While on my last brief visit to London I heard that Kew Gardens was holding an event featuring psychedelic plants. I will take any excuse to visit Kew, it’s one of my favourite places in London (not something you’ll often hear from an Essex girl), and the psychedelic and altered states of consciousness are subjects I find absolutely fascinating, as someone who practices meditation, as well as someone with an interest in herbs and fungi and their traditional and historic uses.
So off I went to the event, feeling a bit excited to have this subject on display as a mainstream curiosity. I was amused to see some hemp grade (non-psychoactive) marijuana in a padlocked cage and only fake Amanita Muscaria on display, while a tobacco plant remained conspicuously free to get up close and personal with. There were prominent ‘Do Not Touch’ signs with the psychoactive displays, but both the tobacco and alcohol displays featured information about how many people die from illnesses relating to their use each year, while the, mainly illegal, psychoactive drugs failed to declare much in the way of deaths at all. The subtle implications almost made the display a work of art.
There were a number of displays, talks and activities. On the whole it was an okay event to attend, it failed to blow me away as I was hoping (but then that would take a lot) and I thought it could have been a bit more tightly organised (some displays weren’t working, events were cancelled; the films could have been on loop so there was less of a gap and it would be easier to see them all at your convenience). But I was satisfied enough to see this subject on display in a respectable context, as it deserves. I would like to see more of this.
I was also happy to see an emphasis placed on the importance and fascinating nature of fungi, something many people are completely unaware of. Like bees, they are an overlooked and much abused key component of our environment more than deserving of our appreciation.
Kew features many things I enjoy. The fact I can never make it around everything whenever I visit and there is always something different each time gives it much appeal. But the main joys of Kew for me are the art collections at The Marianne North Gallery and The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art. The display of skill and soul in those few rooms puts to shame the majority of work on show in many of the modern art galleries in the city. Any aspiring artist should visit these galleries at least once.