London Blooms with Botanical Shakespeare

Now will he sit under a Medlar tree and wish his mistress were that kind of fruit – Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Sc. I

Botanical Shakespeare author, scholar and actress, Gerit Quealy, created two very special cultural events in honour of this year’s Urban Tree Festival, which took place in London from 9-19th May.

The first event – Come Meet the Urban Medlar: Trees, treats, talk & entertainment! – was held on Thursday 16th May at Word on the Water, a very special book barge on Regents Canal behind Kings Cross, near Granary Square & Coal Drops Yard.

Guests and passersby were treated to renditions from Shakespeare and encouraged to get involved in ‘fruity’ theatrical scenes from the bard’s work which featured the ancient medlar tree, situated nearby. Delicious artisan ice cream by local maker, Ruby Violet and cookies filled with medlar jam were washed down with hand-crafted medlar vodka, whilst talented lute player Sam Brown provided first class accompaniment at the joyful event.

Helping to save olive trees

Next up was a Celebration of Olive Trees: Save the Olives Fundraiser, which was held in a spectacular event space at the top of St Pancras Clocktower.

Dame Helen Mirren, who also wrote the foreword to Botanical Shakespeare, recorded a wonderful reading of Shakespeare’s sonnet 107 while on location in Montana for 1923, but her fondness for the region of Apulia, an important olive-growing region of Southern Italy which has been devastated by the Xylella disease, led her to be involved with Save the Olives.

Stefano Petroni, from NGO, Save the Olives, explained in moving detail how the ancient olive trees of his homeland, Apulia (Puglia), are under a grave threat from Xylella, which has already killed over 2.4 million trees and has a very real risk of spreading further.

The audience was also addressed by Sarah Vachon of Citizens of Soil, who gave a fascinating talk about olive cultivation and what really constitutes the extra virgin olive oil of culinary bliss. It’s almost certainly not what you’ve had open in your kitchen cupboard for the past six months! And UTF’s Paul Wood, author of London is a Forest, on the olive trees that dot the city’s streets.

Gerit commented: It’s been such a pleasure to host these events within London’s Urban Tree Festival and I’d liked to thank everyone who joined us and showed their support for these wonderful ancient trees, the medlar and the olive. I’m passionate about conservation of the environment and preserving trees and feel it’s very important to keep raising awareness about the sad plight of the olive tree, a universal symbol of peace and prosperity.

I bring no overture of war, no taxation of homage; I hold the olive in my hand; my words are as full of peace as matter. Viola, Twelfth Night, Act I, sc. 5.


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