Dept of Applied Linguistics and Communication | News | Acclaim for Embroidered Minds as medals are awarded at RHS Chelsea Flower Show
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Acclaim for Embroidered Minds as medals are awarded at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

A garden which Birkbeck’s Professor Marjorie Lorch helped to shape at this week's RHS Chelsea Flower Show has been awarded a prized Silver Gilt medal.

The Embroidered Minds Epilepsy Garden is based on the ongoing Embroidered Minds project, which is a collaboration between award-winning authors, artists, doctors and historians to examine the effects that epilepsy may have had on the family of William Morris.

Professor Lorch contributed to the garden design brief and advised on medicinal plants used historically to treat epilepsy, in addition to feeding into the ongoing, overall project with her research. The judges' verdicts on each of the gardens at the annual horticultural extravaganza were delivered this morning ahead of the event opening to the public.

The Embroidered Minds garden has already featured in TV coverage of the event on BBC1 and BBC2, which will continue throughout this week.

Professor Marjorie Lorch, Professor of Neurolinguistics at Birkbeck, said:  “It is wonderful that this garden has been recognised by the RHS with the award of a silver gilt medal. It shines a spotlight on the experience of epilepsy and the stigma faced by William Morris’s family in Victorian times, as today.”

The garden, situated in the 'artisan' section of the vast site at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, has been designed by Kati Crome and its aim is to raise awareness of the experience of epilepsy and the challenges that sufferers and their families continue to face.

It is divided into three sections, each representing a different experience of epilepsy. The first echoes the calm of the mind before a seizure; the second represents the chaotic state of the brain during a seizure; and the third is designed to show the long-term effect of the unusual neural connections associated with epilepsy.

Among the design features are a vertical living wall which references the Morris’s famous designs, with patterns inspired by the natural world. A specially created bench mirrors the readout of an electroencephalogram (EEG) during a seizure and a ceramic-tiled path begins with Morris-style designs which become increasingly disturbed and fragmented as they reach the end of the bench.

Morris's daughter Jenny developed epilepsy in the 1870s, but this remained a secret due to the considerable social stigma. Over the years, the Embroidered Minds collaboration has created a novel, artworks and a play, amongst others, to capture the experience of Jenny and her family dealing with this debilitating neurological condition.

The garden has sponsorship from the Epilepsy Society and Young Epilepsy, with some of the featured plants grown by residents of the latter’s Surrey site.

Professor Lorch will be attending the show on Friday 25 May to represent Birkbeck and to meet visitors to discuss her research into Victorian and present day understanding of neurological disorders that affect language and thought.

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