Tag Archives: Tulip Summit

World Tulip Summit

In 2000, after ten years working in the private sector in the waste management industry  I volunteered for redundancy and started to look for alternative employment.  I was fortunate to get a job back in local government and on 8thAugust I started work at South Holland District Council.

When I was a boy I used to like to do jig-saw puzzles (this was a year or two before Nintedo and Gameboy you will understand) and I can remember having a set of two that were about flowers.  The first was the Battle of the Flowers in Jersey and the second was the Spalding Tulip Parade.

As I put those puzzles together on the dining room table I could not have possibly foreseen that nearly thirty-five years later I would move to Spalding to work at South Holland District Council and have the pleasure of helping to prepare and deliver that Parade and neither could I have imagined either that nearly forty years later (give or take a year or two) that I would have the very great privilege to welcome delegates from across the World to the World Tulip Summit in Spalding.  And believe me this was a real privilege because you don’t get that many World Summit meetings in Spalding

Actually there are quite a lot of World Summits across the globe each year and as I looked around to see what other sort of enthusiasts were meeting up at the same time in 2008 I was interested in these examples:

  •  Mountain Bikers World Summit – Berlin (that wouldn’t work very well in South Holland on account of the land being so flat)
  • Adventure Travel World Summit – Brazil & Norway
  • Knowledge Society World Summit – Athens

But my favourite just has to be the World Toilet Organisation Summit in Macau.  I can’t help thinking that I bet the delegates get to listen to a load of crap.

My research informs me that there are three South Holland’s across the world.  The first and the original is not surprisingly in the Netherlands.  The second is a village in Chicago in the USA, which like Lincolnshire’s South Holland has its origins with Dutch farmers and settlers.

During the Second-World-War the Dutch Royal Family took shelter in Canada and after the war the Netherlands sent gifts of tulips that helped promote the famous annual Ottawa tulip festival.

The name Tulip was first applied to the plant by a man called Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq who was a Dutch ambassador in Turkey in the sixteenth century and was also a great floral enthusiast.  One day he was talking to a sultan and he noticed that he was wearing an attractive flower in his headwear.  When I say talking what I mean is that they were communicating with each other in the way that people do when they can’t speak each others language with lots of funny faces and wild gesticulations.  Busbecq was curious about the flower and pointed to it and enquired its name.  In Turkey the name of the flower was a Lale but the Sultan tought he meant what is the name of his hat so he told him it was a Tulipan or turban and Busbeqc, who completely misunderstood, acquired some bulbs and sent them back to Europe with the information that they were called Tulipa.

All parts of tulips are edible and the bulb can be substituted for onions (although they are a little more expensive and less flavourful). The Dutch ate tulip bulbs in hard times of WW2 even though the petals have little taste but can be used to garnish a dish, chop a few petals and throw them in a salad, sugar them to decorate a cake or use the entire flower for a fruit bowl, pinching out the pistil and stamen in the middle.

My plan was to work at South Holland for just a few months until I could find something different, but I liked it so much and they kept on promoting me so in the end I worked there for over ten years when once again I volunteered for redundancy and left the place and all of its happy memories on 30th April 2011.

A Life in a Year – 8th August, South Holland District Council and Tulips

In 2000, after ten years working in the private sector in the waste management industry  I volunteered for redundancy and started to look for alternative employment.  I was fortunate to get a job back in local government and on 8th August I started work at South Holland District Council.

When I was a boy I used to like to do jig-saw puzzles (this was a year or two before Nintedo and Gameboy you will understand) and I can remember having a set of two that were about flowers.  The first was the Battle of the Flowers in Jersey and the second was the Spalding Tulip Parade.  As I put those puzzles together on the dining room table I could not have possibly foreseen that nearly thirty-five years later I would move to Spalding to work at South Holland District Council and have the pleasure of helping to prepare and deliver that Parade and neither could I have imagined either that nearly forty years later (give or take a year or two) that I would have the very great privilege to welcome delegates from across the World to the World Tulip Summit in Spalding.  And believe me this was a real privilege because you don’t get that many World Summit meetings in Spalding

Actually there are quite a lot of World Summits across the globe each year and as I looked around to see what other sort of enthusiasts were meeting up at the same time in 2008 I was interested in these examples:

  •  Mountain Bikers World Summit – Berlin (that wouldn’t work very well in South Holland on account of the land being so flat)
  • Adventure Travel World Summit – Brazil & Norway
  • Knowledge Society World Summit – Athens

 But my favourite just has to be the World Toilet Organisation Summit in Macau .  I can’t help thinking that I bet the delegates get to listen to a load of crap.

My research informs me that there are three South Holland’s across the world.  The first and the original is not surprisingly in the Netherlands.  The second is a village in Chicago in the USA, which like Lincolnshire’s South Holland has its origins with Dutch farmers and settlers.

During the Second-World-War the Dutch Royal Family took shelter in Canada and after the war the Netherlands sent gifts of tulips that helped promote the famous annual Ottawa tulip festival.

The name Tulip was first applied to the plant by a man called Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq who was a Dutch ambassador in Turkey in the sixteenth century and was also a great floral enthusiast.  One day he was talking to a sultan and he noticed that he was wearing an attractive flower in his headwear.  When I say talking what I mean is that they were communicating with each other in the way that people do when they can’t speak each others language with lots of funny faces and wild gesticulations.  Busbecq was curious about the flower and pointed to it and enquired its name.  In Turkey the name of the flower was a Lale but the Sultan tought he meant what is the name of his hat so he told him it was a Tulipan or turban and Busbeqc, who completely misunderstood, acquired some bulbs and sent them back to Europe with the information that they were called Tulipa.

