community project august-september 2019
This project focused upon induvial and collective values. It was made possible through the support of Chris Denyer, vicar for Stour Downs parish, who opened the doors to all the Norman churches – Mersham, Smeeth, Brabourne, Stowting, Sellindge and Monks Horton, so the community could participate. The tapestry was also taken out into local schools, coffee mornings and village halls.
The Stour Downs, Kent, England has survived untroubled by the world hurtling by on the motorway and fast speed railway, until now. With 14,000 new homes to be created in this area in the next ten years, it is of concern as to what the impact will have on the present community, its infrastructure, wildlife and farmland. The objective was to invite the dispersed and indigenous population to come together and identify their distinctiveness, with the aim to empower the joint community; enabling them to feel more positive and optimistic in absorbing and amalgamating the influx of new residents, along with the change in pace and amenities for old and young alike.
To achieve this, a participating tapestry was devised, offering everyone whatever their ability an equal status in contributing to the finished work without casting judgement on their skills. The concept stemmed from the idea to commemorate the traditional tapestries sown 40 years ago for all the kneeling mats within these churches. This tapestry needed to acknowledge the roots within the community but in a new, fresh and contemporary way. As a farming community the subject of abundance and famine merged well with the annual harvest festival, where the completed work could travel around the six churches.
To complement the theme of a harvest, the tapestry was made up from indigenous and edible plants, with a background in wheat, with two fish constructed from herbs and foraged native vegetation – sewn onto an agricultural plastic mesh, used to shelter young shoots from the external elements and to foster early growth.
Over 71 residence contributed to the artwork, including primary school pupils, community groups and nursing home patients, all from within the area.