Derry weaves its magic

Weaving the world. (1606SL26)
Weaving the world. (1606SL26)

If someone had have told me this time last week that I’d contribute to a weaved tapestr I’d have called them insane.

But guess what, that’s exactly what happened when I walked into St. Augustine’s Church on Friday morning.

Locally known as the ‘wee church on the walls’, St. Augustine’s is the location of the ‘Big Weave’ project.

The ‘Big Weave’ is a global event aimed at promoting weaving but at St. Augustine’s they have given it a bit of local flavour.

The ‘Big Weave’ started on Monday but it’s been 18 months in the planning.

Those responsible for organising the event decided they wanted people from all walks of life to drop in to St. Augustine’s and try their hand weaving.

The group came up with the idea of weaving six medium-sized tapestries which depict local landmarks such as the Peace Bridge, Shipquay Gate and First Derry Presbyterian Church.

However, the project’s main showpiece is a large tapestry depicting Derry’s patron saint, St. Columba, on board a curragh as he leaves Ireland for Iona.

“We’ve been pleasantly surprised by just how much interest there has been in this project,” said St. Augustine’s Reverend Pat Storey.

“We’ve had people from all over the world coming in to take part and then when they are finished we give them a label to write a little message on and ask them to place it on the tree near the church - some of the messages have been absolutely lovely,” she said.

As a result of St. Augustine’s Church being so close to Derry’s iconic Walls, many tourists have taken time out from their sojourn around the famous landmark to try their hand at a bit of weaving.

“Only yesterday we had a man from Poland taking part and we’ve also had people from Italy, North America and even as far away as Japan getting involved,” explained Rev. Storey.

Diane Wood is the lead artist on the ‘Big Weave’ project. She said that not only did it help people appreciate the art of weaving but it also provided the opportunity for old friends to catch up and for new friendships to be created.

“Quite a few of the people who have come here over the last five days have met up with old friends. They are able to try a bit of weaving and then if they want, they can get a cup of tea and a chat - I think it’s a wonderful project.

“The art weaving is something that is not as popular as it once was but all you have to do is look around you to see just how all of the people are enjoying themselves.

“We’ve had young and old, men and women and those with plenty of experience of weaving and those who are trying it for the first time - we want as many people as possible to come along and get involved.”

The fact the youngest person to take part was four years-old and the oldest was a woman in her nineties just goes to prove how universally appealing the ‘Big Weave’ project.

It’s totally family friendly and the welcome you receive at the door as totally sincere and warm.

“Now it’s your turn,” Diane said to me.

If I am honest, I was a little nervous at the start but after listening to Diane, who has years of experience, I was soon well on my way to contributing to the Peace Bridge tapestry.

Once I got the hang of it, I found weaving each piece of wool strangely therapeutic and when the finished tapestry is donated to the people of Derry via Derry City Council, I, along with hundreds of other people ,will be able to say, ‘See that up there?, I helped out with that.’

The Big Weave project is funded by the Culture Company, Derry City Council, Priorities Fund of the Church of Ireland and the Hon. the Irish Society.

The Big Weave runs until June 29 and is open to the public from Monday to Saturday 10am - 4pm.

St. Augustine’s Church is on Palace Street; for more information follow the group on Twitter: @derryweave or check out their blog at www.thederryweave.blogspot.com