All parts of tulips are edible and the bulb can be substituted for onions (although they are a little more expensive and less flavourful). The Dutch ate tulip bulbs in hard times of WW2 even though the petals have little taste but can be used to garnish a dish, chop a few petals and throw them in a salad, sugar them to decorate a cake or use the entire flower for a fruit bowl, pinching out the pistil and stamen in the middle.

My plan was to work at South Holland for just a few months until I could find something different, but I liked it so much and they kept on promoting me so in the end I worked there for over ten years when once again I volunteered for redundancy and left the place and all of its happy memories on 30th April 2011.

A Life in a Year – 2nd May, Spalding Flower Parade

In the late 1970s my first job in Local Government was in the Finance Department at Rugby Borough Council and I worked in a small office of four people one of whom was a man called Ron Lindley (in the picture on the left).  Ron was in his late fifties and had previously served in the army and had worked for a long time at British Leyland in Coventry and, I’m afraid this has to be said, he was a bit boring.  He had a lifetime full of stories and if Ron caught you for a chat you’d really want to make sure you were the one nearest the door.

Anyway, one Monday morning in about 1978 Ron came to work after a week off and I made the mistake of asking him what he had been doing.  He told me he had been to Spalding to the Flower Parade and would I like to see some pictures.  I didn’t but it was rude to say no so I said that I would love to.  To my horror Ron produced five ‘Photo express’ packs of thirty-six photographs each and proceeded to go through each one with an explanation and a commentary.

This took some time and by the end I was close to using the office stapler on my leg to keep me conscious but eventually it came to an end and I mention all of this because when it was all over I clearly remember saying to myself, “Andrew, whatever you do in life, make sure you never go the Spalding Flower Parade!”

The history of the Spalding Flower Parade stretches back to the 1920s when the acreage and variety of tulip bulbs grown throughout the area surrounding the market town became an annual feast of colour.  The crowds that came in created many problems for the town and coaches and cars caused chaos on the narrow lanes around the fields and this continued to happen until in 1948, the Growers’ Association became involved in organising a Tulip Week.  With the help of the Royal Automobile Club, a 25 mile tour through villages and country lanes was planned to show the best fields.

So successful was the attraction that by 1950, Tulip Week had become Tulip Time.  A Tulip Queen competition was organised and the crowning of the Queen was performed just before the start of Tulip Time.  The Queen and her two attendants had to be employed in the flower bulb industry and were selected at competitions held at village dances.

An influx of visitors created an opportunity and an idea to put on an attraction to publicise the bulb industry.  A few experiments with decorated cars showed that the tulip heads could be made into garlands and pinned onto backing materials in colourful designs and would still hold their colour for a few days at that time of year.

To ensure that there would always be tulips on display, even if they might not be in the fields, from the many millions of tulip flower heads removed it was decided that keep some available for decorative purposes, firstly for static displays and some selected carts and vehicles, and these eventually started to drive around the town until, in 1959, the first Spalding Tulip Parade took place.

Building of the floats began with an intricate outline of steel tracery welded on a base carefully measured to fit a tractor underneath it. The initial form and steel skeleton of each float was skillfully constructed into the outline shape of the subject and then the steelwork was covered with a special straw matting to form a base to which the tulip heads could be attached.

Teams of up to 200 people then worked throughout the two days before the Parade using up to one million tulip heads and pinning each one onto the floats in the colours and patterns required until all the floats were covered with tulips.  A single float, which can be as much as 50 feet in length, may be decorated by as many as 100,000 tulip heads.

The first Parade was described as ‘a floral pageantry a mile long’.  There were just eight floats but it became an event not to be missed – twenty special trains came from all over England to the sidings at Spalding station.  Temporary caravan villages sprang up and 200,000 people would watch the spectacle. The success of the Tulip Parade, the only display of floral floats in the world using just tulips, brought Spalding and its horticultural industry to the notice of the country. Within only three years, the Parade had become so famous that a quarter of a million people were coming to Spalding on Parade Day to line the four mile route around the town.

In August 2000 I had a change of job and went to work for South Holland District Council and over the next few months I became aware of preparations for the 2001 Flower Parade and I seemed to have a part in all of this.  Even then I had forgotten about Ron’s boring story and just made my contribution.

On Saturday May 6th I got up for a day at work and travelled to Spalding and spent the morning making sure everything was in place for the event and still my memory wasn’t nudged in any way until the Parade came into view and started to pass by.  It seemed to take forever and suddenly it came to me, my words from 1977, “Andrew, whatever you do in life, make sure you never go the Spalding Flower Parade!”

This goes to prove that we really need to be careful what we say because our words can come back to haunt us.  I have now been to ten Spalding Flower Parade’s, each one has long and tedious as the first, each one just as mind numbingly boring as Ron’s packs of photographs.  I left Rugby in 1980 and never saw Ron again, he died a few years later but I will never forget his Flower parade photographs.

Now, just as the format of the Parade is changing (2011) with an exciting new team organising the event and some long awaited and much needed new ideas it seems appropriate that this will be my last as I finish work with South Holland on exactly the same day as the Parade when I go on to something new and hopefully the Parade goes from strength to strength.