Legacy, power and the in-between bits

On Friday a Craft Activism day was held as part of the Oxford Brookes Think Human festival. The #JusticeforLB quilt was on display for the first time in 18 months and Janet Read, one of the quilting team of four, was a presenter. Other presenters included Karen Nickell talking about textile art during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and Roxanne Ellis, who founded the Women’s Quilt celebrating the lives of 598 women killed by men between 2009-15.

The event was held at the Avado Gallery in Oxford.

It was blooming moving and powerful listening to Janet tell the story behind the making of the quilt.

Concerns about whether it may turn out to be a #JusticeforLB tea towel if not enough patches were sent. The bundle of patches from the Messy Church group arriving with still wet glue. Letters sent with stories and concerns around whether patches might not be ‘good enough’. The stretching of the patch size template… The small detail that Janet, Margaret Taylor and Janis Firminger had never made a quilt before.

Janet said when they first laid the patches out on the floor, they realised they had been given a gift. And cried.


Janet’s sister Jean Draper, a textile artist, was drafted in to help and the just under 300 patches from people aged 3-80 were transformed into a quilt of beauty, spontaneity and power.


During Janet’s talk I began to think about the in-between bits of the quilt. The individual patches have kind of eclipsed the quilting work. The joining together of different shaped patches into a spectacular whole and the artistic endeavour this involved.


Karen Nickell earlier talked about how invisible much textile art is, stored away in suitcases or attics. Undervalued within the art world (or dismissed as ‘soft furnishings’). The enormity of this quilt, like other objects of protest stitching, was breathtaking. Joanne Begiato rounded the event off reflecting on the ‘time traveller’ dimension of these objects which have a power beyond those who make them.

Bang on.

A Doughty Street gig

A couple of weeks ago I was involved in a Doughty Street evening event about strategic litigation. I didn’t know what this was but Kids for Law have helpfully produced three short films explaining it; using the law as a tool for social justice. I was asked to speak about the legacy of #JusticeforLB.

‘Ooh er’, I thought. ‘Legacy?’

The (attempted non) publication of the Leder review weeks earlier came to mind. How committed journalists worked to make a ‘buried’ report newsworthy. How editors were willing to take a punt on the unseen report. The passion and dedication demonstrated on that dark day.

This is an example of the legacy of the extraordinary efforts of families and allies to make the premature deaths of their daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, aunties, uncles, parents known and cared about. These issues have become more prominent, connections have been made, networks developed and countless people have stepped up to collaborate and be counted.

Another example is the truly wondrous pop up #CaminoLB walks that took place across the UK when we were walking the #JusticeforLB bus to Santiago. I can’t describe how moving it was to facetime brilliantly cheerful groups of people, many of whom had never met before, from the Camino. London, Cheshire, Kent, Devon, Birmingham…

Legacy is an important strand of social action I learned during the evening. Or steps made can wither away. I suppose, like the quilt, it’s now about looking beyond the headline patches. We can’t bottle the magic of #JusticeforLB but we can certainly start to think a bit more about the in-between bits. How it worked and why.

6 thoughts on “Legacy, power and the in-between bits

  1. Familes battle every day, to keep their beloved vulnerable sons and daughters safe – and alive – by patching all the holes in the Care supply chain.

    The paid people operating the system increase in number every day – and danger is sewn in to the fabric of this with every one.

    With every dodgy new link – lies huge risk. Particularly when son or daughter lives alone in so called supported or ‘independent’ living.

    From communicating with defensive and inexperienced ‘ fleas’ newly jumped on to the care job circuit to nudging and supporting overworked professionals of every texture and competence, and monitoring sensitive agency plus carers, and checking on administrators and all their paper work – etc etc, in Housing , LA, NHS etc – and all there is between…Care and safety has to be stitched in – by a family.

    Plus ESA and PIP forms and LA financial and care asssessments. Completed, as best – by the family.

    The family is patching like mad – as new holes emerge all over the place.

    In a very ragged garment.

    That is why our childen live miserable lives – and that it is why they die far too soon.

    • Yes, I agree with rosienobbly, brilliantly put.
      It explains 8 years of effort for me. Before that it was ‘me, myself, I’ doing the care seamlessly. Others aren’t seamless because they often pay little attention, are paid a lot of money, but keep ‘forgetting’ details that matter.
      It wouldn’t be allowed in other jobs, like medical research labs or in catering (for example), but working on a living human being has room for continuous daily mistakes.

  2. THANK YOU, Janis, Janet, Margaret and everyone else, who dared to speak out, about the INHUMANE Social / Health Care system, which cost Connor his life, for daring to speak out,with your QUILT.

    As a disabled person, dependent on the Social Care System, i have spoken out, only t have my support wwithfrw

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