Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Keith Owen: “Think big! Plant a million bulbs!”

The SVA is asking for volunteers to help with the latest stage in its bulb-planting project:
Sid Vale Association - creating the valley of a million bulbs
178,000 down...822,000 to go! Bulbs bid to continue - News - Sidmouth Herald

Here's a nice piece from Canada from last year - telling the story of how Keith Owen urged the project forward:

Canadian Keith Owen leaves fortune to seaside UK town

Owen suggested town 'think outside the box' with money

When a dying man suggests you plant a million bulbs — you do it.
When a dying man suggests you plant a million bulbs — you do it.PHOTO: (SID VALE ASSOCIATION)
Published: August 28, 2013, 11:16 am
Updated: 11 months ago

An idyllic seaside town in the U.K. will be brightened up by a million flowers thanks to the generosity of a Canadian man.
In 2007, Keith Owen was diagnosed with incurable lung cancer. Although born in the U.K., Owen had settled down as an investment banker in Ottawa and eventually became a citizen.
Keith Owen passed away in 2007. (Sid Vale Association)
Keith Owen passed away in 2007. (Sid Vale Association)
Although Owen was a globe-trotter who had seen “most of the world except for the North and South poles,” he had a soft spot for Sidmouth, a former fishing village perched on the coast of the English Channel in Devon, where his mother lived and he often visited.
When Owen found out he had only weeks to live, the childless divorcee chose to leave £2.3 million fortune to Sidmouth’s Sid Vale Association, a 160-year-old organization dedicated to preserving the town’s charm and community. The funds included his retirement savings, pension and properties.
He passed away in Sidmouth in December 2007 at 69 years old.
Shortly before his death Owen told civic leaders in Sidmouth to think outside the box when it came time to spend the money.
“‘Think big! Plant a million bulbs!” he told them.
And now, Sidmouth is doing just that.
The town is beginning the process of gathering one million bulbs to be planted in 50 different places across the town, starting with 153,000 bulbs this year, according to the Sid Vale Association website.
Some of the bulbs ready to be planted as per Owen's suggestion. (Sid Vale Association)

Some of the bulbs ready to be planted as per Owen’s suggestion. (Sid Vale Association)

“He loved Sidmouth so much he wanted to leave enough money to ensure it could be preserved,'” Handel Bennett, chairman of the Keith Owen Fund, told the Daily Mail.
Another £400,000 of the fortune has already gone to local volunteer organizations.
“Keith Owen saw voluntary action as evidence of a community at peace with itself,” said Bennett.
Passing through Sidmouth sometime soon? You can register to help plant the bulbs here.

Canadian Keith Owen leaves fortune to seaside UK town | canada.com

However, not everyone thinks this project is 'a good thing':
Futures Forum: Biodiversity in Sidmouth: "Is planting a million bulbs a 'good thing'?" ... a second take

A comment left recently on this blog questions why so much money should be spent on flowers:
Futures Forum: Keith Owen Fund: one million bulbs: story goes international

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