Kew Gardens

Beyond the Gardens


Laura Martínez - Postdoctoral Researcher, RBG Kew

“If you don’t know how many species you have, you cannot begin to conserve them.”

How do you share a completely unique perspective on a well-established institution? Can you employ a new cultural language while remaining sensitive to the traditions of your subject? It’s a translation process, one that requires trust nurtured over a long time. Our extensive work with Kew Gardens has followed this type of journey, a slow-building relationship that grows in ambition with each project we collaborate towards.

Kew Gardens first approached us in 2012 to help shed some light on the vitally important work taking place behind their closed doors. Like most of the general public, our perception of Kew didn’t stretch far beyond a beautiful botanical garden with a vague sense of heritage attached to it. Our research since then keeps revealing just how embedded and fundamental they are in sustaining the natural resources of the Earth.

We understood then that there is a growing appetite online for short film that furthers our knowledge of science. Institutions such as TED Talks and The School of Life have paved the way for digestible and simplified approaches to otherwise complex ideas. We saw a great opportunity to elaborate on this trend, applying our strengths in rich cinematography and human-focused journeys. The ‘Beyond the Gardens’ series of films has since set a new precedent for us. They are a reminder to consider that translation process, to refine and cement how we build the bridge from our subject matter to our audience.

Martin Bidartarno - Senior Lecturer, RBG Kew

“Most of us are familiar with funghi in the sense of mushrooms. But there is a whole other level that is not seen. It’s sort of the business end of funghi.”

Our first project with Kew began, as it always does, with a discovery. Our crew arrived at the gardens ready to shoot some interviews with various researchers. We were invited into huge libraries and sealed vaults to establish the best locations to feature. The fungarium was one such place.

What always strikes us when visiting Kew is just how incredible their collections are, yet at the same time how the staff remain humble about the grand work they achieve and the heritage they are a part of. This is exemplified here as we take a step back, allowing our interviewees room to share their personalities as well as their knowledge. The result is a film that is richly character-led, while never drifting too far away from the central themes and messages.

Peer inside a vast archive of fungus specimens and learn just how fundamental fungus is to the growth of all plants on Earth.

The Fungarium
Aaron Davis - Head of Coffee Research, RBG Kew

“People say to me it’s just a drink, but coffee production supports the livelihoods of 25 million families worldwide...”

Continuing the series, we ventured next into the subject of coffee conservation. There are over a hundred species of coffee plant existing today, yet we only use two of them to produce the world’s favourite drink. These hundreds of species live almost exclusively in Ethiopia. As climate change continues to diminish the growth of plants, we need to fortify our global plantations by providing diverse genetic variations that can resist these warming effects. Kew are at the forefront in the global fight to conserve coffee, working both with academic institutions and businesses to spread this important message.

Our film moves through a range of topics, from the history of coffee production, to the current crisis we face, to how the future could change if we act soon. Since we first shared it online, it has had a reach of over 130,000 views. It has also received acclaim from more academic circles, winning the 2014 BBC Wildscreen Award for Short Film and being screened at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris.

The Forgotten Home of Coffee
Mark Chase - Keeper of the Jodrell Laboratory, RBG Kew

“The evolutionary tree is a great achievement. You can see it as a tool for the rest of science, the rest of humanity.”

Over the past two centuries Kew’s taxonomists have organised and catalogued over seven million specimens. That level of paperwork requires a new way of thinking about organisation.

Taxonomy underpins all scientific and conservation work that goes on behind the scenes at Kew Gardens, yet they told us it was one of the more difficult concepts to communicate to a wider audience. With this challenge in mind, we set aside the usual documentary nature of the previous Beyond the Gardens films to try and create something that followed a more traditional storytelling format.

We wanted to celebrate the quirks and eccentricities that Kew and its Herbarium have to offer, whilst highlighting the importance of its taxonomic backbone. The result is a film told by one person, on essentially one subject – but also one that explores many different areas of Kew’s make-up.

The Plant Family Tree


Wiley Rebrand


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