It was such an unexpectedly warm day for February, that when I arrived at Great Horton Village a little early, I sat with my door open, radio 1 rather loud, and eat my sandwich in the warmth of the sun.
So, this week we (Leigh and I) are creating Blue Plaques of Intangible Experiences in the larger, open space at Great Horton Village Hall.. I am standing at the back beginning a new piece dedicated to St John’s Church, just a few meters away, where my real connection with Bradford began with ‘The Sleeping Bag Project’. The project was about reclaiming sleeping bags left at music festivals for people without homes who stay over night at the homeless shelter at St John’s Church. What the project became, although supposed to be a gift to others, was a process of reclaiming embroidery for me. It also fostered my relationship with June – which was very inspiring and exciting. I (re)discovered, through working with June, that embroidery could be both poetic and useful, and found a place at Bradford which was so accepting of this idea. I successfully overcame shyness in the creation of bold steps with art and stitch-based work that involved others. Blue Plaques of Intangible Experiences, I hope, is another stage in this inquiry.
June and I have discussed the possibility of placing Blue Plaques into the streets of Bradford to mark actual sites which are meaningful to people…not possibly for this project, but could be suggestion for a future piece and this plaque I am just beginning is a start in that direction. Starting this piece from scratch, also became an opportunity to photograph (and Leigh video) the different stages in the creation of Blue Plaques. If we are to share our process with others as a downloadable pack (a recipe of our activity?), then processes in our journey I think are important to capture. I only hope they do not take the mystery out of the project by being overly matter of fact.
It feels almost as if Blue Plaques of Intangible Experiences is evolving into a club at Great Horton Village Hall – and maybe this is its future potential. We had two groups of ladies sitting at two tables. They are the same group that came the week before and I believe the two weeks before that. Their blue plaques are developing slowly, patiently and methodically over this time, their use of steady line, slight insertion of graphic imagery in places, and filling stitches to create bolder type are looking diverse and accomplished, unified by the blue fabric and restriction of the embroidery hoop as frame. I can’t help to compare and see how my stitch looks very wobbly and uncertain in comparison. Heads down, sewing, gentle chatter, people seem to be at ease.
In the room next door the ESOL group had arrived. This is a group of people for whom English is their second language. Leigh and I went over to introduce ourselves and then mid-through our session, during their break, they came over to peek through the door. Leigh was welcoming and did a terrific presentation – communicating so clearly for those who have little English – bringing out physical examples of our stitch based work to show. Standing in the space, with others busying away on their Blue Plaques, hopefully gave the ESOL members a good sense of the project and felt at ease. To make this connection is really exciting and may open up Blue Plaques to more people, and possibly, through the very edited text that is achievable in stitched-based work, may become an accessible and hopefully interesting way to build confidence in basic English language skills. On talking with the instructor, it became evident that we could further this, possibly taking the project to other similar ESOL groups beyond Great Horton Village Hall.
These three always sit together. I had not realized that it was child, mother and grandmother around one table! Just through the open doorway, is a glimpse of the ESOL session taking place in the small room. Notice behind the table, electric kettle, tea, coffee and biscuits set-up for us, which is a brilliant touch to any workshop.
Grandmother, stitching with her daughter and granddaughter around the same table.