TRADITIONALLY, quilting groups have acted as catalysts for women to support each other. They work by getting a group of intergenerational women together, focusing on a creative project and sharing knowledge. As time goes on issues are brought up, advice is given, supports are formed and at the end of a winter a quilt is produced.
The creative act is a process of building community. Sharing skills. I was pleased to be asked back to work with a group of loyalist women for coronation decorations. I spent some really enjoyable Wednesday afternoons in the winter working with a group of women decorating letters and numbers. It was interesting to see which materials, colours and textures each person went for. Some of the women had really great creative skills with their hands, while others came back every week with more and more fantastical ideas along with the joy that comes from having them.
Creativity is a balm for the soul although my feminist principles have been challenged in the past around the sewing and knitting and craft skills I learnt at my mother's and grandmother's knees – skills which were developed in the gender segregated domestic science back in the day. Not only are children not being introduced to these skills, the population is missing the meditative calmness and joy that doing them can bring.
It was quite an experience watching the coronation on TV in France, a proud Republic with a history of the guillotine and getting rid of its monarchy. With numerous French reporters reporting live from London, they found everything from French cheese and umbrellas to French people who had come over to London for the experience. There was fleeting commentary on why the President of the Irish Republic would be there and Michelle O'Neill was highlighted as Prime/First Minister (the same French word was used).
Very little has been said about the fact that in this increasingly secular society millions of people all around the world were in fact watching a church service and what that energy and focus might generate.
We have to learn as a society to respect all of the different cultural traditions. This can be difficult, particularly if different ones trigger us and we feel bound into our historical family position. It's taken me my lifetime so far and I'm still on the journey. My French relatives wanted to know why Charles was getting crowned in what looked like a Catholic cathedral but was upholding the Protestant faith. There followed a conversation about the Huguenots' exile from France, Henry VIII, the introduction of divorce, land rights, the dissolution of the monasteries, Samuel Becket, Oliver Cromwell and the fact that Protestants have many different branches and decorative church interiors related to them. But are there any Catholics in the UK?, they they asked. Of course, was my reply, there is freedom of religion or belief.
Meanwhile in Belfast the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival chimed out to the sound of lots of galleries being open for Late Night Art (first Thursday of every month). Maybe put it in your diary for next month. If the weather is good it is a lovely evening to see what all the fuss is about with Belfast artists.