11 August 1995

Enjoying sounds of many colours

Flower arrangers were set

musically associated phrases to interpret in the 1995 NAFAS

competitions and exhibition. "We are the music makers" was the theme which produced a rhapsody

of colour. Ann Rogers reports

"WE are the music makers," claimed the floral artists taking part in the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies competitions and exhibition at the National Agricultural Centre, Warwicks.

Flower lovers from across the UK and from parts of the world as distant as the Far East and the Caribbean, had produced a total of 450 entries spread across 21 classes, each of which had a musically inspired theme.

Cool and fresh and beautiful in the air-conditioned food hall of the NAC, which only two weeks before had been a bustling market of speciality food producers, the event drew enthusiasts from far and wide – 57 coach loads of them on the first public day of the four-day event.

The best in show award went to a magnum opus – in the full sense of the phrase: Carol Firmstones inspiring first placed entry in the class of that name. It was sensuous and elegant from the gold leaves under glass at its base to the tip of the highest lily, with tulips catching the eye, apples, roses and apricots at its heart and a disturbing display of contorted twigs. This is the second year running that Ms Firmstone has won the top award.

The runner-up this year was the winning entry in the class entitled "A sudden sound in the middle of a silence." This was a skillful interpretation by Margaret Whittacker of Longton & Club in the Park, North West district. Called "Cats chorus" and depicting alley cats foraging for scraps, it contrasted rich roses with dustbin-effect accessories, the whole set off with a jaunty flourish of leaves.

A new class this year was one in which plant material need not predominate, though it must play an important part. Competitors were supplied with 4.5m lengths of fabric to incorporate in their designs, which influenced their colour choice, and they were trusted not to use any conventional mechanics. The title of the class was "Variations on a theme" and the result was some dramatic works, the winning one being that of Shirley D Thomas of Stockport Afternoon Club, Cheshire.

The variety of entries in class 7, Anything Goes, was equally striking, for in order to take part in this one, all that competitors were required to bring were their scissors and work box. The organisers supplied everything else – matching sets of mechanics, containers, plant material and accessories which included empty painted food cans and a length of fabric. All competitors began work at the same time and worked through to completion. The winner was Christina M F Wallis of Aldershot, Surrey.

Despite the preponderance of summer frocks and sleeveless tops, these competitions are not just for the womenfolk. "Some of our best flower arrangers are men," said NAFAS publicity officer Barbara Taylor, expressing her regret at having to miss the demonstration by John Chennell, a member of Wellingborough Flower Arrangement Society whose work is famed at home and abroad.

Another man who made his mark at the event was William Dixon of Hawshaw and District, North West, with his entry in the "Conversation piece" class. Here arrangements were viewed-all-round but judged from the front, and competitors were required to use two gilt painted ballroom chairs which were provided for them.

Mr Dixon had wrapped his chairs in brown paper like parcels that had been torn in the post, before placing them in his very highly commended entry – an action to cause many a conversation.

Carol Firmstones winning entry in Magnum opus, which also received the best in show award.

Pictures:Jonathan Page

Above: Fiona Russell from Liskeard &District Floral Art Society won the petite class for entries no larger than 25cm in width, depth or height The title was Nocturne. Below: A delicate air was the title of the miniature class (maximum

dimensions 10cm) which was won by Sandra Miller from Burgess Hill Flower Club.

Masquerade was a craft class for decorated masks made from

dried material and seed heads. Winner was Jean Carter (above)

of Stowmarket &District.

Left:Entry by Peggy Bourne of Woore &District Flower Club. Below:Entries

by Nadine M Grimand from Malta and

(bottom) Jean Wright from Aldershot, Surrey.

Runner up to the best in show and top award

in class 17 went to Margaret Whittacker.

A view along the line of entries in Anything goes, a class for which matching sets of materials were provided by the competition organisers.

Palm Court, sponsored by National Westminster Bank, and two entries in Conservation piece.

Conservation piece by William Dixon. Compulsory accessories in this class were two gilt painted chairs.

Left:Winning entry in Anything Goes. Centre: Margaret Webster of Ile Valley, South West, took top award in Soft lights and sweet music. This class was staged beneath the balcony and each entry lit by its own table lamp. Right: Winning entry in Variations on a theme where accent was on design.