It’s a glory of a sunshiney day in August and Lois and I are out in the fresh, wide open countryside. There’s not a single building in eyeshot, but many tents, many people. We’re at the ManifoldShow, one of the big agricultural shows in Derbyshire. I’m at the Stitching theWars table, our first public showing of the war quilt project Lois has been creating, with older people in Derbyshire. Picked out in embroidery are snippets of reminiscence that describe the effect of wartime on the farming community.
We often show our work in galleries and museums, but rarely in a field alongside a sweet counter (on our left) and the mental health initiative Time to Change (on our right). It’s a fantastically popular show – there must be a few thousand people here, to see the beautiful animals, the famous slow tractor race and of course the controversial but ever-popular terrier racing finale (there’s always a fight).
A country fair in the bright sun is surely one of the big human pleasures, lots of people in Sunday Best clothes, but looking relaxed because there’s no preaching, bibles, or good behavior required. Instead we have the smell of fresh baked food, fresh vegetables stacked and pretty, live animals looking beauteous, in fact the whole thing is an abundance.
We wanted to see if people ‘got’ the quilt – these tiny patchwork fields with their shards of memory – and the response has been sweet and positive, many folk drifting over to look, frequently offering their own memories of this community – which I’ve jotted down for an impromptu poetic piece.
Here’s an excerpt:
Bakewell show, it was a pilgrimage
Me 5 years old
machinery, a vast array
combines, reversible ploughs, tractors
1955 the showring, the cattle, horses
and my dad, back home
he never spoke about the war in Burma
that’s what the war was
lots of little mysteries…
Thanks go to The Farming Life Centre, Carol and volunteers for sharing their stand and offering their support.