East Belfast stitches together its community.
by Zoe McGivern
Lagan Village Youth and Community Centre, recent- ly showcased the work of its inter-cultural women’s group who came together to work on a community quilt project.
The project has brought together more than 20 peo- ple from the area to make a large patchwork quilt which represents the people and places that have made it.
The project which received funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, got neighbours engag- ing with each other, and then collaborating together, with many learning new skills, sewing for the first time. The project has proved to be an opportunity for participants to learn together about the local community, its culture and history.
Many of the quilting group, who originate from the local area, Africa, Eastern Europe and as far as the United States, did not know each other before the project began, and had few sewing skills. Together, they attended workshops in Lagan Village Youth and Community Centre, off the Lower Ravenhill Road area of Belfast, where they developed new skills. Each participant made a beautiful and skilled patch representing their culture or nationality.
Participants explored the different cultural make up in the area while together coming up with inspired and thoughtful ideas behind their patches.
Project facilitator, Councillor Sonia Copeland, UUP Member for Titanic Ward at Belfast City Council, says: “Traditionally quilts have been a way to express peace and bring people together in times of conflict.
“The aim of making this quilt was to create some- thing that not only represented the whole community, but actually included them in the making of it.
“The finished quilt represents the diversity present in East Belfast in a beautiful way. Each patch has incredible detail; there is something to see every time you look at it, and a story behind each patch.”
George Newell, Lagan Village Community Development Worker, said, “It is wonderful to see so many members of the local community coming together to learn new skills and share aspects of their traditions, cultures and personalities.
“This project has allowed our participants not only to engage in inter-cultural dialect, but has permit- ted those taking part to explore their own personal history, while making lasting friendships along the way.”
Local community member, and volunteer at the centre, Jenny Hughes, told how the project has been positive in many ways:
“I couldn’t sew at all before I started this project and now I sew on a daily basis. The skills I have learned taking part in this community quilt have provided me with a positive outlet.
“I find it extremely therapeutic, and truly see it as a skill which can help with well-being.”
The community quilt project has allowed partici- pants to be a small part of something bigger, which will hopefully last for generations to come, depicting the cultural diversity present in this area of Belfast in 2015-16.