A Day in the Life: Gary Graham, Bord Bia Bloom Manager
Have you ever wondered about what’s involved in staging Ireland’s best loved horticultural and lifestyle event? Bord Bia Bloom Show Manager, Gary Graham, reveals what goes on behind the scenes.
A Day in My Life
Bloom, for me, is a year-round job. Although this year’s event takes up the bulk of my time now, I’m already working on Bloom 2020, 2021 and into the future. By the time the show comes to a close each year we’re well advanced on the following event, learning what worked and what didn’t, and what we can improve for next year. Bloom is very much a team effort between my colleagues in Bord Bia and the many external contractors who work so hard on the show. They have made Bloom the success that it is!
I live in Waterford and at this time of year I commute to Dublin nearly every day. I wake at 5.30am and, when possible, I prefer to take the train so that I can start work at 7am, sending and reviewing emails. The hours are long – a 12-hour day is the norm at this time – and they will get longer in the week prior to and during the show.
There is no such thing as an average day when you work on Bloom and you’ll never find me stuck at a desk wondering what to do next. As soon as I arrive in Dublin I head straight into meetings. As Bloom Show Manager I try to keep an eye on every facet of the event so I regularly meet with the department managers in charge of operations, horticulture, sponsorship, retail, catering and so on. It’s my job to make sure that all our promises are delivered and that nothing falls through the hoops so it involves a massive amount of coordination.
The weeks leading up to Bloom is the most intense period but also my favourite time in the preparation and hosting of Bloom. We began on site last week and now we can see many months and years of careful planning starting to come to fruition. I love it when we’re on site. The Phoenix Park is a wonderful home for Bloom, providing a lush, green backdrop to the show, but it does present its challenges.
There is no infrastructure and we must leave the Park exactly as we find it so each year we start from scratch building the Bloom village, installing 3.6 kilometres of trackway, 1.7 kilometres of fencing, 3.19 acres of marquees and much more. We spend 50 days in the Park in total – 31 days on site building the show, five days hosting it, then a further 14 days clearing the site when the event wraps.
The Show Gardens require the most work. They are the heart and soul of Bloom and the most popular feature so it’s crucial we get them right. Planning the gardens takes a year or longer, from the initial concept and drawings, to working with the sponsors, growing the plants, and then finally up to three weeks of construction on site. It’s a huge time investment and there’s a lot at stake for the designers but there is no greater badge of honour in Irish horticulture than winning at Bloom.
The week of Bloom is hectic but rewarding. Judging runs from the Monday to Wednesday prior to the show and although I don’t vote, I do spend a great deal of time facilitating the jury. Wednesday – Media Day – is busy with interviews while Thursday starts with the presenting of medals at 8am followed by a visit from our patron, President Higgins, at 11am. There are breakfast meetings each morning, social events each evening, and several lunches, receptions and VIP visits throughout the day so I am constantly on the go, all while keeping in touch with the team to make sure everything is going according to plan across the 70 acre site.
The Best Part of My Job
The media activity slows down a little at the weekend and this is when I get to indulge in my favourite aspect of Bloom – bringing visitors into the Show Gardens to talk to them about gardening. I come from a horticultural background and I am passionate about our Show Gardens so it’s heaven for me if I can share this with others.
That to me is what Bloom is all about, showcasing the best of Irish garden design and encouraging an interest in horticulture. We want the industry to bloom along with the show!
Gary’s Top Tips For Visiting Bloom
The Show Gardens are a must see at Bloom but with so many other great features to take in – from the Food Village and the Fashion Stage to the Bord Bia Quality Kitchen and the Food Dudes Kids’ Zone – it’s easy not to leave enough time for a full tour.
I always recommend visiting on the Thursday or Friday if you can manage it as it is much quieter than at the weekend, giving you plenty of time to view the gardens at your leisure. If you can’t make it to the Park during the week, try visiting early in the morning on the weekend and head to the Show Gardens first. That way you can beat the lunchtime crowds and you’ll have more time to speak to the designers and learn all about their beautiful gardens.