Give someone the chance to fall in love with art

Too many young people are being deprived of arts education. It impacts their career choices and mental well-being. We need to act now.

Hello, my name is Liz, I completed the Foundation Diploma in Art and Design (FDAD) in 2017 and I come to West Dean often to do short courses. I have been supporting the College for many years now.

I spent my career in the NHS and first came here in the 1980s. It was the best form of retreat for me, it helped address another part of myself that I hadn’t discovered; myself as an artist and maker. Art has been a lifeline for me so I try to give others the same experience and opportunities I’ve had.

Join me today and fund a bursary for a young person to fall in love with art.

Completing a course at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation enriches your life, it introduces you to new skills and opens up a world of creative possibility. As an alumnus you understand this more than anyone.

Can you imagine your life if you couldn’t spend time being creative?

Young people can’t access creative subjects in school Arts and craft subjects are being dropped from schools all over the country to focus on literacy and maths. Young people are losing opportunities to develop creative and practical skills which puts traditional crafts at risk of dying out and prevents the enrichment of these young lives.

With so many jobs being replaced by technology, the need for art is more important than ever; machines cannot ever replace creativity.

"If this happened while I was at school I may not have completed my GCSE and A-Level Art, which led me to study at West Dean. The progress I’ve made since coming here has been dramatic, thanks to the intensive teaching I’ve received. It has allowed me to fully immerse myself in my art, and in
doing so I have discovered interesting pathways."
Phoebe Connolly, studying for her Graduate Diploma in Fine Art

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Give someone the chance to fall in love with art - please click on the donate now button below.


In a recent BBC survey, 90% of schools said they had cut back on lesson time, staff or facilities in at least one creative arts subject.

That’s 9 out of 10 of our children or grandchildren losing out.

Living Well

In the UK one in ten secondary-school age children have a diagnosable mental health problem; that’s an average of three children in every classroom. Young Minds, 2016.

Research shows that children who are involved in the arts at a young age have a happier, healthier childhood and adulthood.

It builds self-confidence, a sense of identity and helps them feel a part of their community. And the impact is more wide-reaching; The Arts Council report showed that school-aged children who engage in the arts are twice as likely to volunteer and are 20 per cent more likely to vote as a young adult.

Art improves mental well-being and can inspire a lifetime love of creativity. Whether it’s to start a fulfilling career or as a cherished hobby, it can help the mind in so many ways. Your donation is a potentially life-changing act for a young person.

From personal experience working for the NHS, I needed an outlet that would take away my daily stress and engage another part of myself; the part that would make me more whole as a person and help me to survive in my working life. West Dean has helped me switch off the ‘responsible’ side of my brain and switch on the ‘creative’ side. It’s been therapeutic and without it I don’t know what I would have done.

We know in at least two ways that creativity helps our mental health. Firstly, research demonstrates that meaningful and creative activity is good for us. It improves mood and well-being, reduces anxiety, and facilitates social interaction, with all the benefits that come from that. The second way of knowing is more instinctive; making things, being creative, placing the labour of the imagination into the physical world is a core expression of humanity. We are lifted by it and we recover ourselves through it.

Mark Radcliffe, Former Mental Health Practitioner and Senior Lecturer at West Dean College

Life-changing learning

Now, more than ever, we need to help young people develop their creativity. West Dean has big plans to increase bursary support for people aged 16+ but they need our help.

As well as bursaries, West Dean has developed new initiatives to open up access to the College, including a partnership with the National Saturday Club scheme to run an Art and Design Saturday Club for young people aged 13-16 to discover new skills they love. Run by qualified lecturers and Fine Art students, it is already encouraging students to commit to GCSE Art.

With our help they can establish a permanent Art and Design Saturday Club for 13-16 year olds at West Dean and help more young people access arts education.

“Many of my students did the Art and Design Saturday Club at West Dean. It’s the only College locally to offer the club and they were absolutely thrilled. Lots of my year 9’s have now chosen Art GCSE because of their experience at West Dean.” Andrew Lean, Art teacher at Chichester Free School.

