South London’s unique plant learning centre seeks director

The SLBI’s beautiful garden

Tulse Hill’s South London Botanical Institute (SLBI), a unique centre of learning and education about all plant life, is seeking a new director as it enters a new period of its long life.

Its historic headquarters on Norwood Road are now closed for several months for essential repairs and the SLBI has moved to a temporary office in Brixton.

The new director will see SLBI through the building work to a relaunch in the refurbished building later in the year.

The institute is offering a salary of £44,000 a year for a “good all-rounder, confident with community engagement, leadership and financial responsibility”. They will have “a creative and imaginative approach to heading the development of SLBI’s long-term business strategy”, ensure it is kept on a sound financial footing, and direct day-to-day operations.

They will also create a “diverse, inclusive and accessible programme that will promote our mission: Discovering Plants, Enriching Lives, Sustaining the Future.”

The closing date for applications is close of business 27 February.

victorian building
The SLBI HQ on Norwood Road in Tulse Hill

SLBI first opened 113 years ago with its headquarters in three-storey Victorian house on Norwood Road housing an extensive botanical library, herbarium (dried plant collection), lecture room and a beautiful botanical garden.

The renovation, which will involve significant structural work to tackle major subsidence, involves totally emptying the building for six to nine months.

While the building is closed, SLBI will continue its extensive programme of events, including online talks, botanical walks, and other plant-related educational events in local community spaces for people of all ages and backgrounds.

The closure will also be an opportunity to make accessibility improvements to the building and to develop more links with local community groups.

old image of Victorian house
The SLBI in 1936

Allan Octavian Hume founded the SLBI in 1910 to encourage the local study of botany. He intended it to be a place to assist amateur botanists who could not easily consult the plant collections at Kew Gardens or the Natural History Museum.

Last year SLBI members and local people attended talks and events ranging from Botany for Gardeners and Botanical Perfumery to House Plants, Terrariums, Wildflowers and a Plantinum Jubilee celebration.

SLBI President Maria Vorontsova, said: “2023 promises to be an exciting time for the institute as we restore our historic building.

“It will be thrilling to see the renovation in progress over the next few months, helping us to continue bringing the world of botany to future generations.

“We are aiming to re-open in the late summer and look forward to welcoming visitors back to a new and improved Institute.

“In the meantime, we will be continuing to run our exciting and informative events, including online talks, off-site walks, stalls and other community activities.”

The next is a Winter Tree Walk on Clapham Common with Bob Gilbert on Saturday 25 February.

night time image of garden with ornamental lights
Glowing Garden event at SLBI in December

Others planned (check website for final details) include: 

Mosses & Liverworts Walk on Wimbledon Common with June Chatfield, 18 March

Ancient Tree Walk with Greg Packman, 25 March

A joint event with the Linnean Society and Roy Vickery, 1 April

A Trees & Invertebrates Walk with Greg Packman, 29 April.