THE QUILT HANGING
Monumental in its form, height and size, the Grenfell Memorial Quilt Hanging will commemorate those lives lost in the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
A 220’ by 72’ patchwork – the dimensions of the outside walls of Grenfell Tower – the quilt was inspired by the memorial walls that appeared around the community after the inferno. Organically decorated, covered and adorned these typically nondescript walls were transformed into resplendent shrines, covered with outpourings of love, sorrow and defiance: humane responses expressed through flowers, plants, sacred objects, prayers, poems, rhymes and messages.
The walls became vigil sites: beautiful, melancholic and sacred spaces, a place for mourners to read, pray, sing and contemplate. Tides of people from all faiths, creeds, cultures, communities and cities came with handcrafted, heartfelt tributes.
Seasons passed and deteriorating weather conditions made maintaining the memorial walls harder. This compelled me to create
an inclusive, community art piece that captured the memorial walls characteristics and sentiments, the sense of community, provide a safe place to express your feelings.
The Grenfell Memorial Quilt will be made up of 18 sections of 12’ x 12’ panels, tied with lace. Sections can be separated and displayed at local commemorative events.
Using a quilting technique called Jelly Roll (pre-cut 2.5” fabric strips), donated fabrics are recycled and cut into strips, then sewn end to end to create yards of kaleidoscopic, patterned fabric of many colours and textures, representing the essence of the people which make up the rich fabric of our communities.
Each 12’ x12’ panel is then embellished by each person to create a distinctive, ornate piece, using stitched, glued, painted, written, crocheted, embroidered, knitted, and embellished with sparkling gems and glitter.
All the tributes donated will be hand sewn like appliqué onto the 12’ x 12’ quilt panels. The quilt is a way of not only protecting and safeguarding the celebratory commemorative tributes, it has also made it possible for all those in wider communities to contribute
A few years ago, keen to make quilts for my grandchildren, a good friend, Alexandra Brown, a Saville Row tailor, taught me some sewing techniques using silk remnants she donated from her work. Inspired, I began researching quilting techniques from around the world I discovered the ‘NAMES’ Project’s AIDS Memorial Quilt: an ongoing community folk-art project that celebrates the lives lost to Aids and brings awareness to the AIDS cause. The piece stayed with me and when the Grenfell tragedy occurred and memorial walls appeared, then disappeared, I thought the quilt would be a way to commemorate those lives lost in the tower and give a voice to the community.
Production began at my home, assisted by Alexandra, with friends joining us, but, as the quilt’s size and project’s membership grew, it became evident that more space was needed and we relocated to the basement of the Notting Hill Methodist Church.
The Grenfell Quilting Bee began: collecting fabric donations, then sorting, selecting, cutting, tearing, washing, starching, ironing and unpicking. A sewing machine was donated by my Uncle’s oldest friend and I bought a roller cutter and a large grid ruler from USA to increase the speed we could cut the strips. Gradually, developing into effcient production line, for the quilt to grow-to 220 feet.
In May when the Notting Hill Methodist Church started renovations, we introduced the idea of the quilt to several local community groups such as Kids on The Green, Angels for Grenfell and the Curve – groups were set up in support of the Grenfell cause – and found an army of people were ready to contribute to the quilt. New Grenfell Memorial Quilting Bees are forming all the time, most recently by wecoproduce.com: who will be coordinating staff, patients and carers at West London Mental Health Trust, and another small group of ladies in Yarlswood Detention Centre.
Wanting to have a completed panel to display for the first year commemorations, I put out a call for more hands and was invited along to neighbourlycare.org.uk in Ealing, an activity and well-being community organisation, are now assisting with the quilt until completion.
The Grenfell Memorial Quilt’s chief aim is to provide an outlet for the emotions or those affected directly or indirectly by the Grenfell Tower tragedy, to create a sense of community and support resulting in a life-affrming, humane tribute: a counterpoint to the callous, inhumane motives which resulted in the unjust deaths 72 people.
But the quilt is also a reminder. A call to action regarding building materials regulations. Although new regulations were put into place many years prior to the fire, the use of such dangerous perilous materials continue. This tragedy must be prevented from ever happening again. All tenants in our communities living in the towers need to be ensured that they have the correct measures of protection and safeguarding.