Sunday 22 July 2007

Remembering Jude Richardson, a landscape architect, an artist, a friend

Googling is something too much of a good thing. A few minutes ago, I decided to google some of my long lost friends, and, lo and behold, someone had died. Half a year ago already. And I didn't know about. Here is the obituary, first appeared in the Glasgow Herald, and re-published at

Jude, you have achieved so much that I could not have. Thank you for doing what I wish I could be doing. See you in the eternal landscape of light and beauty again.


Jude Richardson

31/03/57 – 16/01/07


Jude Richardson was a polymath, a Renaissance woman. She was a landscape artist, landscape architect, musician, and above all an educator. Her work with children to develop their own innovative play areas and on improving playgrounds has been greatly appreciated and enjoyed by countless children across Scotland and has also helped to change the way in which public space in Scotland is perceived.

Jude had an astonishing number of interests: When friends gathered recently at St Mary’s Cathedral for a celebration of her life, the event opened to the sound of music she made with drumming group, Repercussion – she was a fine musician. She had hung exhibitions in the Cathedral and had used a workshop in the Crypt to make – among other things - her kitchen table. Spring bulbs were gathered from friends in a beautiful wicker basket made by Jude, to be planted in Craufurdland native woodland, by Fenwick, where she is buried.

As an artist, Jude loved to work with living willow. She also loved to work with people. Over two years she worked with me at the Children’s Garden, at the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, creating a willow sculpture that has been a source of great pleasure to countless children, hiding away in their den… She has also created willow sculpture by Loch Lomond at Balmaha, at Linn Park Adventure Playground in Glasgow, and at many schools across Scotland. Jude’s relationship with willow is significant: something about the quality of willow – its flexibility and resilience – how it weaves into something immensely strong and useful – how it takes root readily and grows fast – appealed to her immensely and was reflected in her character.

Working with Jude was an object lesson in how to teach people by showing essential skills and letting them work it out for themselves. She was very patient and drew the best from children by respecting them. Her skill as an artist was in helping nurture people’s ideas and enthusiasm and weaving them together so they worked. The outcome was people’s ideas, beautifully realised. Her mantra was that the process was more important than the product – it was imperative that people learned things, came away with new skills – and felt an affinity with what was produced.

Jude was born in Edinburgh, the second of four children, who loved to explore wild bits of the city. They spent huge amounts of time in Colinton Dell, on the Water of Leith, and the endless days climbing trees, making dams, falling in the river, making miniature gardens and tree houses, were highly influential on Jude’s later work. She believed there should be wild spaces nurtured in the city and it was no co-incidence that in Glasgow she chose to live next to the river Kelvin with its heron and its kingfisher.

Jude’s career began when she trained at Dunfermline College as a PE teacher and she taught at the Royal High school and then Garelochhead Outdoor centre, where she was able to feed her ideas about nature into her teaching methods, taking young people into the landscape and opening their eyes to what was there. After a spell running her own Art Deco antiques shop in Victoria Street, Jude then trained as a landscape architect at Edinburgh University, graduating in 1991 and took a job working on the Kilpatrick’s Project, in the urban fringe to the north west of Glasgow.

Jude worked as a landscape architect for Glasgow City Council in the early 1990s and appeared at one point in the local press as “The Barber of Hillhead” for her decision to allow what she considered to be overgrown and inappropriate trees to be removed…The irony, of course, is that she worked tirelessly to enhance the tree cover of the city, and was seldom without some acorns in her pocket. She would also keep a penknife handy to cut off tree ties that threatened to strangle trees.

Jude went self employed in 1996 and developed her interests in imaginative play areas for children, both in schools, parks and with community and arts organisations, such as The Lighthouse. But as usual, her interests were wider. For instance she also took groups of older women from Maryhill Women’s Centre on nature walks, and about the same time did an MPhil at Glasgow School of Art on her work with London Schools.

Jude had a great respect for people as individuals, and made a point of learning people’s names quickly... She was great at getting people to think about things for themselves and to express their opinions. There was nothing tokenistic about this – she really did want to get them to do it. Jude worked on many community projects, such as the Hidden Gardens at Tramway in Pollokshields, regeneration projects in Easterhouse, and further flung projects in London, working with Westminster Council, Stirling, Dunblane, and Dumfries and Galloway. More recently Jude returned to Glasgow City Council as a landscape architect, working on a project in Pollok Country Park among other things. Within the Landscape Environment Team of Regeneration Services Jude was able to engage with colleagues in a pro-active and positive way of working and her skills in community engagement were recognised as being example of good practice – an inspiration - which will have an on-going impact on the department.

Jude certainly had strong opinions, which she wasn’t reluctant to share. She disliked (the over use of) ornamental cherries that didn’t fruit. “What’s the point of that?” She hated hanging baskets on metal frames as proposed at Blythswood Square. She couldn’t see why schools that collected most litter should get a prize. “Shouldn’t it be the schools that generate the least litter?” She also had an ongoing battle against the tiered planters that Glasgow City Council seems to love.

At the Children’s Garden, last Easter, Jude helped to create what was meant to be a willow man. This somehow turned out to be a Willow woman, who was dressed up in a straw hat and ball gown all last year (except when children borrowed it to dress up). Jude was a person of strong principles and passion for what she did, but also had a great sense of fun. She really wanted to make a difference in a practical way. She leaves behind her many living willow sculptures, many play areas enjoyed by children, a fine professional body of work, countless friends, her partner Caroline Scott, her mother Margaret, sister Lindy, brothers Simon and John and her beloved nieces Rosie, Heather and Sally.


  1. 42 years old guy12 August 2007 at 00:24

    Sorry to hear about the passing of your friend.

    As we get older, we are more aware of our own mortality and those around us.

    My mom got worried easily when we have not received Christmas greeting from any far away relatives or friends. She thinks that person must be dead. As we aged, including myself, that probability increases steadily.

    Since 2003, I have attended three funerals but just two weddings. Shouldn't the ratio be closer to four weddings and a funeral?

  2. I have just read your lovely comment about Jude, my sister. She does indeed live on in all of us. We talk of her and think of her often and visit her grave in a growing woodland in Ayrshire..."a lovely place to lie"...quote from our grandma in response to a beautiful graveyard with spectacualr views.