Stitch in time

Stitching the Wars

It was a big pleasure to launch the Stitching the Wars quilts and book at the newly-opened Buxton Art Gallery and Museum. The first new artworks to be seen in the new-look gallery. The two quilts have been handmade in collaboration with hundreds of older people, with Lois directing the work. (Tom Jones a longstanding project participant, looked at the quilts, nodded and said, “Looking nice.”)

Catherine, Nadine and Brian.jpg

Catherine Serjeant (Blythe House Hospice) Dr Nadine Muller and Brian Oven, participant

 

Phil worked on collaborative poems during the project that distill many people’s experience of the two world wars, and the brief peace between the conflicts. But the poems also explore an understanding that gradually came to light during the project: there were two kinds of wars being fought in these lives, one a military war, the other a war against poverty.

 

Brian and quilt

Brian Oven, a regular participant to Stitching the Wars

A group of participants came to the gallery, some of whom were kind enough to read the poems aloud. The power of these reading resonated through the whole event.
Derbyshire Museums Manager Ros Westwood introduced the project, Lois talked us through the two quilts in detail and Phil gave a little overview of the project:
Stitching the Wars is history, made of stitches, and words, and memories.
The two quilts here have been team-stitched with over 400 older people involved, telling fragments of their stories about the effects of two world wars on life in Derbyshire. They talk about gentleness of rural life, but also hardship and the need to change.
“Sharing of life experience and the task of recording it as writing and art brings deep satisfaction – and the stories are extraordinary. A man who had witnessed Hiroshima just after the bomb. The Sheffield bombings through the eyes of a young boy. Bridling a horse for ploughing, a tradition of many generations…
“These two quilts contain many voices, they are work shared by many hands. Some people bravely faced up to fears and disabilities in the process of making them. Annie, a visually-impaired women, knitted for the first time in years, without sight she used only muscle memory. Dorothy, who has lost the use of one hand, carefully embroidered with the assistance of Olga holding an embroidery frame. And with encouragement Geoff took up needle and thread for the first time in his life.
“One of the biggest hurdles to overcome was the fear of memory itself, because many people who contributed to the quilt have dementia. The pleasure that people got from sharing their memories in a safe environment, was a delight.
“Stitching the Wars speaks about a particular time, but also speaks beyond it’s own time, because it is at heart the story of how life feels. We are all stitches in this story of Britain – sometimes it’s a joyful, colourful tapestry. Sometimes the colours are darker and stitches are needed to heal a wound. We talk together, we work together and sometimes we help each other to heal.”
Lois and Phil with Fresh Air & Poverty quilt

Artist Lois Blackburn and poet Philip Davenport, with Fresh Air and Poverty quilt

A Stitching the Wars quilt will be on view at Buxton Art Gallery and Museum until September 2017, the other quilt will be on tour around Derbyshire. The Book Stitching the Wars will be available to purchase through the museum shop. 

We are thrilled to share we have just had confirmation that the two Stitching the Wars quilts will be going on to form part of the National collection at The Quilters’ Guild in October. http://www.quiltmuseum.org.uk/collections/

Quilts with a story to tell

Projects, Stitching the Wars

 

PRESS RELEASE

 

QUILTS WITH A STORY TO TELL AT BUXTON MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY

A pair of quilts embroidered with the wartime history of Derbyshire is set to go on display. History arts project, Stitching the Wars, opens at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery on 7 June, 1-3pm
STW Cover

This award-winning project combines history, poetry and embroidery by older people living in rural Derbyshire, including many with dementia. The two quilts are embroidered with testimony from older people who survived two world wars.

Councillor Barry Lewis, Leader of Derbyshire County Council and Designate Cabinet Member for Strategic Leadership, Culture and Tourism said: “These beautiful quilts, and the memories behind them, make for a fascinating and moving exhibition. They are a lovely demonstration of the value of projects that combine community and local history to create art.”

