17th July – CommunityWorks (Session 2/2)

The second session was on the 17th July, almost a month after the first, but the group were just as keen to get stuck in again as they were the first time. After speaking with Julia from Bradford College, we were keen to really focus on Bradford and it’s Blue Plaques in the second session. In the lead up, I put together some information on Bradford’s Blue Plaques (file below), stitched a hoop specifically for CommunityWorks, and created a simple feedback form for the participants to fill in if they wished. We also wanted to focus more on group activity and so brought back to big blue table cloth for collaborative stitching.

We presented the women with the blank blue table cloth and asked them to think about their favourite places within Bradford. The discussion soon began to snowball, after a few of the group members mentioned their favourite spots it encouraged others to start thinking of theirs too.

With the help from ESOL tutors and volunteers, we were able to hold small group discussions about the types of Blue Plaques that can be found within Bradford, using the examples I prepared and printed for the session as a talking point. This helped everyone understand the ideas and themes behind the table cloth a little better. Whilst speaking to one group member, June was told that she loves Bradford, that a family member lives in another UK city but she was not a fan, that Bradford made her feel safe.

I spoke with ‘S’, who was new to the Bradford area when she attended the first session in June. She was excited and proud to tell us that she had continued to work on her embroidery at home and had almost completed it. ‘S’ chose to include her Mosque on the table cloth because it was a calm, quiet place she felt at peace in a busy city. In the first session, ‘S’ was nervous about trying a new skill (embroidery) and was great at asking lots of questions and asking for support. In the second session, it was wonderful to see that her confidence in her stitching abilities had grown as she dove straight into adding to the cloth without hesitation.

Some other examples added to the cloth were Peel Park and The Alhambra Theatre. One of the unexpected choices was a specific supermarket, where one of the ladies loves to do her grocery shopping. I think it is really interesting to have a place others may not consider anything special being highlighted on the cloth as a favourite place to visit.

In preparation for the second workshop, I also created a large scale Blue Plaque for CommunityWorks itself using freehand machine embroidery. June spoke to individuals and asked them to add reasons they keep coming back to the centre. At the end of the session, two of the ESOL group member’s spoke with Nabila and they would like to finish the embroidery on the Plaque over the summer and work together to do so, passing it between themselves to get it completed so that it could hang in CommunityWorks for visitors to see.

Other’s in the group opted to continue work on their individual Blue Plaques and were pleased to be able to take them home, along with the hoops for framing.

June and I had a great experience working with CommunityWorks and both their Women’s group and ESOL class. The work the dedicated volunteers and tutors do is amazing. CommunityWorks as a whole, those who work there and those who attend, is a prime example of how a community can come together to help one another out. They are a credit to Bradford and are examples of exactly why we wanted to start Blue Plaques of Intangible Experiences in this city.

19th June – CommunityWorks (Session 1/2)

After speaking with an ESOL tutor at Great Horton Village we were put in touch with Bradford College and Communityworks. Communityworks is a wonderful hub of activity in the Undercliffe area of Bradford. We were fortunate to be invited to run a Blue Plaque workshop with their Wednesday women’s group.

The first session was on the 19th June and ran from 1pm-2.30pm. June and I arrived around 12.30pm to set up and were greeted by Nabila who talked to us about the women’s group. Members started to arrive and Linda from Bradford College joined us. We handed out refreshments and said hello to everyone individually before beginning.

Once the group had arrived we introduced ourselves and the project everyone,with the great support from Nabila who kindly translated to the ESOL group who had also joined us for the session. We showed examples of different Blue Plaques and why they exist. We asked the group to think about a place, person or event, that they felt was worthy of acknowledgement. Many chose to honour a person in their life, whether that be a family member or friend. The first part of the session was hindered a little by the paperwork required by the college and ourselves, but everyone seemed to settle into it pretty quickly.

We asked everyone to select a square of blue fabric, a hoop and handed out information on how to create a back stitch, plain paper and pencils to plan with. A lot of the group already had previous and skilled embroidery experience and so began to work straight into the fabric, others chose to plan on paper before feeling confident to move onto the fabric.

It was amazing to see so many people (all 20 hoops I bought in advance of the workshop were snapped up very quickly!) working together. More advanced stitchers helped beginners and conversation of who or where they were creating their hoops for flowed throughout the room.

As everyone stitched away, June and I gave support to anyone who needed it. I helped ‘N’ who had never stitched before get started on their plaque, which was for their son and husband. They were unsure at first and kept asking me to do it for them, but after showing them what to do and encouraging them to try it, they quickly got the hang of it and made steady, neat progress. I moved around the room to help others and when I returned, ‘N’ had stitched a full letter with help from another group member.

Toward the end of the session the group were then served more refreshments and food. We asked individuals if they’d like to take their hoops home to continue, which some of them did with additional thread given to them, and others opted to leave them at CommunityWorks for the next session. The feedback we received from the group was positive, many saying they enjoyed having time to pick up a craft they no longer have time for at home, or learning a new skill.