Houghall Trio (R to L) Vicky Abbott, Rebecca Hough and Allan Raby

Houghall Trio To Compete At World-Famous Flower Show Finals In London

Staff and students at East Durham College’s Houghall Campus were celebrating last week when they received the exciting news that three of them had made it through to compete at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show in the Florist of the Year 2018.

Top floristry lecturer Rebecca Hough, 29, from Peterlee, along with two of her talented students, Allan Raby, 50, from Thornaby, and Vicki Abbott, 26, from Hartlepool, all made it onto the 16-strong shortlist after taking part in one of the regional heats that took place right across the country.

The talented trio will now travel to London to complete against each other, as well as a number of professional florists, in a bid to be crown champion at the world’s most prestigious flower show that inspires millions and leads the way in innovative garden design. The finalists have been challenged to create a floral throne for a spring wedding.

Rebecca Hough.jpgRebecca, who has worked at the Durham-based college for the last two years, said: “If the college had managed to have one person in the final that would have been amazing, but for three of us to make it through to the finals is truly astonishing.

“We pride ourselves on the quality of our floristry teaching here at Houghall and, over the last few years, have increased the number of competitions we encourage our students to get involved in; it really helps to build their confidence and challenges them to push their skills to the next level.

“Whatever the outcome at Chelsea, to have competed at the pinnacle of the profession will have been an amazing experience for all three of us.”

Houghall Floristry Student Allan Raby.jpgFloristry is a big change for Allan, who used to run and own The Oak Public House in Middlesbrough. After the pub closed, a friend asked Allan if he would help him over Mother’s Day in his florist shop, and Allan found that he really loved floristry. He then decided to enrol at East Durham College’s Houghall campus, in Durham, where he is studying Level 3 floristry three-days a week.

Allan, who already has a clutch of floristry awards and medals to his name, including Overall Best Student Trophy at last year’s Harrogate Flower Show, said: “I was over the moon when I found out the news. It’s certainly going to be a very different experience to working in a pub in the Boro.

“I have only been training for the last year and a half, so to get this on my CV is amazing. I’m hoping to work as an events florist, after I complete my training, as I think that will provide an exciting creative challenge and going to Chelsea will be a fantastic experience to draw on.”

Vicky Abbott.jpgMeanwhile Vicky, who has suffered in the past with extreme anxiety and struggled with leaving the house, faced her fears by enrolling on a level 2 floristry course at Houghall last September. 

Vicky was in complete shock when she heard the news. “I just can't believe it. Looking back to last September, I could never have imagined such a thing happening. I enrolled on the level 2 course to get into a creative profession with real job prospects and to start rebuilding my confidence and life.

“I still have a way to go with my anxiety, but I would highly recommend retraining through Houghall, they are highly supportive. I hadn't even made a bouquet before last year; now I’m making a floral throne for the Chelsea Flower Show in London. I really am in shock!”

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is held for five days during May (22nd to 26 May 2018) when the grounds of the Chelsea Royal Hospital are transformed into a stunning arena which attracts over 150,000 visitors, many of whom travel from around the world.

For more on East Durham College’s range of floristry courses, please visit the floristry page on the website.

More information about this year’s Chelsea Flower Show can be found at https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show