Hello there. Sorry I’ve not been about much of late. Life has been very busy and I’ve just not had the time for blogging lately. However, I did something yesterday which I simply had to share. Here goes…
I’m not sure when I first heard about Craftivism, but I know it was well over a year ago. I have followed the work of Sarah Corbett from the Craftivist Collective for quite some time and found her method of ‘gentle protest’ so inspiring. The act of making for a cause; to raise awareness about something which needs to be spoken and thought about but in a quiet, gentle, thoughtful way rather than by shouting and waving placards. Whilst there is always a place for such things sometimes being quiet has a bigger impact than getting peoples’ backs up and shouting loudly.
I was reminded about Sarah’s work when I watched the BBC2 documentary ‘Craftivism: Making a Difference’ with the comedienne Jenny Eclair. In it she explored different methods of craftivism with different activists on topics from equal pay in the production of fast fashion by placing little notes into the pockets of clothes in shops to encouraging women to have smear tests by putting pairs of miniature knickers in public toilets. Sarah was one of the craftivists Jenny spoke to and she gave a compelling case for the effectiveness of Craftivism and the art of gentle protest.
After watching the documentary I was compelled to buy Sarah’s book ‘How to be a Craftivist’ and on reading it was amazed to see the amount of workshops she had led and the sheer scale of her one-woman mission. She’s spoken to groups all over the UK and many overseas as well. At her workshops she encourages people to mindfully craft something which will help focus attention on a whole host of causes including minimum wage as worker’s rights, to the environment and equality.
The book ‘How to be a Craftivist’ came beautifully wrapped with a ribbon and a yellow ‘Crafterthought’ pencil to write down my own crafterthoughts after reading it!
I decided that I had to contact Sarah and ask if she would consider being a guest on my Making Stitches Podcast. Much to my amazement, despite being a very small scale podcast I was thrilled when I got a positive reply. Our interview date was set and in the intervening weeks my trepidation grew at speaking to such an inspiring woman. There was no need though, she was so lovely.
We spoke for more than the hour we had planned and by the time our chat finished I was more than won over to the cause of ‘gentle protest’ and offered my services to help with Sarah’s latest campaign to raise awareness about the need to reduce carbon ahead of this year’s COP26 summit in Glasgow.
You can hear my chat with Sarah for the Making Stitches Podcast here.
I became the contact for a ‘flock’ of Canary Craftivists who would get together in an iconic spot in Manchester (as many flocks will do up and down the UK and further afield), dress in yellow and mindfully create canaries either by sewing, knitting or crocheting them. The plan is to then send the canaries to our local MPs to put pressure on those going to COP26 to remember the need for urgent action to halt the rapid pace of climate change.
I have to admit that this is not my usual kind of thing to do on a Saturday morning. I felt well and truly out of my comfort zone co-ordinating a small group of crafters from across Greater Manchester to get together and quietly make a stand.
First of all canaries are yellow, and yellow is such a happy uplifting colour which inspires hope. Secondly though, canaries played an important role in checking for clean air. Miners would take the birds down pits in the knowledge that if the canaries stayed alive, there were no poisonous gases about in the tunnels and shafts. If the birds died, it was time to get out and up onto the surface quickly. These little fabric birds are our way of saying it’s time to do something before we choke the planet with poisonous gases any more than it is already, and in fact we need to reverse the trend and quickly.
We kept the location and time of our flock secret to avoid attracting the attention of any troublemakers who might want to take advantage of our action. It was also a deliberately small group both for Covid reasons and because all of us are new to this – the aim of this campaign is to attract people who perhaps wouldn’t otherwise join a climate protest. I have to admit that our group was slightly smaller than we had hoped but the dreaded Track and Trace ping hit a few of our planned flock.
Our uniform was to be dressed in some yellow. Yellow isn’t a common feature in my wardrobe, although I did have a pair of yellow jeans. I added to my ensemble by sewing a yellow face mask and crocheting a yellow canary cape.
I finished my cape the night before and added the ribbon which came wrapped around my How to be a Craftivist book to be an appropriate way of fastening it at the front. The words on the ribbon say ‘little by little we travel far’.
The weather was kind to us, we woke up to bright, clear blue skies above Manchester. I jumped onto a yellow (on message) tram into the centre of Manchester ready for the flock.
We chose St Peter’s Square as the venue as it’s easy to get to via public transport, it’s very central and has the iconic backdrop of Central Library, trams & the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst too (someone who could teach us a thing or two about campaigning!).
We set up camp on one of the benches and got busy!
Gemma and her daughter Evie wore the most amazing costumes they had made for the event…
It was a really positive experience- my fellow Craftivists were all lovely as were the people who stopped to ask us what we were doing and why. We were able to direct them to the Craftivist Collective website so that they could find out how to make their own canary to send to their MP.
All in all, this ‘flock’ has been a truly positive experience and an opportunity to meet some lovely crafty folk.
If you would like to have a go either forming your own flock or making a canary to send to your MP, please visit the Craftivist Collective website for all the help you’ll need.