Plant Connoisseurs’ Club

A series of workshops exploring psychoactive plants and stimulating botanicals - Kew Gardens, September 2014

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Bompas & Parr ran a series of workshops at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, exploring psychoactive plants, stimulating botanicals and other mind-altering magic.

As part of Kew’s Intoxication Season, we took over the Secluded Glasshouse on weekends, creating an immersive, theatrical locale for budding plant connoisseurs to expand their minds by learning about other cultures’ perspectives on natural-born plant intoxicants. Against a historical context, and with the guidance of ethnobotanists, toxicologists, drugs historians and medics, we examined our collective attitude to drugs and contrasted our own socially acceptable substances - tobacco, alcohol and caffeine - with other less familiar stimulants and sedatives.

Best of all, adventurous types could also seek spiritual enlightenment with our Grand Master host, by directly sampling a small amount of one of four plant-products that are widely consumed on a global basis, but which we’re less familiar with in the UK. Betel nut, kola nut, raw guarana and blue lotus tea are all variously attributed certain psychoactive, mind-altering properties and have been consumed for centuries as far afield as Ancient Egypt and the jungles of South America.

Along the way, we were posing some thoughtful questions about mankind’s ubiquitous use of intoxicants.

"Though entertaining this is a serious endeavour that provokes participants to think again about societal attitudes to drugs. I'm hoping that this candid and practical workshop opens the doors of perception on the impact of future use of stimulating, mind-altering and possibly consciousness-enhancing substances and the consequences for individuals and society,” said toxicologist Dr Nick Edwards.

Set design by Emma Rios.
Illustration by Katie Scott.
Photography by Bompas & Parr.