Artist Lois Blackburn from the arts organisation arthur+martha is behind the collaborative community quilts. Ms Blackburn said: “This is touchable history, quilts hand-stitched by over 400 older people with fragments of their stories. One of the great joys of the project has been to witness the pleasure of people with dementia who have taken part, turning memory from a thing to be feared to a thing to be relished.”

The opening event, on 7 June from 1pm to 3pm, will also see the launch of an accompanying book, containing photos, stories and poems. One of the quilts ‘Fresh Air and Poverty’, will remain on display until 30th September.

The project received grants totalling £38,880 from Arts Council England, Foundation Derbyshire, Derbyshire County Council, Derbyshire Dales Council, Age UK, The Alzheimer’s Society and The Farming Life Centre.

For media enquiries please contact the DCC communications office on 01629 538205.

Solice from memory dark

armour, Projects

When I was homeless, I used to put my head in a box- I was sleeping on a park bench, with cardboard to keep the draft from below and a box to keep the wind of my head. A box, a lovely form of protection- it works very well.”  Georgina.

Our third session at the Booth Centre, for the project Armour, and this time we were joined by artist/poet/performer Johnny Woodhams.

It’s a hard to explain in words sometimes, better to experience. As I have talked about in previous blogs, The Booth Centre does something remarkable- gives a safe space to some of the most vulnerable in society. And more than that, creates a tolerant, optimistic, creative working space that I feel privileged to work in.

‘Making art, takes your mind away from things.’ Garry

 Shrine
Shrine, part of the Armour project

With Johnny leading the session, the room took on a jovial atmosphere and somehow, at odds to the stereo types of the pained artist, in stickered misery,the laughter and support allowed people to talk about some darkness, darkness that nobody would want to face. One man, living with his fiancée and son, recently dying in a house fire, created a shrine. A deeply personal brave piece, that effected all of the viewers.

‘Making art, helps an erratic mind, it stimulates- you’ve found the secrete to help homeless people.’ Dave.

Johnny had filled a two tables with an eclectic mix of objects, bones, wooden boxes, an old violin, books, tiny figures of people. Without pausing anon, (a veteran of the armed forces) choose a large piece of tree bark and started writing his train of thought onto it.

Peter's bark

“The sway from your branches, to and fro, my home, not to share, my solace from memory dark, noice, panic, fear, tearing at my brain… you comfort me still, my house, my treehouse’  (insert photo)

Quietly spoken, he explained to me later, that he had spent 2 years living in a tree house, only coming down to the ground in the dead of night.

Gary’s artwork coincidentally picks up on another aspects of trees- their life cycle and the importance of trees/cardboard and wood in a homeless persons life. Taking us back in a circle to Georgina….

Lois Blackburn

 Johnny and Armour
Johnny Woodhams at the Booth Centre

I had no real idea what I was expecting to find and feel at the Booth Centre having never been there before. I was afraid that my concept for the session might be met with boredom or resentment…after all what do I know about what it’s like to live on the street? What I found was the best ‘family’ of folk I’ve met in a long time….staff, volunteers and visitors alike…genuine, welcoming, comforting and inclusive….what an absolutely great place.

The outcomes of the session were raw and hugely emotive but the power of humour and strength were ever present throughout the day….I cannot wait to go back….I can see a hundred more things we could do! Writing is at it’s best when it is honest  and rooted in truth…there are some bloody great writers here but often my favourite pieces are the most basic and simplistic because no language is wasted…it is as the person speaks….

This session was utterly touching, emotive and beautiful even in its sadest themes…it lifted my spirits enormously and reminded me how important the power of art is even more so in these current climes….

Any one of us could easily fall into this position…the mixture of amazing characters was complete testament to this…..

Johnny Woodhams

Invitation: Stitching the Wars

Projects

1pm – 3pm on 7th June 2017 at the newly refurbished Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, Terrace Road, Buxton, SK17 6DA tel 01629 533540. Refreshments provided.

