Blackpool Shore at Dusk

Tea with Simon Lycett at NAFAS Blackpool

In Fierce Out and About by FiercebloomsLeave a Comment

WORDS: Kathryn Cronin PHOTOS: Ricky Bache
By the time I get there, it is standing room only. Excited expectation fills the air for the man made famous as the florist for the now utterly quintessential British film “Four weddings and a funeral”.

I confess I was hoping he’d be wearing his bold British flag jacket. I forgive him quickly though as there is a bitter Blackpool wind blowing in from the North Sea. It is November after all. Still, Simon Lycett still cuts quite a dash in his splendid tweed waistcoat and of course, that very distinctive waxed moustache of his.

Simon remains concerned. There is nothing that can be done about the seating, so he promises a lift up to anyone who ends up sitting on the floor. I have a thought to myself that I may very well hold him to that.

I spot a couple of ladies already acquainted with the carpet and walk over to join them. As it turns out they live a stones throw from where my darling other half was born near Glasgow. And that’s the thing that strikes me again and again at my first ever NAFAS show. There is friendliness and a bond between everyone based on a genuine shared love of all things floral. And it is not only love. There is a huge amount of knowledge and expertise out there too that everyone is only too willing to share.

Simon sits on the bench with his tea beside Brenda Eyers and the stage is set.

He recalls his calling at the tender age of 7 when he would wander down to a neighbour’s garage and help her with wiring ivy leaves for the weddings she did. He enjoyed working with his hands but he has had to fight for his passion that at 49 would earn him a living doing something he adores.

“I am not academic but my parents wanted a bit more for their money than a florist”. There is hurt behind those words but no one could challenge the success Simon has achieved being 1 of only 2 florists called to serve across all 5 royal palaces.

Influenced by his very first mentor George Smith, Simon is passionate about thank you letters describing them as “the kindness of strangers”. It is that kindness he says helped his career take off in the first place.

Meeting the queen was a proud and exciting moment. She is tiny and fabulous with a twinkle and glint in her eye.SIMON LYCETT

From working with Robert Day on the Pilmlico Road and living at friends of his parents in London “I could never have afforded to live there otherwise”, he describes how his idea for rosemary springs at the Westminster abbey memorial service for Jim Henson “got me noticed with all those film types” ultimately leading to that floral job on “Four Weddings”.

He concedes to being hopeless at judging what furniture can go into a room but if you give him a big space, he can pretty much nail it on the floral proportions required, a pretty useful skill for his events business.

With a wistful sign, he confesses that he doesn’t get that much hands on flower time anymore. He designs the template for his briefs. His 16 strong experienced floral team then make it happen, “with only the odd “best go and ask him” moment they know him that well. Everyone wants peonies and roses and hydrangeas’ but I try to sneak in the odd sweet pea. He is also waxes lyrical about British blooms – forgive the pun my darlings.

Simon describes his London headquarters affectionately known as “Lycett Towers” as “4 freezing cold railway arches”. Apparently great for storage on a grand scale but not so great for florists!

His habit of never throwing anything out has earned him the nickname “squirrel nutkin” with his team. “You never know you might need it” is his mantra, although it is no accident that when he goes on holiday in August is when his team plan their grand clear out – “I dread to think what goes in the skip” he laments. His team know they are running the gauntlet, as he is also known to have the memory of an elephant…….

I’m not academic but my parents wanted a bit more for their money than a florist!SIMON LYCETT
Simon describes his meeting the Queen as “a proud and exciting moment”.

“She is tiny and fabulous with a twinkle and a glint in her eye”.

Simons’ description of NAFAS is no less insightful, describing them as “a formidable group”. He mentions he is glad that NAFAS is focusing “more on the flowers than the stand” these days.

Simon talks enthusiastically about his “guardian angel” role in the new Covent Garden charity Floral Angels. So when his fabulous events are done, instead of the flowers being thrown in the bin, they are repurposed for old peoples homes, hospitals and other worthy causes. “We don’t save lives but we take off the rough edges”. It is Simons’ way of spreading the love back. He also adores the “lonely bouquet” movement.

It is almost time to say goodbye. Simon says he’s interested in writing more books and particularly on real time flower design where he could capture his designs for 2 days a month throughout a year. I adored his 4 weddings book and am already looking forward to reading it.

My newly found Scottish friends are encouraging me to ask a question. Simon is just describing how he loves to cook. Then suddenly his time is over. He is off to judge the competition which it sounds like he is enjoying.

Instead, I decide to be brave and ask for a lift up from my precarious position on the floor. Simon is over in a shot, the gallant gentleman that he is. My thanks are a kiss on his cheek. My lasting memory is of a man proud to be British who holds dear his passion for all things floral, who at his heart seeks to “put the joy back” in others lives. “NAFAS was kind to me” he says early on. This now very famous florist believes in repaying that kindness.

Read more from Fierceblooms on the floristry blog.

P.S. My thanks to Simon for his prompt and lovely reply to my letter.

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