Chelsea – The Modern Slavery Garden

This post is about an award-winning exhibit at the recent Chelsea Show in the UK. I was astonished at the statistics involving the reality of contemporary slavery. As Julie comments: “The number 90 hung on the reverse of the open oak doors which represented “90% of change comes through people taking action. Only 10% by changing the law.” Hopefully more of us will question where the products we buy are made and who is involved with making them.”
So to help spread the awareness…

Gardening Jules

Amongst the madness, beauty and razzmatazz of Chelsea this year, there was a garden with a powerful message. The Modern Slavery Garden, designed by Juliet Sargeant, the first female black designer in Chelsea’s 103 year history.

Modern Slavery Garden Modern Slavery Garden

Behind the closed doors, a dark centre – charcoal floor, dark railings and door backs representing a hidden reality of men, women and children trapped in modern day slavery. The tall Oak planted within, symbolising the Oak Wilberforce stood under in 1788 with William Pitt discussing the campaign to abolish slavery.

The door numbers represent deeply moving statistics from the 2014 Global Slavery Index. Men, women and child human trafficking and forced labour. Sex slavery, debt bondage, domestic servitude, child marriage, organ harvesting, forced agriculture labour, factories and sweatshops, producing goods for global supply chains, even nail bar forced labour.

Modern Slavery Garden doors Modern Slavery Garden doors

The small oak saplings at the base…

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About Eliza Waters

Gardener, writer, photographer, naturalist
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41 Responses to Chelsea – The Modern Slavery Garden

  1. Brenda says:

    This is a tough issue for people to wrap their minds around because it’s not visible to most people in their daily lives. Few of us will ever witness the conditions under which people work to make our inexpensive consumer goods or come face-to-face with human trafficking. I hope the garden will help enlighten people, although I’m not sure I agree with the 10%/90% analysis. Legislation can be a powerful agent of change.

  2. I is shocking all this modern slavery… but what a fantastic exhibit to pay attention to it, in such an original way! I hope one day all these doors are opened…

  3. Thanks for reposting this Eliza! What a unique and engaging way to bring insight and public awareness about modern slavery! The more this is kept in public sight, the better the chances of reversing the tide. Blessings, Sarah

  4. Jim Ruebush says:

    My wife is a quilter. She points out how little is paid to textile workers world-wide and how dreadful are their working conditions. We also like coffee. We support efforts of small individual growers who are trying to make a living. Free trade is what we look for.

    More examples where it is important to know details about the suppliers.

  5. I am so glad you posted this important information, Eliza!

  6. Kate Houck says:

    Thank you for the informative post. What an important exhibit to raise awareness!

  7. We like diamonds too…

  8. arlingwoman says:

    Every little bit of information helps with this. And watch where your shrimp come from…

  9. cindy knoke says:

    We humans have a lot to account for, don’t we.

  10. Kris P says:

    There have been some recent issues reported here of what amounts to indentured servitude, cruelly enforced. I was very surprised to read that a bakery/cafe I’d eaten at on a couple of occasions was closed down after findings of mistreatment of laborers reported from the Philippines. It wasn’t visible to the outside observer.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Wow, it shocks us when it happens in ‘the land of the free.’ Glad it was discovered and I hope the perpetrators were punished to send a message to others.
      I think this exhibit was powerful to show that behind closed doors that look so ‘normal’ can lurk horrors. It was meant to wake us up. Effective.

  11. albert says:

    Powerful. Distressing, but important to publicize. Thank you.

  12. An important message for people to be aware of and consider when making consumer choices.

  13. Laurie Graves says:

    A very sobering piece. We need both strident activism and legislation for things to change.

  14. What a beautiful way to draw attention to such an ugly and awful thing.

  15. MK says:

    An excellent and important post. Thanks Eliza.

  16. What a beautiful garden and enlightening post. Thank you for sharing!

  17. Cathy says:

    An excellent post by Julie and a thought-provoking garden, Eliza. (We also like chocolate, coffee … as you say the list is endless). Well done for re-blogging.

  18. timkeen40 says:

    There are precious little goods that come to us in developed countries that we call cheap that do not come at the hands of either forced labor or government controlled labor (communism, etc). You may live in a free country as I do, but it is not a free world.


    • Eliza Waters says:

      Sad, but true. But we can choose who we do business with and urge companies to be more responsible with their sourcing. Look how Nike responded – they listened to consumer demand and changed the way they did business. If enough people speak up, companies are bound to listen. Every little bit eventually adds up.

  19. Bun Karyudo says:

    I left a comment on the original site, Eliza, but I thought I’d just add here too how profoundly shocked I was by the figures cited in the post. I want to know which companies are willing to have anything to do with slavery at some point in their supply chain so that I can stay well clear of them.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      A google search using the terms ‘fair trade companies’ will yield organizations that list companies that have pledged. It’s a good place to start.

  20. feels4ever says:

    We are not yet free, I guess..

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