationship with a major player in Yorkshire events, giving access to skills and resources YGT has previously lacked.

Gail’s work with archives and garden history

Gail’s background as an archaeologist and her employment at the North Yorkshire County Record Office gives her a unique platform to showcase original materials from which garden history is derived. She has curated exhibitions at the North Yorkshire County Record Office (NYCRO) based on material used to research YGT sites. As always, she uses more than one platform to proselytize – NYCRO and YGT blogs and Twitter included.

Gail’s work in NYCRO has raised the profile of garden history within the record office, which upskills the archivists and support staff, improving the knowledge of staff to share with researchers. YGT has used Gail’s exhibitions and blogs to help our researchers and potential researchers to be more confident about approaching archives, to approach them in a comfortable, supportive and welcoming environment. This creates a foundation for further development in a critical area of activity for YGT and the wider gardens trust family.

Chris Webb, YGT Chair says: “Gail’s volunteering with YGT has been, and remains a joy, a stimulus and a catalyst for change in all those around her, and in the organisation itself. Gail exemplifies the value of volunteering, without which large parts of our society would not function, and through which the connections that are integral to human living are planted, grow, develop, blossom and set seed for those who follow.”

Gail said: “I am honoured to have been nominated by my colleagues at YGT for this award, and proud to represent our beautiful county of Yorkshire and its rich garden heritage. It is a pleasure to champion the work of YGT and to reach a much wider and diverse audience than our members alone. Seeing this audience grow is very rewarding, as has been working closely with The Gardens Trust on our recent social media collaboration. It has also been extremely enjoyable to share my enthusiasm for garden history by giving talks, organising events and encouraging others to find out more about their local areas. 

This nomination is a lovely surprise but I am one of a large team of dedicated volunteers at YGT and I couldn’t do the things I do without their input and support!”