A true vocation…
We look back at some of the many highlights of Bridget Guest’s 27 years with the Quaker Tapestry, as she retires as General Manager at the end of the year.
Today the meeting house in Kendal has a very different interior from those early days of 1994. First came the development of the exhibition room and shop; closely followed by office space and education rooms for workshops and hire. This impressive Grade II* Listed Building is now a lively centre of education and welcome for the community and a continued place of peace and worship.
Bridget says, “I have greatly enjoyed my 27 years with Quaker Tapestry and particularly delighted in the friendships I have made over the years with colleagues, volunteers, members and my associates in the museum and business sector around Cumbria. During my career, Roy, my partner of 40 years, has been by my side with endless patience, love and support and volunteering in all sorts of ways”.
Prior to life with the Quaker Tapestry, Bridget and Roy worked together in West Yorkshire running their small retail business while developing their semi-professional singing career, alongside Bridget’s teaching and bringing up their two daughters.
1994 – Bridget established and developed the successful embroidery workshops within the Meeting House in Kendal in order to share the unique Quaker Tapestry secrets of the stitches and techniques, which is one of the main charitable aims of the Quaker Tapestry.
1999 – The first two Quaker Tapestry travelling exhibitions took place around the UK, this would go on to be a total of 30 roadshows over the following 20 years
Bridget remarks, “I may have been the Roadshow organiser, manager and on-site embroiderer but Roy produced the designs for each of the Roadshow layout, he was the muscle in packing the van and erecting the display and then he volunteered as our on-tour shop assistant for the duration. It was most definitely a two-person show reliant on the whole tapestry team and masses of help from volunteers who took the strain and pleasure of talking to the thousands of visitors.”
There have been many memorable touring exhibitions, one likely not to be forgotten was in Edinburgh 2004. Having set up the show, Roy spent the next four weeks in hospital following major emergency abdominal surgery. It was touch and go for a while as to whether he would survive beyond the ICU! Thankfully he was released in time to instruct volunteers on how to pack up the exhibition as he laid prone across three chairs in St Giles Cathedral. That evening Bridget and Roy attended a Scottish dance party to celebrate the success of the exhibition, not that Roy did any dancing!
2000 – Quaker Tapestry gained museum status due to the hard work of Bridget’s dedicated small team of staff and volunteers. With their careful attention to detail they have continued to maintain this high standard of accreditation and achievement.
That same year the old warden’s cottage onsite was redeveloped to create the self-contained accommodation for volunteers on the first floor. Two years later, after a great deal of fundraising by Bridget and her team, came the café on the ground floor. Roy was hands-on in the design, planning process and conversion of the cottage. Having been a joiner and then an Architectural Technician in a previous life, Roy was called upon to produce drawings and sketches for innumerable ideas and innovations over the years. Bridget hopes that his drawings will be placed in the QT archive so his contribution is recorded in the history of the Quaker Tapestry, much like the work of the researchers and embroiderers who created the tapestry panels from 1981 to 1996.
2002 – Bridget was surprised and delighted to receive the Wainwright Achievement Award from the Mayor of Kendal in recognition of her promotion and support of the town.
Bridget and Roy launched their fifth album of songs together, this one, entitled ‘Universal Chorus’ was a themed CD of songs inspired by the amazing people and heart-felt stories of the tapestry. Bridget remembers “We were delighted to be asked to perform the title track by the producer of BBC Songs of Praise, for a programme celebrating the 350th anniversary of Quakers”.
2007 – Bridget had the privilege of taking the stitches and techniques to the other side of the world to enable Quakers in Australia to begin their project of creating 40 panels of their own history. Bridget invited Roy to accompany her and following the workshops, the couple enjoyed a memorable holiday touring New South Wales. Little did they know then that, several years later, they would be asked to produce one of their 40 panels here in Kendal. The subject offered was ‘The Dunera Boys’, something unheard of by the team here in the UK. You guessed it – Roy was asked to help. He spent three months researching into this squalid event in 1940 when Jewish refugees in England were interned then sent to camps in Australia and Canada. This inspired him to write about the outrageous events aboard the ship called The HMT Dunera and they worked together in creating the design for the panel. The embroidery is almost nearing completion and the panel will be safely winging its way to Australia before the end of the year.
2008 and 2009 – Quaker Tapestry Museum gained local, regional and national tourism awards for excellence.
2013 – Bridget and her team of conservation volunteers celebrated the completion of a three-year project to remount and frame all 77 embroideries. In more recent years the staff team developed a new and improved website, mail order and online presence. Bridget’s quest to introduce modern technology and up to date conservation techniques are well documented, her ideas have been prodigious. There has been many imaginative temporary displays designed and installed within the QT museum, all with the gracious help, expertise and teamwork of staff and many volunteers.
Roy says “Quaker Tapestry has not been a job for Bridget, more a true vocation using all of her talents, she has loved her work with a passion”
Bridget concludes, “I have most enjoyed the many creative projects within my role including that of designing the embroidery kits which enable individuals and community groups to learn the techniques in order to create their own projects”. Along side the kits came the creation of our invaluable Stitch Guide book and beautiful greetings cards, the sale of which help raise much needed funds for the charity.