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2024 GCA conference themes and speakers revealed as booking goes live

Booking has now opened for the Garden Centre Association’s (GCA) annual conference next January (2024), and the organization has also revealed its 21st-century themes and its top-quality speaker line-up too.

The conference, which takes place at De Vere Cotswold Water Park Hotel near Cirencester from January 28 until 31, has ‘The Future of Garden Retailing’ as its main theme.

Chairman-Elect for 2024/25, Will Blake, who is organizing the conference with GCA CEO Peter Burks, says: “We’ve been working hard to make sure it’s bigger and better than ever this year. We’ve put together some very forward-thinking themes and have secured a line-up of dynamic speakers who are informative, inspiring, and motivational. There will also be opportunities to socialize with industry friends, colleagues, and associates too.

“Our overarching theme is something that every one of our members can relate to. Our sub-themes are also highly pertinent. They are Environment & Sustainability, Trends & Insights, and Health & Wellbeing.

“On Monday, our first speaker is Josh McBain, Global Consultancy Director at Foresight Factory. He’ll be speaking about ‘The Future of Garden Retailing’. He led the research for the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group’s ‘Growing a Green Economy’ report in 2021, which demonstrated the future value the industry could have in driving UK economic growth. He’s also been listed by Data IQ magazine as one of the top 100 most influential people working in Big Data in the UK.”

Josh is followed on the podium on Monday by Mark Stevenson and Ed Gillespie, who will be speaking about the Environment & Sustainability. Expert on Global Trends and Innovation, ‘Reluctant Futurist’ Mark is a strategic advisor to governments, investors, NGOs, and corporates and co-founder of Carbon Removals company CUR8.

He is a Global Ambassador for the environmental law firm Client Earth and a former strategic advisor on peace, national security, and climate change to the UK Ministry of Defence. He also enjoys a successful side career as a comedy writer and songwriter. His hit podcast, ‘Jon Richardson and the Futurenauts – Book of Revelations’, with well-known comedian Jon and Ed, who is a fellow system change advocate, is available on all major platforms.

Environmental Entrepreneur and author Ed focuses on sustainability and innovation. He is the author of ‘Only Planet – a flight-free adventure around the world’ – a book about his circumnavigation of the globe without getting on a plane.

Ed’s core talent is taking the complex, interconnected, interdependent nature of the many challenges the world faces, from climate change to disruptive innovation, and making common sense of them.

Will continues: “On Tuesday, we’ll be welcoming to the stage economist Mark Berrisford-Smith, who has spent most of his career working at HSBC. From 2012 until 2023, he was Head of Economics for the Bank’s Commercial Banking division in the UK.

“He will be followed by bestselling author, broadcaster, and neuroscience presenter Dr. Hannah Critchlow, who was named in 2019 by Nature as ‘Rising Star in Life Sciences.’ She’s a Fellow at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and regularly appears on TV and Radio, most recently as a Science Presenter for ‘Family Brain Games,’ Tomorrow’s World Live, and BBC Radio 4 ‘Destiny and the Brain,’ and ‘Start the Week.’ She’ll be speaking about wellbeing.

“We’re also delighted to welcome back our motivational keynote speaker, Casper Craven. Casper gave a brilliant presentation at our 2023 conference, and delegates expressed a keenness to have him back again. He’s twice sailed around the world and is one of the country’s foremost experts on leadership and the role of teamwork. Casper’s talk is entitled ‘Be More Human’ – so this spans several of our key conference topics.

“This year’s conference is about the ‘future,’ so, with a nod to the current and past, the fancy dress theme this year is ‘Kings & Queens.’ We’re looking forward to seeing just how creative everyone will be with this! We’ll also have our fundraising activities for the charity Greenfingers on the Sunday, including a tour of associate member Melcourt Industries’ growing media facilities followed by a tour of the Ramsbury Brewery and Distillery.”

The 2024 GCA Conference takes place at De Vere Cotswold Water Park Hotel near Cirencester from January 28 until 31.

Peter Burks, GCA CEO, said: “We wanted to let everyone know, earlier than normal, that booking is now open via our members’ section on our website There’s a 10% early bird discount until the end of the month and additional discounts for those garden centers who have not been to our conference before and to Young People in Horticulture Association (YPHA) members. Sponsorship slots are also still available, so if any companies are interested, please get in touch.”

For more information:
Garden Centre Association

Tel.: 01244 952170
[email protected]

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