From education to employment

Carpentry Students Create Bug Hotel for RHS Cancer-Awareness Garden

Two students stand either side of their tutor in the Leeds College of Building carpentry workshop and hold pieces of wood being joined together.

For the second consecutive year, students at Leeds College of Building are using their skills to help create a poignant RHS show garden. 

The Level 1 Diploma Carpentry & Joinery students have crafted two five-foot triangular wooden bug hotels. The structures will feature at the main entrance of a garden going on display at RHS Tatton Flower Show 2024 (17 – 21 July).

Led by garden designer Carolyn Hardern and landscape construction manager Jon Jarvis, the project will raise awareness about melanoma skin cancer in the construction industry. The ‘1804 Garden’ is named after the date melanoma was first referred to in the medical world. 

Research shows that working outdoors in the sun leads to around five melanoma cases and one death a week in the UK. Last year, construction workers accounted for 44% of occupational skin cancer diagnoses and 42% of occupational skin cancer deaths each year – despite construction workers making up only 8% of the workforce.

Carolyn said, 

“Skin cancer is a critical but often overlooked safety challenge in the construction industry when so many professionals work outdoors. We’re really looking forward to showcasing this thought-provoking garden and hope to raise more awareness about this vital issue.

“We hope to build on the success of our Tatton entry last year with an even bigger and better plot. This year is extra special as a year of anniversaries: the RHS formed 200 years ago, Tatton Show 25 years, Southport 100 years, and it will be 20 years since I did my first show garden at Tatton!”

At just over 300m2, the garden will be the largest at the Tatton Flower Show this year and promote the charities Band of Builders and Melanoma UK. The garden is shaped like an equilateral triangle, inspired by the yellow and black radiation symbol often found in hospital cancer centres.

At the heart of the garden, a circular water feature incorporates a dramatic open sphere of detached and levitating steel rings, symbolising the eradication of cancerous cells and the process of healing. Three large steel planters are set between seating with a selection of elegant parasol trees offering partial shade from the sun’s UV rays. 

The Leeds College of Building students recycled waste timber from previous projects to make the bug hotels. Wood was glued and planed to required sizes and drilled, screwed, glued, and dowel jointed together. They finished off the hotels by adding a wooden beetle shape and each will be filled with natural materials collected by pupils at Wrenbury County and Bickerton primary schools in Cheshire.

Rob Smith, Head of Partnerships & Skills at Leeds College of Building, said, 

“Carolyn and Jon first approached the College given our status as the only specialist general further education construction college in the UK. We were happy to lend a hand last year, given the mental-health-in-construction theme, and we’re delighted to be involved again in 2024.

“Skin cancer disproportionately affects our industry given the nature of our work outdoors. Shockingly, construction workers diagnosed with melanoma have the highest number of deaths than any other profession. We hope that our students’ contribution to the project will help to raise more awareness about sun safety and skin cancer prevention.”

This is the second year Leeds College of Building has teamed up with Carolyn and Jon.  In 2023, their ‘Constructing Minds’ garden won the prestigious Best in Show award and an RHS Silver Gilt Medal.  Inspired by the theme of wellbeing and mental health, the garden included over 700 wooden hearts spray painted the colour of hard hats by Leeds College of Building painting and decorating apprentices. Each represented a life taken by suicide in the construction sector in just one year.


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