Gardeners' Question Time
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The first programme was broadcast in the North and Northern Ireland Home Service of the BBC at 22.15 on 9 April 1947, and came from the "singing room" at the Broadoak Hotel, Ashton-under-Lyne. Originally entitled How Does Your Garden Grow?, it was inspired by the wartime Dig for Victory campaign. On the first panel were Bill Sowerbutts, Fred Loads, Tom Clark and Dr E.W. Sansome.
Professor Alan Gemmell joined Loads and Sowerbutts in 1950 when their contrasting styles (Professor, Traditional Head gardener and Commercial Grower) added an entertainment element. The success of the format led to the programme's being broadcast nationally on Saturday mornings at 11.00 from 27 April to 13 July 1957 in the BBC Light Programme (under the title Down the Garden Path). In January 1958 the programme was transferred to the Home Service and gained its present title of Gardeners' Question Time as well as the time slot of 14.00 on Sundays which it has retained to this day. The programme marked its 1000th edition in 1972, though the occasion was overshadowed by the death of long-serving chairman Franklin Engelmann just days earlier.
The format and panel remained largely unchanged for many years. In 1994 the complete panel left the BBC and moved to the new Classic FM station on a short-term contract to present Classic Gardening Forum, sponsored by The Cheltenham and Gloucester Building Society. In 2009 the production of the show was taken over by the UK's largest independent radio production company Somethin' Else. In December 2009 panellist John Cushnie died suddenly. The programme's audience figures continue to perform strongly as confirmed by the official audience measurement body, RAJAR.
The programme typically comes from a village hall or other public venue somewhere in Britain, or occasionally further afield, such as in the Republic of Ireland or northern France. There are also regular editions in which the panel answer questions sent in by post or email. These editions are recorded in a specially adapted potting shed at Sparsholt College near Sparsholt, Winchester; where the regular panel members also maintain a small demonstration garden, curated by Rosie Yeomans.
Since 2001, Gardeners' Question Time factsheets have been made available after each episode covering all questions and their given answers.
In July 2009 publication of the programme as a podcast began. The programme regularly attracts an audience in excess of 2M and has answered over 30,000 questions in its long run.
The current joint-chairmen are Eric Robson and Peter Gibbs. Current panelists include Matthew Wilson, Chris Beardshaw, Matthew Biggs, Bob Flowerdew, Pippa Greenwood, Bunny Guinness, Anne Swithinbank and Christine Walkden.
Past participants have included John Cushnie, Dr Stefan Buczacki, David Burges, Fred Downham, Professor Alan Gemmell, Walter Gilmore, Jill Hicking, Clay Jones, Nigel Colborn, Daphne Ledward, Fred Loads, Bridget Moody, Martin Fish, David Jones, Sue Phillipps, Geoffrey Smith, Sid Robertson, Bill Sowerbutts