“It was interesting being in a college environment, I have more of an understanding of how I could do art in further education”- Maddi

“I learnt new interesting mediums including printing, which I would never do anywhere else” – Ella

Open up a world of creativity for young people

Your gift will open doors for young people to develop their practical skills, improve their mental well-being and may even help them on a path to become a professional artist or maker.

* £50 will pay for a young person to attend the Art and Design Saturday Club for one day
* £130 will enable a young person to complete a one day course which ignites their passion and develops their confidence

A gift of any amount really will make a difference to someone’s future.

With grateful thanks,

Dr Liz Goyder
FDAD Alumni and supporter of West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

P.S. Remember, any donation you can give is a potentially life-changing act for a young person.

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Give someone the chance to fall in love with art - please click on the donate now button below.

The Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain Trainee Horticulturalist Fund

Give a Trainee Horticulturalist a great start - a year working in West Dean Gardens.

It is with thanks to your generous support that the Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain Trainee Horticulturalist appeal has so far raised an incredible £54,000. 

We caught up with Jim and Sarah recently and they were delighted with the progress of their fund, Sarah says;
"What better place than the diverse West Dean Gardens to start a career in horticulture under the dynamic tutelage of new Head Gardener Tom Brown."

Meet new Trainee Horticulturalist Laura Mellor as she settles into West Dean Gardens

Your response to the Trainee Horticulturalist appeal in recognition of Jim and Sarah's great contribution to West Dean Gardens, was amazing!  You joined them to give a new trainee early-career experience working in a great historic garden, and here she is....!

Head Gardener Tom has made the placement into a two year programme to ensure that Laura, as the first trainee on the scheme, can spend year one learning the basic elements of work in a historic garden, and develop her competencies in specific areas in year two. This will give her many more employment opportunities when her training at West Dean comes to an end.

We were delighted to welcome Laura to the gardens team in September. We caught up with her to see how she is settling in...

Q: How have your first few weeks been?
A: Amazing! I have thoroughly enjoyed every day so far, it’s been 6 weeks already and has gone so quickly. West Dean is an incredibly vast place and I am still getting to know where everything is, but everyone has been so warm and friendly. It’s great to have colleagues who have been here for so many years and have such a knowledge of the gardens – I am learning a lot, very quickly.

Q: What have you been up to since you started?   
A: Tom has created a fortnightly rota for myself and fellow trainee, Chantal, funded by Perennial to share. One week working in the glasshouses and display boarders, the next week working in the grounds and arboretum. This week I have been helping tend to plants in the glasshouses. My jobs have included taking cuttings, pot washing, cleaning all the glasshouses and moving plants – today I moved a display of succulents from the Spring Gardens into a glasshouse ready for the winter.

I have also started my RHS Level 2 qualification, the course is once a week for a year and includes two exams. It covers botany, plant propagation, classification and much more and is a fantastic theoretical part of my traineeship.

Q: What does the traineeship mean to you?
A: It’s a complete starting point for me, I came from a ‘Pick your own fruit’ farm and thought I had a fair amount of knowledge, but coming to a garden like West Dean I have realised how many different elements there are to horticulture. For example, I hadn’t expected to be working in the arboretum and I am really enjoying learning about all the different trees and getting exposure to so many landscapes. There is a huge variety of skill involved and I am excited to learn about each different area of the gardens and to see which pathway I will be drawn to.   
Q: What are your future career goals?
A: I want to work in a large established garden, and this traineeship is going to give me the knowledge and practical experience I need. I’m not yet sure exactly which path I will take, but being here for two years is fantastic as I can learn all of the areas in year one and specialise in a specific area in year two. I am confident I am on a good path now and am very excited about my future in horticulture. I would like to thank everyone who has helped make this possible for me. 

Tom is delighted with how the trainee programme is developing...

"There is a great shortfall of people with experience in gardens like this, so every person we can help will help to ensure horticultural skills aren’t lost. We have now developed an excellent training programme where the individual will be exposed to a number of seasonal tasks across each area of the gardens. Now that we have this in place we have capacity to roll it out and help as many people as we can." 

Supporting the gardeners of tomorrow

We got a huge response when we advertised the trainee role and it shows what a difference an opportunity like this can make to someone’s life.