Fresh air and Poverty
We are delighted to invite you to the opening of the Stitching the Wars exhibition, made in collaboration with older people living in Derbyshire and arts organsation arthur+martha.
Award winning project Stitching the Wars combines history, poetry and embroidery from older people living in rural Derbyshire. Artist Lois Blackburn from the arts organisation arthur+martha collaborated with older people to make community quilts embroidered with reminiscence.
This special celebration event will also share poems and interviews, and launch the accompanying book to the project
The project has been supported by Arts Council England, Foundation Derbyshire, Derbyshire County Council, Derbyshire Dales Council, Age UK, The Alzheimer’s Society and The Farming Life Centre. We would like to thank the many, many people who have participated and whose work has made this a very special project.
For more information
documentary film  youtube
Sound recordings Soundcloud

The Homeless Library: a homecoming

Projects

The Booth Centre and arthur+martha would like to invite you to the opening celebration of three projects, The Homeless Library, Sing me to Sleep and Mosaics made at The Booth.
Join us on the 8th May at 1pm at The Booth Centre Manchester, for a sharing of the artwork, refreshments, and readings. All are welcome.

a-perfect-vacuum

The project The Homeless Library is nearly at its official finish point, but in truth this feels like the beginning, not the end.


There are so many stories that Phil and I didn’t capture, so many strands of the history of homelessness that we only touched on. And like any history, it’s happening right now; since completing the interviews and poems for the project, new people have become homeless for new reasons, we have seen people find accommodation, take steps forward in their personal battles with alcohol, substance abuse, mental health issues, relationships, tragically we have also seen others not make it.


The Homeless Library has fed directly into our new project Armour, sharing the stories of the homeless people who’ve served in the armed forces. Threads from it are teased out in Phil’s Berlin-based project Heaven-Proof House, which asks refugees about the nature of home.

 

The Library has had a profound effect on us personally. In many ways it has been the hardest project we’ve ever done, because it was so emotionally intense and because we had so much to learn. The situation of some people we met was heartbreaking. But hope was also present in each day, each session – and humour and imagination, even delight. We were on a steep learning curve too: this was the first time we had attempted a formal “history”. In fact, our Library is the first-ever history of British homelessness thats ever been attempted. The voices of homeless people are finally being heard and accepted, as a valuable, fascinating part of all our stories.

?my life on the road

We have also been approached by other organisations, to share our experience. The Museum of Homelessness have liaised with us and are doing excellent work. Recently, Lois met Karl Hyde from Underworld whose Street Poem project for MIF will soon start. A few days ago we were asked if another organisation could pick up our idea and start a Homeless Library in London…


The Homeless Library will continue to grow and develop, sending its message to the world. We would like to thank the many, generous-hearted Homeless Librarians who contributed and who led the way.

My name is hello thank you and goodbye 

My name is many, legion

Woke up this morning not in my own bed

Half a bed it was I fell out of

Fell out across fields, over and out

Over and out to continue

Made my way here, my name is many

My name is hello thank you and goodbye.

Anon


To download your free ebook from The Homeless Library visit blurb.

For more information and links to films and artwork please visit /the-homeless-library/

And for more interviews and project diaries look on this site at arthur-and-martha.blogspot

Armour

armour, Projects

arthur+martha are pleased to announce that we have been awarded Arts Council Funding for a new pilot project called ‘Armour’.

Armour will be a six month pilot project with homeless veterans, developing creative ideas based on medieval armour. How can veterans live peacefully with the memory of war? We will re-think, re-examine, re-create quilted medical armour, as garments embroidered with meditations on war and peace.

Workshops will discuss how we protect our deeper selves and how we heal. Discussions will be edited to create a collection of poems. Based at The Booth Centre homeless resource centre in Manchester, we will train peer mentors, involve organisations working with veterans, partner art/museum venues to research and exhibit the artwork.

Like any new arthur+martha project, I am sure this project will stretch us into profoundly new areas of working, that will bring us many challenges, but will also bring us joy,  open new approaches, audiences and collaborations.