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Opinion: Where are all the ‘Flowerpot Men’?

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Opinion: Where are all the ‘Flowerpot Men’?

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing

Opinion: Where are all the Flowerpot Men? Opinion: Where are all the Flowerpot Men?

Angela Lockwood , chief executive, North Star Housing Group

The year 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of Endeavour Housing Association (a subsidiary of North Star Housing Group) based in the North East.

In capturing the history of the organisation, we have explored further the story of the infamous ‘flowerpot men’ who live in the DNA of Endeavour but not widely known elsewhere.

For those with knowledge of BBC TV children’s programmes in the 1950s, the term ‘flowerpot men’ will need no explanation. For others, the explanation is surprisingly prosaic.  Bill and Ben and their friend Weed lived in a sunny garden. They were constantly transplanted - moved around to the best and most fertile bits of the garden.

The 1974 Housing Act didn’t have much if anything in about gardening but the National Federation of Housing Associations and the Housing Corporation set out a training and development programme for transplanting talent from outside housing to help the newly invigorated housing association to grow.

The ‘flowerpot’ scheme was the brainchild of a number of housing professionals; they produced a scheme whereby flowerpot men were attached to a housing association for six months before being launched on an unsuspecting world. Who were these strange creatures and whatever happened to them?

The first employee of Endeavour Kit Bartram was the pioneer of the flowerpot scheme and became the Director of Endeavour in 1975 – Kit’s family previously owned shipyards in Sunderland. Sadly Kit died last year, but his legacy lives on in the strong values he learned and developed from his flowerpot days.

Who else was a flowerpot man? (And yes, they were all men). Nick Abbot became the founder Director of Enterprise 5, he was previously a surveyor; Eric Patton was a former Methodist Minister turned carpet salesman, who was the founder Director of Salford Community Housing Association; Jim Coulter was heard of research at NALGO (now Unison) and a Labour Councillor before becoming Director of Leeds Federated Housing Association; and Jeremy Nixey, an ex-Benedictine Priest,  joined Housing for Wales as its Director.

The ‘flowerpot’ scheme was successful in being a seedbed for ‘talent’ from other sectors, in the days when ‘movement’ prevailed rather than the ‘sector’ and was very much of its time.

It would be out of place in the commercialised world of the 21st century, but that too has its quirky characters and leaders – an enduring characteristic of the committed world of the housing association….is that movement or sector???

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