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A stitch in time saves … the NHS

An exhibition of quilts representing the vital role of the NHS and its workers during Covid opens in Yorkshire today, the service’s 74th anniversary, writes PETER LAZENBY

THE NHS is under greater threat today than at any time in its existence.

Repeated warnings of lengthening waiting lists, desperate staff shortages and a growing danger of collapse are music to the ears of a government intent on seeing the whole service privatised.

But today NHS supporters and campaigners are celebrating the 74th anniversary of the founding of the NHS.

One celebration is an exhibition organised by campaign group 999 Call for the NHS.

“Threads of Survival” depicts the vital role of the NHS during the Covid pandemic.

It features a powerful and moving collection of textiles and hand-made quilts created by people who believe in the future of the NHS.

It opened today at its latest venue, the minster in the town of Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, arriving from its latest showing in Cornwall.

Steven Carne, chair of 999 Call for the NHS, said: “We’ve had a fantastic response from our first exhibitions and the collection is growing every month. We think people will be blown away with the diverse themes and images.”

It’s not for the faint-hearted.

“Threads of Survival began in August, 2020. People were invited to sew their stories and experiences of pandemic life and to reflect on the importance of the NHS in our lives.

“In the true tradition of community quilting the exhibition features work from both professional artists and first-time quilters.”

The project grew as more groups and individuals took up the invitation to get sewing.

The project has more than 20 quilts made by groups from East Anglia, West and South Yorkshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Somerset, Co Durham, Surrey, London, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.

Quilters of Denby Dale in Yorkshire have contributed.

Local organiser Kate Tunstall said: “Threads of Survival sounded like it was something that local sewing groups could get behind. 

“We thought a Denby Dale quilt would be an important way of bringing people together and recognising what we have all been through. 

“It’s a lovely project to support and be part of. And it will be wonderful to know our town is being represented in the Threads of Survival Covid quilt collection.”

Chrissie Parker, co-ordinator of a quilt made in Kirklees in West Yorkshire, said: “I felt strongly that my local community needed a project like Threads of Survival to help people find connections with one another. 

“I know everyone who took part found it helpful in staying well during such a difficult and stressful time. And it was an opportunity to speak out. 

“From a conversation on Zoom in Lockdown 1, who would have thought Threads of Survival would be touring the country with 26 quilts involving people with and without internet connection through local groups?”

The exhibition was launched from Gawthorpe Hall in Burnley in Lancashire where it was part of the prestigious British Textile Biennial in 2021 and over 3,200 visitors came to see it. The quilts are on display in Dewsbury Minster, Rishworth Road WF12 8DD.

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