Museums across Cumbria have joined together to open virtual doors since February. As many as 122 of us are taking part in ‘My Local Museum’ social media campaign with weekly themes. The campaign’s running until Tuesday 18th May, the day we open our real museum doors again. It’s been a lovely way for everyone to see the amazing collections we all look after.

For this week’s theme of music and dance we are sharing the story of a panel about the Leaveners and an exhibition in the museum about Money, Shoes and Chocolate.


The Leaveners is a performing arts organisation formed in 1978 by a group of Quakers all passionate about the arts. Anyone was invited to experience the power of the creative spirit through innovative arts projects, especially music and drama.

As a charity, the Leaveners had the support of patrons from the world of acting. These included: Judi Dench, Sheila Hancock, Ben Kingsley, John Whitney and Anna Wing.

Embroidering the Leaveners

One of the 77 panels that make up the Quaker Tapestry shows the Quaker Youth Theatre group, who were part of the Leaveners. This vibrant scene gives us a sense of the energy and drama of their performances – often about conflict resolution – with performances sometimes held abroad and often in the street.
The centre of the panel shows various projects and performances including one involving young people in Northern Ireland, both Protestant and Catholic. And, on the left, the Quaker Festival Orchestra and Chorus.


Along the bottom of the panel, you can see many of the activities the young artists were involved with. Here you can see the 40-foot dragon made during the 1978 annual meeting of Quakers, held in Lancaster. The dragon, a symbol of aggression, was slain during the performance. Then the newly-formed Leaveners mimed a parable about the triumph of love and peace over aggression.

Seeing the panels in person

Clarks Shoes

Included in your admission to the Quaker Tapestry is a lovely exhibition looking at Quaker businesses. Money, Shoes, Chocolate and all that is the title of this display. Fun for all the family, it answers the question of who were the innovative Quaker families running businesses from the 17th century to the present day? One of them is the Clarks shoe family, established in Somerset back in 1825.

The exhibition features a delightful poster advertising a red shoe designed by Alice Clark. Alice was very much part of the family business. In her late teens, Alice learnt the lighter processes of shoe-making. Top-stitching, on the shop floor and then she moved on to heavier processes in the cutting and bottoming rooms. By 1904, Alice held managerial roles in the business, directing the work of 300 women.

Buy something lovely and support our charitable work

If the story of the Leaveners has caught your eye, you can purchase a bookmark featuring details from the panel. And we have a selection of popular music CDs online too.

Your purchases help us to preserve and exhibit one of the world’s largest community embroideries. Helping us to share its stories, history and stitches for all to enjoy. If you can’t wait until we open our doors you can join our virtual tour and watch a little film about Joseph Rowntree and chocolate.

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“What an inspiring exhibition!”

J. Samuel – Liverpool