Stitching the Wars

Stitching the Wars, was a two-year collaboration between older people in Derbyshire and arts organisation arthur+martha. The project centred around artist Lois Blackburn, who met with local people to devise and stitch two quilts and gather reminiscence. Poet Philip Davenport then worked with the groups to make poems from these reminiscences.

The first quilt, A Bomber’s Moon, describes the transforming effect of the First and Second World Wars on rural life. An ancient world of horses and humans is invaded by machines. The quilt is an aerial view of fields and hillsides. Into this “landscape” are sewn key words and phrases that link to reminiscence and poetry. Most participants were British, but a few were German and they contributed their own war memories. In this way, the quilt speaks from both sides of conflict, reaching towards a common human experience.

The second quilt, Fresh Air and Poverty, describes a quieter war, the struggle everyday people made to keep their families fed and clothed in the years surrounding the two World Wars.

Many of the quilt-makers were people with dementia. It was easy to see the beneficial effect that group stitching had, joining people together in an act of making that brought rewards (touch, colour, companionship, creativity) and an ambitious goal. In 2015 ‘Stitching the Wars’ was given a Foundation Derbyshire Award for its mixture of inclusivity and creative ambition.

Workshops were run in Bakewell, Buxton, Chapel en le Frith, Dronfield, Derby, Hulland Ward, Hope and New Mills, with groups from The Farming Life Centre, Age UK, The Alzheimer’s Society, New Mills Volunteer Centre, Blythe House Hospice, The Library Service and Making Space.