At the Quaker Tapestry Museum
In this blog, for the week’s theme of ‘Changing Landscapes’, we are highlighting the ‘Flood Tapestry’ panels created by the community in Kendal, Cumbria after the devastating floods that followed Storm Desmond in 2015.
We are participating in the #MuseumCarbonStories campaign, as part of the Roots and Branches project to support museums to become Carbon Literate and take action against climate change.
The campaign is taking place in the run-up to the UK hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 31 October – 12 November 2021. HOME – UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the SEC – Glasgow 2021 (ukcop26.org)
Flooding at the Quaker Tapestry
In December 2015, record-breaking rainfall from Storm Desmond caused mass flooding across Cumbria, affecting 5,200 houses and causing £500m of damage. Kendal became one of the badly affected towns, with Cumbria’s sole casualty and 2,150 properties flooded, when the River Kent burst its banks and overwhelmed existing flood defences.
Here at the Quaker Tapestry the ground floor narrowly avoided being flooded, due to the void under the building, which channelled away the water. However, the flood waters did rise up to the undersides of the floorboards, reaching the front doors and completely washing away the garden, leaving a sea of debris behind. An abiding memory of those that were with us back then is of the trapdoors in peripheral parts of the building, opened up and cordoned off with dehumidifiers nearby to air out the underfloor for months afterwards.
The Flood Tapestry
We were lucky to come away relatively unscathed, but many Kendalians were not. Homes and livelihoods were lost and the scars were still deeply felt 12 months later when the community, inspired by the Quaker Tapestry, decided to come together to create a ‘Flood Tapestry’ marking the event. The Flood Tapestry records the voices of those who were affected by the flood and celebrates the remarkable resilience of our community when faced with disaster.
We met in the museum so that everyone had the opportunity to look at the Quaker Tapestry – providing inspiration for the project. We were delighted to welcome so many individuals from the local community into the project who shared their experiences and expertise, including schools, youth groups, churches, community organisations and other groups. People chose to attend for a variety of reasons. Some had been flooded, some had helped relatives or friends who had been flooded, some people were not directly affected but felt they wanted to be part of the project and share their memories of Storm Desmond.
The creation of the wall hanging was facilitated by Donna Campbell, a textile artist commissioned by the Quaker Tapestry Museum. The Tapestry was designed and created over the course of numerous workshops. A photographer documented the pieces of work, from all the groups, not just the Quaker Tapestry sessions. Although serving as the inspiration, new techniques were used that do not feature in the Quaker Tapestry, including silk painting and needle felting. Some attendees who were keen to write, sharing their memories and feelings about Storm Desmond others were keen to draw and some were on with stitching. It was a hive of activity. All the materials and resources were provided along with refreshments and gentle encouragement.
Over the months, numerous people contributed to the project – regardless of their crafting or artistic ability, as the stories people told were just as valuable to the project. These photographs were eventually included within a lovey booklet to treasure. We came to realise that it was not possible to include all of the many images created in the final design, yet all the images fit within the booklet. This showed the fantastic range of images that were created towards inspiring the finished wall hanging. You can download the booklet about the project here: Flood Tapestry Booklet.
After a dedicated effort, not without its moments of panic, (like a beautiful silk painting of a motorcyclist dismounting his bike in flood water going missing!) The Flood Tapestry was completed in 2019. The Flood Tapestry Project was an uplifting, hopeful and rewarding experience for all. It brought our community together in a time when everyone needed it the most.
Flood Tapestry Afterlife
Post-completion, The Flood Tapestry went on display in the Meeting Room, Friends Meeting House before going on its travels – first to Sandylands Church and then on to Scotland, spreading a message of hope and community resilience in the face of a climate-change-driven natural disaster.
If you enjoyed reading this blog, check out some of our other blog posts:
Find out about ‘Ecology and Nature’ at the museum in our #MuseumCarbonStories blog
Discover the fascinating story of the pioneering scientist John Dalton
Learn about how Stramongate School helped the First World War effort through gardening and land work
Supporting the Quaker Tapestry
We hope you have enjoyed reading our blog and gained an insight into the history the flood tapestry.
We couldn’t accept and care for our tapestries and other wonderful artefacts without our dedicated Care and Conservation team. However we need your help to…
– Create an improved database of the extensive Quaker Tapestry collection of supplementary items
– Develop best practice of the Care and Conservation volunteers through further training
Your donation will help us achieve our goals and ensure the longevity of the exhibition and collection. Please consider making a donation
Alternatively, if you are looking for gift ideas why don’t you check out our online shop?
Quaker Tapestry Facts
The colourful tapestry panels measure 63.5cm x 53.3cm and are made using a mix of five ancient stiches and a new one, invented for the project. Embroiderers around the world now use the ‘Quaker Stitch’.
World traveller and writer Alexander McCall Smith, says they’re one of the ‘six best tapestries’ to see in the world.
The panels help you find out about famous scientists, engineers, bankers, botanists and non-conformists who pioneered industrial welfare, fair trade, prison reform, peace work and anti-slavery initiatives. Many were Cumbrians.
Begun in 1981 and completed in 1996, they’re the work of 4,000 men, women and children from around the world. Some of the panels made journeys of thousands of miles as they passed from one group of people to another.