Laura has been funded by the Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain Trainee Horticulturalist Fund thanks to your generosity and Chantal has been funded by the Perennial - Gardeners' Royal Benevolent Society. Such was the appeal of the trainee programme, Tom has also agreed to take on two applicants as volunteers who are giving their time to the gardens for free, but who he will support to complete the same training programme. It's a great opportunity for them to work alongside our gardeners and gain experience to kick start their professional careers. 

*If you or anyone you know would like to volunteer for the gardens please click here. Unfortunately, at this time, Tom and the team do not have the resources to put anyone else through this level of training but would be delighted to welcome you as a volunteer. 

This tells us demand is high and there aren't many places offering similar opportunities. Managing trainees takes a lot of resources, but we want to share our time, facilities and expertise to give more young people a start in their career. Your ongoing donations will ensure that we can continue to fund at least one paid post each year.

By raising £20,000 per year, we can offer a trainee horticulturalist a kick start to their career. If one hundred people make a gift of £200 (or £17 a month) that’s it covered. Can you help?

We know that West Dean Gardens are close to your heart. Please help us ensure that your most cherished places are cared for into the future by supporting the gardeners of tomorrow.

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To help the Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain Trainee Horticulturalist Fund please click on the donate now button below.

Large gardens want people to come with experience, but it's so difficult to gain experience in the first place, its catch twenty two. We want to set up a fund to help a person right at the beginning of their horticultural journey so they can one day manage large gardens like West Dean.

Sarah Wain, Gardens Supervisor, West Dean Gardens.

West Dean Gardens volunteer accepted onto the prestigious Kew apprenticeship scheme

Sam Stapleton came to West Dean Gardens to gain work experience in 2018. He is now on the apprenticeship scheme at the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew

"University hadn't been for me. I knew I wanted to start a career in horticulture and so I applied to Kew and Wisley to join their apprenticeship programmes. On a visit to West Sussex, my uncle and aunt introduced me to West Dean Gardens and I fell in love instantly.

I emailed Jim and Sarah to ask if they had an apprenticeship available. They didn't, but they said if I was willing to volunteer, I could work with them for as long as I liked. I jumped at the chance.

During my time at West Dean, I learned most of my current horticultural skills; from seed sowing the 'West Dean way' to replanting a Dicksonia antartica (tree fern). I feel really lucky to have been trained by such a knowledgeable and friendly team. They spread to me their love for gardening and West Dean.

Jim and Sarah gave me a reference for Kew and I believe that's what secured me an interview with them. I started my apprenticeship at Kew in August 2018 and I'm now working in an amazing gardening institution. I'm learning from great and knowledgeable gardeners from all around the world. I've been part of the renovation of the Plant Family Beds where we had to dig up 102 separate beds. We've also created new rose beds in the Rose Garden, and I've been part of many other exciting projects.

One day I hope to become a head gardener and manage a historic garden like West Dean. Jim and Sarah opened my eyes to horticulture and it's thanks to them I'm at Kew today."

"Great enthusiasm and ambition, a genuine interest in horticulture, a willingness to learn and abilities in communication and team work were Sam's key attributes while working with the West Dean Gardens team in 2018. He was an obvious candidate for future horticultural training and now he's an apprentice at Kew. I'm sure he'll follow this up with further horticultural education and become great gardener of the future."

Sarah Wain, Gardens Supervisor, West Dean Gardens

"Sam's application really stood out as a prospective Kew apprentice, I could tell by his enthusiasm for the work that he had done in the Loire Valley in France and for West Dean Gardens that we should offer him an interview. Of the hundreds of applications I see every year some stand out by having experience in a quality horticultural environment; these gardens and nurseries are special places where horticultural talent is nurtured and trainees learn the correct techniques from the outset. This is what determines a professional gardener from a keen amateur. Having known Jim and Sarah from my early days at Kew I have always respected their judgement, if they say someone is good I tend to go with it"

Martin Staniforth, Training Manager, School of Horticulture, Royal Botanic Garden, Kew

Donate Now

To help the Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain Trainee Horticulturalist Fund please click on the donate now button below.

Help preserve our future

West Dean is part of a registered charity and relies on the support of generous donors, friends, legacies to help us deliver world-class education in conservation and the creative arts and maintain our award-winning gardens.

Find out how you can help support us