Press Release: Horticultural Appropriation: Why Horticulture Needs Decolonising

-A pamplet created following Gardens Residency at West Dean College to be launched by Rough Trade Books and the Garden Museum -

Register for free online launch event, May 6 at 7pm.

West Dean College of Arts and Conservation is pleased to announce the launch of Horticultural Appropriation: Why Horticulture Needs Decolonizing by Claire Ratinon and Sam Ayre. The pamphlet, published by Rough Trade Books, was created as part of the Gardens Residency at West Dean College and will be available from Thursday, April 22, 2021. It is part of a series of four pamphlets Rough Trade Books made in partnership with the Garden Museum that explore the idea of the garden as a space of radical potential.

Horticultural Appropriation is a conversation between Claire Ratinon, an organic food grower and artist, Sam Ayre. It discusses the possibility and necessity of bringing a decolonial lens to the practice of horticulture. Taking place within West Dean College of Art and Conservation and West Dean Gardens, the exchange explores how attempts to decolonise collections and spaces currently happening in arts and cultural institutions might inform the interrogation of the colonial history at the heart of Britain’s gardens and gardening.

Claire Ratinon and Sam Ayre were asked to undertake the Gardens Residency at West Dean after Claire joined the College’s Fine Art students last year to discuss the politics of food and the problems of horticultural language. These types of discussion are part of a wider research thread in the School of Arts that posits West Dean Gardens and Estate as an extension of the artist’s studio and as sites for critical reflection and debate. During the residency Claire and Sam toured the Gardens with Head Gardener, Tom Brown, and discussed the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown and the role of labour in a formal garden setting. They also consulted the College’s Collection and Archives which contain material relating to William and Frank James’s expeditions to African in the late 19th century. Following William James’s death in 1912 these Collections were inherited by his son, College founder Edward James. As well as forming a significant collection at West Dean, the African Collection also links with other UK collections, including botanical specimens held in the Herbarium at Kew Gardens which were collected by members of the James expedition party to Somalia.

Claire and Sam’s residency forms part of the ongoing research project Whose Heritage? Rethinking the West Dean Collection which interrogates the colonial legacy of the West Dean Collection and Archive, as well as the wider West Dean Estate and Garden. Sarah Hughes commented: “From Kew Gardens to the National Trust, cultural and horticultural spaces are acknowledging and addressing the colonial and racist legacies of their collections. The conversations that have taken place as part of Claire and Sam’s residency provide a vital voice that intersects these two sectors, recognises the injustices of the past, and reveals how they are being perpetuated in the present. Through discussion, research, and collaboration, West Dean aims to develop new narratives around its collection, gardens, and estate in order to present an accurate history that gives voice to currently underrepresented communities.”

Claire Ratinon and Sam Ayre will take part in an online in-conversation on Thursday, May 6, 7-8pm, to mark the launch of the publication (free, register online at and will return to the College in July to carry out further research as well as run critique sessions with Graduate Diploma and Master of Fine Art students during their Summer Show (July 3-9, 2021).

Horticultural Appropriation can be purchased from Rough Trade Books online ( or at the West Dean Visitors Centre and Craft Shop for £7.99.

West Dean College of Arts and Conservation has an international reputation for excellence and is a full partner of the University of Sussex. Students benefit from access to a regular programme of artists, makers and writers-in-residence, as well as the opportunity to view or work with material from the College’s Collection and Archive. For Conservation and Fine Art study opportunities, see

Upcoming Artists-in-Residence at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

17 May - 4 June: Michelle Ussher, Artist's Residency
4-11 July: Claire Ratinon and Sam Ayre, Gardens Residency
6-12 September: Sherie Sitauze, Artist's Residency in collaboration with Outside In
11-22 October - Viviana Rossi-Caffell, Maker-in-Residence

Claire Ratinon

Claire Ratinon

Claire Ratinon is an organic food grower and writer based in East Sussex. Claire has grown edible plants in a variety of roles from growing organic vegetables for the Ottolenghi restaurant, Rovi to delivering growing workshops throughout London to audiences including primary schools, community centres and corporate clients. She has been invited to share her growing journey and experiences in talks and workshops for organisations including The Garden Museum, the Royal College of Art and West Dean College as well as having presented features for Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time. Her writing has been featured in the New Statesman, Bloom Magazine and The Modern House Journal and her first book, How To Grow Your Dinner Without Leaving The House (Laurence King) is out now. @claireratinon

Sam Ayre

Sam Ayre is an artist, educator and musician based in East Sussex. Sam specialises in socially-engaged projects that focuses on opinions, society, pedagogy and ideas of legitimacy surrounding art, culture and history. Much of his work is project based, engaging groups of people in exploring their opinions, ideas and emotions. He has run participatory projects for Whitechapel Gallery, Tate Modern, Turner Contemporary, De La Warr Pavilion and Art Night London amongst others. He makes paintings, drawings and performances in his studio practice which compliment and supports all aspects of the participatory projects. He is a massive fan of flawed perspectives, conviviality and tangents. @samsamayre

Notes to Editors:

• West Dean College of Arts and Conservation was founded in 1971 by the poet and Surrealist patron, Edward James, recognised by BBC Arts as the ‘the greatest patron of art of the early 20th century’.
• The College is part of The Edward James Foundation (Charity No. 1126084), also comprising West Dean Gardens, West Dean Estate and West Dean Tapestry Studio.
• All photography is free to use for editorial purposes.
• West Dean College is situated on the A286, six miles north of Chichester and within easy access of Portsmouth, Guildford, Brighton and London.

About Rough Trade Books
Rough Trade Books is a publishing venture in the mould of the pioneering independent record label. Bringing the same original spirit and radical direction to the world of book publishing. Since launching in June 2018, Rough Trade Books have produced over 50 pamphlets known as Rough Trade Editions, an accompanying tarot deck plus a visual and cultural compendium all about John Carpenter's cult film, They Live, a beautiful book about visionary artist Madge Gill as well as a small book series on the legendary, grassroots Brixton-based music venue The Windmill, Enya: A Treatise on Unguilty Pleasures by musical genius Chilly Gonzales as well as highly praised auto-fiction memoir, In The End, It Was All About Love by Musa Okwonga—bringing together the very highest calibre of artists, writers, poets, musicians, photographers, illustrators and thinkers producing work relating to their relationship with the counter-culture. @roughtradebooks

About Garden Museum
The Garden Museum explores and celebrates British gardens and gardening through its collection, temporary exhibitions, events and garden. Situated on the banks of the River Thames, the history behind the Garden Museum dates from the medieval era to the present day. @gardenmuseum

For all media enquiries please contact Rachel Aked:
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 07790 732448

West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 0QZ