Bradford Soup, The Storehouse Cafe – 21st February 2019

I packed up my son Thomas into my car, and we drove in the dimming evening light, off to Bradford together to go to Bradford Soup at The Storehouse.

June and I had been to a Bradford Soup at The Storehouse Cafe together about a month ago. The principle is quite simple – and effective. You give £5 for the cost of soup and then charities pledge for small amounts of money, you cast a vote for the charity you wish to support, and then the collective money given for the soup is distributed accordingly.

But is was all very new to me the first time I went to Bradford Soup…I recall as I entered The Storehouse Cafe, someone greeted me with a bucket into which I threw my £2 and £1 coins. I was then presented with a small, penny size disc, which would be used later in the evening for casting my vote for the charity or venture I wanted to support. The presentations were deeply moving and very inspiring. The questions from the audience following each presentation were very probing, with detailed requests to know exactly how money would be spent. Once the presentations had taken place, we were invited to go up and get our soup (which was homemade at The Storehouse with donated food from local supermarkets and retailers) and then cast our vote with our little penny size token. I suppose there was about 15-20 of us at Bradford Soup that first night, so the money raised was approximately £100 – it was evident that this money would make a great deal of difference to the projects and ventures presented. Being at the Bradford Soup was excellent if a little unnerving for June and I; we had intended to present Blue Plaques ourselves that night, but at the last minute we were not included the schedule. What a relief! We realized through being on the sidelines at Bradford Soup that night, what the event really entailed, and how very professional and sincere each of the presentations had been and, if we were to pledge for some support for Blue Plaques of Intangible Experiences, it would require some very careful thought and preparation.

So we are back at Bradford Soup and it is Thursday 21st February, the event runs from 6.30pm-9pm. June and I when invited to do so, make our presentation. We are nervous, but we had some structure to our talk (no PowerPoint allowed!), scribbled onto small pieces of paper. I am pleased June had put together an order in which we would both speak. We did not really want to pledge for a lot of money, mainly to provide refreshments at our sessions at Great Horton Community Hall. What was was really key to us was the opportunity that Bradford Soup provided for us to network and possibly build up communications with other community groups who may be interested in being involved in Blue Plaques of Intangible Experiences. We had printed out little flyers which also promoted our community event at Great Horton Village Hall, to which we invited everyone in the room . Afterwards discussions developed, involving a possible development of Blue Plaques of Intangible Experiences at Bradford Media Museum. Quite touching that we should build this connection, as the Bradford Media Museum cafe, is the venue where June and I often meet up, to discuss our ideas, including a few months ago, Blue plaques of Intangible Experiences! This, as an outcome in itself was very positive and unexpected. As Thomas and I left the Storehouse we noticed the moon was huge bright and low. Thomas liked the way the moon appeared through the trees. He was very tired and we just about got home without Thomas falling asleep in the car.

This morning, as I write this, I receive a text from June – and we were lucky in receiving £100 last night at Bradford Soup (I left with Thomas before the announcements were made). A wonderful bonus to our project and the refreshments that we maybe able to provide – possibly more embroidery hoops too!

Great Horton Village Hall – 20th February 2019

June, Leigh and I developed Blue Plaques of Intangible Experiences at Great Horton Village Hall on the afternoon of Wednesday 20th February. We set ourselves up in the medium sized space close to the kitchen area, Leigh laying out our embroidery hoops, threads and scissors, and fabrics. Myself and June Hill in the kitchen getting some mugs ready for coffee and plates of biscuits. Leigh and June had introduced the project the previous Monday 11th February, so it was really great to see some people come in, actually holding their blue plaques that they wanted to develop further.

Leigh has set up the workshops so there are a logical series and progression of step-by-step processes being taken. It is a structured method, which is helpful in building clearness around what is expected of people as they take part in the project.

There is preparation work before embroidery begins. First of all an embroidery hoop – a range of sizes are presented on a table – is chosen. Leigh has already secured some blue fabric into the hoops before the session began. Then a piece of A4 paper is collected, and a correct size circle is traced out onto the paper – quite simply drawing around the embroidery hoop – with a pencil. Taking the printed out alphabets, participants then write out their thoughts, comments and feelings about place or personal experiences of neighborliness onto the paper, within the circle, tracing around each letter individually, gradually building up letter forms to spell out their words and phrases. This ensures that the writing is large and bold (easier to sew) and also reflects the font used in actual blue plaques. After this is complete, the writing is traced out onto tracing paper and then pinned onto the blue fabric stretched within the embroidery frame. I wonder, in the future, I should take some really clear photographs which demonstrates all these processes – which maybe useful when we come to designing our ‘downloadable resources pack’ almost like the photos you may get in a cookery book perhaps?

I believe the majority of people at the workshop had been to the Blue Plaques of Intangible Experiences workshop with June the week before, and had got to the stage of sewing into the tracing paper and transferring each letter onto the blue fabric. I have tried this method before at home, and I always love the surprise of ripping away the tracing paper after embroidering, to see the text beneath. After general introductions, people sat around the circular tables, and quietly carried on sewing, with murmurs of conversation occasionally punctuating the quietness of the room.

A little girl, who had not been to the previous weeks workshop, appeared through the doors. She sat next to me, and we started her own Blue Plaques together. She had not been to the previous weeks workshop. I tried to explain the project to her and then helped her to sew, she was very patient, and after some time, she got better and better at it. It was great for me, to be hands-on with the project in this way.

And then quite suddenly the session seemed to be over. Tables were packed away, chairs stacked, items tidied into our plastic tub and it was 3pm and time to leave our space.

