Aman Group is a women’s only community group who meet at Manor Park Community Centre in Slough to learn from each other in friendship and participate in exercise, awareness sessions, health and beauty ideas and much more. In 2014, Sloughroots ‘Remedies-Remembered’ participants from the Aman Group got involved in a Quilt Project when they visited Museum of English Rural Life, and made 20 art panels reflecting feelings, colours, cultures, interests and values of the participants.
In March 2015, Aman Group, in partnership with Slough Borough Council, held an open morning, to discuss ideas for future sessions, and the ‘Sew Engaging’ project was on their list. ‘Please be here to set up your stall at 10.30’, they suggested, so I caught the village bus, taking the quilt and a suitcase of sewing supplies. Public transport doesn’t ‘connect up’ for rural commuters, one of the things we ‘hate’ about living in the country, but the M4 was grid-locked, due to an accident. I spent an hour waiting for the 0911 train, which was packed. ‘I thought you did well to get off at Reading,’ the Dispatcher said, grinning at my packages, but I caught the Slough shuttle and a friendly face met me at the station, ‘Welcome back’.
The ladies were gathering in the Gymnasium, ‘Lovely to see you again! Are you coming every week to teach us sewing?’ The up-cycled needlework kit I had sent them was still in the envelope, but it wasn’t long before some of the women drifted towards my table.
‘I loved sewing, until I had a stroke and lost the use of my arm, I wouldn’t be able to do it now’, one lady told me. How I wished I had brought a tapestry frame to show her, it holds the canvas taught so she could stitch with one hand. I encourage her to sort the yarn into colours. ‘I look after my family and do all my own work,’ she told me. ‘Needlework would give me a few minutes relaxation and something pretty to hang on the wall.’
Soon more volunteers begin work on the unfinished ‘Butterfly’ canvas, eager to brighten up the muted blues and pinks of the floral cushion cover with gold thread and bead work. This panel will be part of the ‘triptych’ showing things people love about the countryside. Other panels have been sent to the Chinese Women’s Group in Reading and the Powys Federation of Women’s Institutes, for their interpretation.
Next time, Jane visits Pennyhooks Care Farm near Oxford, and works with students who have Autistic Spectrum Disorder.