An art project aimed at uniting the community after the trauma of lockdown saw over 200 people contribute to making an enormous memory quilt.

The event at The Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society was organised by Falmouth-based artist, Jessica Voke.

Falmouth Packet: Artist Jessica Voke in front of the quilt panelArtist Jessica Voke in front of the quilt panel (Image: Sarah Edom)

The five-day event explored the traumatic experiences of first time mums during the periods of national lockdown in a week of communal making, to which the whole town was invited.

Falmouth Packet: Textiles students Tilde and Jeannie assemble the quiltTextiles students Tilde and Jeannie assemble the quilt (Image: Jessica Voke)

Setting up an exhibition and workroom in the ground floor gallery room of The Poly, the people of Falmouth were given an open invitation to drop in, grab a cup of tea, and spend some time working together with strangers, slow-stitching an enormous community quilt.

Falmouth Packet: A busy worktable A busy worktable (Image: Jessica Voke)

Each participant hand-embroidered a small scrap of fabric, which was then added to the patchwork by a volunteer team of quilting experts collaborating with textile students from the university. The resulting quilt of vibrant rainbow colours grew as the week progressed.

Falmouth Packet: At work on the quiltAt work on the quilt (Image: Jessica Voke)

Before sitting down to stitch, participants were invited to listen to an audio installation of local mothers speaking about their difficulties during lockdown.

People found themselves reliving traumatic memories and even shedding tears and sharing embraces with fellow stitchers, who not long before had been strangers.

Falmouth Packet: Gallery visitorsGallery visitors (Image: Joe Weaving)

Jessica Voke she believes it was necessary for the community to assemble and address the traumas caused by isolation, in order for healing to begin.

The event was very well attended, with over 200 local people contributing to the quilt, including the Falmouth mayor Steve Eva.

Falmouth Packet: Textiles student Molly chats with Falmouth mayor Steve Eva Textiles student Molly chats with Falmouth mayor Steve Eva (Image: Jessica Voke)

“The demographic was wonderfully mixed, enabling older residents to spend precious time sitting together with students and discussing their differing experiences of both lockdown and daily life,” said Jessica.

Falmouth Packet: Rebecca Ryan and Lauren Gauge's poetry performanceRebecca Ryan and Lauren Gauge's poetry performance (Image: Joe Weaving)

“Plenty of lockdown mums attended, seeking catharsis for what they endured. Attendees commented on the remarkable atmosphere in the gallery as the richly-embellished quilt gradually emerged; each stitch made by a Falmouthian during conversation with a stranger. “ As such, the quilt is the community's connectedness made visible.

Falmouth Packet: Participants in front of the quiltParticipants in front of the quilt (Image: Jessica Voke)

The week ended with a ritualistic enfolding of some local mums in the finished quilt, alongside powerful poetry performances.

Finally, an emotional toast was raised to the end of social isolation and the 50-strong crowd raised their glasses and cheered for a more connected future.

Falmouth Packet: Jessica Tate's poetry performanceJessica Tate's poetry performance (Image: Joe Weaving)

The finished community quilt and audio installation will be on display at the Falmouth Art Gallery, 24th April – 20th May 2023.

Falmouth Packet: Quilters at workQuilters at work (Image: Jessica Voke)