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Katy Merrington, The Hepworth Wakefield’s Cultural Gardener, awarded BEM in The King’s birthday honours list 2023

16 Jun 2023

Katy Merrington, Cultural Gardener at The Hepworth Wakefield, has been recognised in His Majesty The King’s birthday honours list 2023, for services to the Arts and to the community over the last four years in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

Katy receives the British Empire Medal (BEM) which recognises hands-on service to the community in a local geographical area and can be presented for innovative work that has delivered real impact over a relatively short duration. The award will be presented at a local ceremony by the Lord-Lieutenant and Katy will also be invited to a Royal Garden Party.

As Cultural Gardener, Katy has cared for The Hepworth Wakefield Garden since its creation in 2019, together with a small and dedicated team of local volunteers. During the Covid-19 pandemic, The Hepworth Wakefield Garden quickly became a much-needed urban oasis for people local to the gallery. Despite the gallery being forced to close and staff working from home, Katy was able to continue her work tending for the Garden and as a constant presence on site, became a recognisable figure for people to interact with and an important community anchor.

Katy says:

‘It is a huge honour and a big surprise to receive this award. It has been a pleasure to be the first gardener of The Hepworth Wakefield Garden and to have nurtured the garden through its infancy. This medal is a wonderful recognition of The Hepworth Wakefield’s bold vision to transform an unloved piece of ground into a free public garden. It is also a celebration of the role that a gardener can play in helping a place to thrive – for the community, creativity and nature.

I feel that this honour ought to be shared with all the brilliant team that have been involved in creating and caring for the garden and to all the people who so generously supported our fundraising campaign to make the Garden a reality. I would particularly like to thank our volunteers who give their time so generously to help me with the day-to-day care of the space and to Tom Stuart-Smith for the beautiful design, which provides the year-round interest that we are all able to enjoy. We have exciting future plans for the garden to inspire and engage more people with the wonder or nature.’

Simon Wallis, Director of The Hepworth Wakefield, said:

‘I am delighted that Katy’s consistently inspiring daily work at The Hepworth Wakefield has been recognised with this public honour. Katy not only looks after our much-loved world-class garden so that it looks its best all year round, she also always takes the time to share her deep knowledge and to inspire others to engage with nature. This is of huge public benefit to our local audiences – including people that visit on a daily basis many of whom don’t have any green space of their own – and to our amazing team of volunteers who are so vital to our work. The Hepworth Wakefield garden is an superb asset for the district of Wakefield and Katy is central to its ongoing success.’

The Hepworth Wakefield Garden is open daily and free for everyone to enjoy.

Portrait of Katy Merrington by Jason Ingram

The Hepworth Wakefield Garden