On Saturday 14th April, Hadlow College welcomed over 200 former students and staff to a reunion event as part of the College’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
The event was jointly organised with the Cantagrians’ Association, formed in 1929, which brings together alumni of Hadlow College and its predecessors, the Sittingbourne-based Kent Farm Institute and the Swanley-based Kent Horticultural Institute.
Guests gathered in the spacious Garden Design studio and on its surrounding lawns, enjoying drinks on arrival, a plentiful buffet and the welcome sunshine, which thankfully appeared on cue. The attendees spanned several generations, from those who attended the KFI and KHI in the late 1940s, to those who had graduated as recently as 2014.
A huge amount of memorabilia was available to browse, obtained from both the College’s and Association’s archives, and donated by guests on the day, and the atmosphere prompted much happy reflection and celebration of achievements past and present.
The Hadlow Group’s Deputy Principal and CEO, Mark Lumsdon-Taylor, and Angus Campbell, Chairman of the Cantagrians’ Association, gave speeches. Mark spoke about how the significant milestone provided a worthwhile opportunity to reflect not just on Hadlow’s past, but its vision for the future: “We are acknowledging being 50 years old whilst looking forward. Our next 12 months will be focused upon the 50 years ahead. What we currently do at Hadlow is create people’s futures, and now, we need to go further.”
He then introduced a short film, outlining the College’s innovative Vision 50 concept – a vision of what rural education will be like in 50 years’ time. As part of this, the College is working with Studio Evans Lane, who have developed, and will be building, an ‘agri-rural simulation environment’ – a unique, interactive, immersive system designed to manage farming on a large-scale. It explores some of the technology needed within the sector, and examines some of the skills that the next generation of farmers and growers will need to work with. The simulator will include real-life robotics and simulations. Students will be able to work interactively and collaboratively with the tool to learn a range of techniques.
He continued: “I suppose what will make Vision50 ultimately successful is that our community, you and I have an emotional commitment: if we win something, I take it personally; if we lose something, I take it personally; if somebody joins us, I take it personally; if somebody leaves us, I take it personally. Hadlow matters - and we want, with your continued help, for it to become an iconic world-leading organisation. That way, our students and the people they serve will be the real and long-term winners.”
The College anticipates being able to unveil the Vision 50 prototype at this year’s Kent County Show.
Angus Campbell’s speech took the opportunity to reflect on the changes the College had seen throughout the years and gave tribute to some of its leading lights, such as former lecturer and secretary of the Association for 31 years, Joe Lister, who was instrumental in the amalgamation process that formed the College. Mr. Campbell also thanked Ken Turner of the KHI, for his work with Joe in bringing together the old students from both colleges under the Cantagrian banner.
The College had also commissioned renowned local artist Graham Clarke to produce 50 limited edition etchings especially for the day, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the College. (Anyone interested in purchasing one of these - or prints of them – can still get in touch with us via email at email@example.com, or write to us at: Alumni Association, Marketing Department, Hadlow College, Tonbridge Rd, Hadlow, Tonbridge TN11 0AL.)
Later in the day, guests enjoyed tours of the campus and many commented on an excellently organised event with an impressive turnout. One student, Catherine Tingley, who had studied at Hadlow in the mid 1980s, spoke for many when she simply said: “It was great to see the place again after all these years.”
Those wishing to find out more about Hadlow’s rich history and some stories from a variety of Cantagrians, staff and former students, can read South East Farmer magazine’s excellent feature on our 50th anniversary, here: http://www.southeastfarmer.net/section/features/a-pioneering-institution
Membership of the Cantagrians’ Association
All ex-students of Hadlow College’s agriculture and horticulture departments automatically also become members of the Cantagrians’ Association upon completion of their course. Membership is also open to students on other courses at Hadlow College, should they wish to do so.
The Cantagrians’ Association has many high-profile members including local landowners, farmers, growers and businessmen. Each year, a reunion dinner is organised at the College for all members, with newsletters and a journal to keep members up-to-date on developments throughout the year.