Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Foundation Derbyshire Award for arthur+martha

We don't generally go in for prizes, so it was a surprise and honour to be in the lineup for the Foundation Derbyshire Awards. We were alongside some of the finest community projects we'd ever come across. As we sat watching a film of the participating groups, Lois and I were both struck by the kindness and determination that drives many of these organisations.

We'd particularly like to mention the TOGS group, providing clothes for children and young people whose parents can't afford to clothe them properly. This is an organisation that was run for the first months of its existence from the bedroom of its founder. It was both uplifting and sad to encounter TOGS. Uplifting to know that there is a kind spirit helping fellow humans in distress - and sad to think that there is such a need in our society.

The prize giving was at Derby Art Gallery and Museum, a place full of serene rooms, showing off a fine collection of 19th Century oil paintings paintings by Wright of Derby. I've always sniffed at grandiose ceremonies (and Wright of Derby) but tonight these paintings dignified the wonderful, matter-of-fact heroism of these people in a way that I suspect they themselves would shy from.

Detail of the Stitching the Wars quilt

We were lucky enough to obtain an award, given to arthur+martha for Lois' brainchild the Stitching the Wars project, which has rested on the work of older people, especially older people with dementia. It is touchable history, a quilt hand-stitched made with input of over 300 older people with fragments of their stories. This is public art made by the public and we've been delighted to witness its growth and the richness of experience it distills.  

Ian Tansley from Rathbones who presented the award was particularly keen to highlight the contribution made to the quilt by people with dementia. The citation from Foundation Derbyshire included this statement: "One in three people over 65 will develop dementia, with the number of people affected by dementia set to double over the next 40 years. More than ever we are seeing local volunteers and the community reaching out to support those affected, with arthur+martha CIC showing how this work can be achieved in a beautiful and supportive way."

Stitching the Wars is ongoing and a second quilt will be made during 2015; both quilts will then be exhibited in galleries and libraries in Derbyshire and further afield.

The project has been supported by Arts Council England,  Foundation Derbyshire, Derbyshire County Council, Derbyshire Dales Council, Age UK, The Alzheimer's Society, The Farming Life Centre and New Mills Volunteer Centre.  We would like to thank the many, many people who have participated and whose work has made this a very special art-making.

Stitching the Wars quilt, work in progress at Buxton Library

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