Leading lights from some of the world’s most famous public parks are heading to Wirral next month as the borough hosts a major international conference and exhibition.
The World Urban Parks European Congress (WUPEC) comes to Wirral from 15th to 19th October in an event which represents a return home for the urban and municipal parks movement in a significant year of celebration for Wirral’s flagship park.
This year is the 170th anniversary of the opening of Birkenhead Park in 1847, which is widely acknowledged as the world’s first municipally-funded public park. Designed by Sir Joseph Paxton it is held up as the inspiration for a number of famous parks around the world, including the best known of them all – New York’s Central Park.
It is fitting, then, that one of the keynote speakers at WUPEC in Wirral will be Central Park CEO and President, Doug Blonsky. Doug will be giving a presentation entitled ‘Sustainable Cities, Vibrant Parks’ which will explore the theme of this year’s conference - a celebration of the heritage of public parks and the role they play in the community, and their contributions to sustainability.
Doug will be speaking on the first full day of the congress on Tuesday 17th October at the Floral Pavilion in New Brighton. Other notable speakers on that first day are Professor Robert Lee, the Chair of the Friends of Birkenhead Park, and Gil Penalosa, Chair of World Urban Parks.
The second day of the congress also takes place at the Floral Pavilion and concentrates on the ‘sustainability’ element of this year’s theme. The key note speaker is Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, while representatives from organisations such as the National Trust, the Eden Project and Keep Britain Tidy’s Green Flag awards are also lined up to speak on the Wednesday, alongside other speakers from Israel and Washington DC.
Also on the 18th, there is a special symposium taking place celebrating the life and work of Edward Kemp, 200 years after his birth. Kemp worked with Joseph Paxton at Chatsworth House and was the first superintendent at Birkenhead Park, and went on to become a designer of parks and landscapes in the north west, such as Hesketh Park in Southport and Flaybrick Cemetery in Birkenhead. Kemp’s association with Birkenhead Park is commemorated with a blue plaque at the Visitors’ Centre.
The last day of the main congress takes place in Birkenhead Town Hall and aims to develop the ‘heritage’ theme with speakers including Dr Christy Boylan from Dublin’s Phoenix Park, Jan Heeren talking about the Amsterdamse Bos and Birkenhead Park’s own Paul Davies.
Outside of the main congress presentations, delegates will also have the chance to enjoy a range of site visits and tours of important locations including Port Sunlight and Chatsworth House Gardens in Derbyshire. There are also plenty of opportunities for people to network, understand national and international perspectives, support professional development, share best practice and explore innovative solutions.
For the public of Wirral, there is an opportunity to get a feel for what is set to take place during a public open day and exhibition on Monday 16th October at the Floral Pavilion. This is a free event, open to everyone, and at midday on the Monday Wirral’s Mayor, Cllr Ann McLachlan, and Dr Anna Steidle, the Chair of the World Urban Parks European committee, will cut a ribbon to officially open the congress.