It seems that to have continuity between workshops, was a real asset, to working at Great Horton Village Hall. I suppose at first there is quite a lot of newness to be involved in a project with which you are unfamiliar, that maybe be a little intimidating. But after just one session everyone seemed very settled, both in the space and their stitch work. They obviously knew what they were doing, and I felt, almost the feeling of a type of ‘club’ was emerging, and I wondered if this is something that may continue and become stronger through subsequent session we hold there.

A Note from Leigh:
It was very useful to be able to catch up with June and Claire again and we discussed a few things the project needed:
A poster for the Great Horton Community Stitch Event – I will make this using photographs from the previous sessions which Claire will send me via dropbox.
An Eventbrite for people to sign up to the Stitch Event – This will allow us to obtain numbers and cater for the group size. It also means we can cap the event at up to 50 people, so as not to crowd the space.
These would need to be put together by the next day in order for June and Claire to be able to take them along to The Bradford Soup the following day to promote the event.

As I had missed a previous workshop due to illness, I still want to give the time I would have been there to the project, and so we agreed that my attendance at the Stitch Event would be the best way to do this – it would allow June to concentrate on the catering, I could take lead on helping with the practical stitching and Claire could focus on recording the event (e.g. video, photos, feedback).

Blue Plaques for All

When looking at the future dates of workshops at Great Horton Village Hall, we realised that one would coincide with school half term. We therefore anticipate that children may be in attendance to the workshop that week and wondered how to best prepare. I put together a simple work sheet that asks children to create their own blue plaques. These can be handed out at the workshop and left in Great Horton Village library for children to access at other times outside the workshop times.

We think it is important to involve all ages in the project and allow it to be accessible by adjusting the activity to suit. This could be included in the free downloadable pack we intend on producing in the future.

Whilst creating promotional materials for the project I have tried to keep a consistent look and brand by using the same font, colour palette and imagery throughout.

The Storehouse Cafe – 7th February 2019

When I arrived into the Storehouse I was very excited to see that Lisa had completed her blue plaque from our last session at The Storehouse, while June had developed a lovely plaque on the small piece of fabric that I had dyed and posted over to her. I also brought in the piece I had been working on for a friend. As June and I sat down to have a bowl of soup, we acknowledged how we both actually found the embroidering aspect easier at home. For me, I like to embroider with my things around me, but the chance to develop my piece while Thomas was doing his homework worked really well too. It is nice to be on hand for Thomas, while at the same time be occupied on something of my own.

June told me some ideas that Leigh and her had had, with regards possibly developing written blue plaques with younger children at Great Horton Village Hall. I also wondered if these pieces could possibly be translated into digital stitch, as a method of retaining the individual character of the children’s writing while also having the work created in cloth and stitch.

The creation of ‘cosy’ corner: June and I then developed Blue Plaques at the Cosy Corner. We had some help to install the plaques onto the wall, and then left a few resources on the table for anyone to go over, in their own time, to get involved.

Bradford Soup Question: June and I had planned to bid for some money to support Blue Plaques of Intangible Experiences at Bradford Soup in a couple of weeks time. Having been before, we were both party to the wonderful, noble and humanitarian projects presented in Bradford and the brilliant way they had been presented. This also put a little fear into us both! We started to plan the order of things that we may discuss. But, then the question: what do we really want money for? I felt flummoxed. This opened up what was really of most value, was the items, space and food that could be donated by The Storehouse. We also felt that people themselves present at Bradford Soup could provide a useful network or understanding of other community groups for whom Blue Plaques may be relevant.

Research and Development Phase: June mentioned that we were in the ‘research and development’ phase of the project. This seems at first a strange thing to say, as if we had not conducted mini Blue Plaques together already, even before applying for funding to the Arts Council. But then, a consideration that we are in R&D, does actually make a lot of sense, recognizing that by doing this project we are learning on the way. We are finding that it is only through actually taking the project on for real, with others, that we can really appreciate its strengths and areas that we may need to work on. The location provides (in a physical sense) a great space for sewing (excellent natural light, low tables, lovely atmosphere), however many people who visit The Storehouse are using it as a destination to eat, meet people and then leave. The space and peoples expectations of it may mean that it is not necessarily conducive to sitting down to stitch. It maybe, that we are understanding through working on the ground, that the location itself, the community that visit it, needs to be understood, and this is most reliably achieved when actually in the space with the project. Is this something we need to be attentive to when designing our ‘downloadable pack of resources’? We may have discovered that the ebb and flow of people and their expectations is something to work with, and to be adaptable to. So, a standardized ‘pack’ may not necessarily be the most beneficial? Rather, each workshop may need to accommodate the site and context in which the embroidery takes place, and this is a very particular, non repeatable/non standardized element of developing a socially engaged project.

The Big Blue Plaque!

When we first started the project we look at the idea of encouraging group work, or having many people working on one piece. This could be working on one piece of cloth at the same time, or having the public contributing a small amount of stitch to fabric within their own time when they come across it.

At The Storehouse Cafe we have cosy corner to display the plaques created during our workshops there. As well as the small exhibition, we have decided to leave a larger hoop for those who pass through the cafe to add small sentiments to. Patrons of The Storehouse Cafe tend to be more transient, passing through or only staying to visit for a short while whilst they eat lunch. By adding a small amount to a larger project, it allows an opportunity to engage in the project without having to commit to a whole embroidered plaque, which can take many hours of stitching.

During our workshop at The Storehouse Cafe on the 6th February, I started ‘The Big Blue Plaque’ by stitching the words ‘positive experiences’ across the middle in the hopes it would encourage others to do some stitching themselves.

June and I decided it would be appropriate to create an information sheet with what we would like participants to do, and some instructions on creating a back stitch for first time embroiderers. This will be printed double sided on A4 by Claire and left alongside the big blue plaque.

These instructions can be used as a teaching guide in future workshops, as well as be included in our free downloadable pack.