After 15 years, 77 panels, 4,000 people, 15 countries, and a young boy named Jonathan who wanted ‘something more interesting to do than colouring in’, the Quaker Tapestry was born.
I was very pleasantly surprised when I visited the exhibition in the sense that there was so much more to the tapestry than I had first thought. I was naive to how much hard work really went into the creation of such a masterpiece. I admire the consistency and enthusiasm of the 4,000 people who came together to tell a story through stitch.
‘How it all began’
The exhibition starts with an introductory 5-minute video, which introduces the remarkable Anne Wynn Wilson, the founder of the Quaker Tapestry. For the remainder of the tour you are given an audio guide which gives you a vivid description of some of the panels. There are also children-friendly guides available.
The Quaker Tapestry exhibition perfectly encompasses the community-led feel that the Quakers are so fond of.
Stories are revealed from within the 77 extraordinary and colourful panels, telling the tale of over 350 years of the Quaker movement. It is a celebration of years of work initiated by a gentleman named George Fox, who is the founder of Quakers. Like many others at the time, he was simply searching for a more accessible way to God and as a result, put forth a radical approach to religion.
A touch of the Lakes
With Cumbria being the birthplace of Quaker, the Lake District of course had a lot of influence on George Fox. The exhibition shows you a short film which tells of how the Quaker movement began in 1652. Many places in the Lake District such as Pendle Hill, Yorkshire Dales, The Howgills, Fox’s Pulpit and Swarthmoor Hall have each had their own influence on both George Fox and the Quaker movement, for the very same reasons that continue and will continue to influence us to this day.
I had no idea that the Quaker movement had so much involvement with trade within the town of Kendal; chocolates, shoes and money. Kendal is indeed a Fair-trade town, and with the help of Quaker connections it became the first in Cumbria. I'm sure you've heard of Clark’s shoes or Fry’s Chocolate – both founded or co-founded by Quakers.
The film is available in English, German, French, Dutch, Spanish and Japanese and is listened to through headphones.
Access and Families
The exhibition is that it is suitable for all walks of life. They have step-free access, audio guides with volume controls and a mobility scooter on site. The exhibition also has a free, albeit small car park so they advise that you ring ahead and reserve a space. It is play time galore for children, with interactive displays, dressing up and colouring. Children-friendly audio guides are also available. Visiting with a toddler? No problem. The Quaker exhibition has a special Adult with baby/toddler (0-4 years) admission rate of £2.50. Children 5 and over are free.
Healthy, fresh and delicious food is what you can expect to find at the Courtyard Café. It is child friendly, dog friendly and worker friendly – they have a children's corner, water for your four-legged friend and free wifi.
Room hire, group visits, school visits and school visits are available. There is also a gift shop where you can find books, dvds and cds, cards, embroidery kits and so much more.
It was clear that the staff and volunteers have such dedication and genuine enthusiasm for the exhibition which makes the overall experience a very positive one. You can guarantee to come away with a head full of knowledge and a smile on your face.
“Embroidery was the medium that provided the opportunities for this experiment in education, communication and community experience.” – Anne Wynn-Wilson, founder of the Quaker Tapestry.