Honouring those who make it happen and our impacts
Last Thursday, the Significant Seams extended family gathered for a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday to Us’ and some laughs and reflections on our first five years. With samosas and pakoras from Naseem, a long term ESL student, and a cake emblazoned with the anniversary logo that Keir created, and a bit of bubbly, we cheered our achievements – and the sentiments and beliefs that make us a little bit different – and honoured our longest serving volunteers, Zelda and Kaye, on behalf of the whole team. We began an anniversary year project of collected the impacts we’ve had – from YOUR perspective – with a simple celebratory poster. Please pop in and write an impact we’ve had from your perspective on our birthday poster. It, and a permanent marker, are in 131 Wood Street now. We look forward to seeing you soon.
Catherine attempted to encapsulate our first five years, and foreshadow our next with the following remarks:
Thank you all for coming. As I’ve tried to figure out how to encapsulate what I believe to be an awe-inspiring five years of work, mostly unpaid, by at least 80 people in over 90,000 hours of activity, engaging 1,600 others and reaching audiences estimated as in excess of 135,000, I’ve been struck by the inadequacy of numbers, words, artistic outputs, and even pictures to represent change making. The activities and interactions which happen here and through our projects reflect collective belief in human potential and acceptance of human weaknesses. They accept imperfection and embrace the asking of questions, reflecting, and listening to others’ answers… and they go yet another step further. They invite participation in small but significant ways.
From Sew & Tell ESL sessions, so elegantly run by Zelda and Dee, to Supportive Social Stitching anchored by Cynthia and Ros, and upcycling and Ecology of Craft programmes particularly brought to life by Talula, Sheila, Kaye, Fran and Shamal our activities are building community, understanding and engagement with complex issues, and supporting and empowering people grappling with vulnerability – at a micro or macro level.
Additionally, by being our customers, sponsors and clients, the William Morris Gallery, Vestry House, Thorpe Hall School, Our Lady and St George, Gywn Jones Primary, Chapel End Juniors, Stow Brothers, Images in Frames, School for Social Entrepreneurs, Lloyds TSB, the Near Neighbours Fund, and the many wonderful makers here tonight are helping create an increased expectation of businesses. By buying services and products through us and other social enterprises you are enabling support to the vulnerable, an expectation of people and planet friendly businesses, and helping alleviate the struggles of residents of this neighbourhood, which is in the top 5% of deprivation nationally.
Change making comes from mutual understanding – from insights shared – from challenges not just survived, but learned from. It comes from positivity, mutual support through difficulty, and eloquent and evocative representations of what we’ve each learned. It also comes from using what we have, creatively and effectively. The collective brain trust of THIS community is what I find so awe inspiring. The numbers, the artworks, the snapshots: they represent the building of community, preventative medicine, and belief in our individual and collective ability to stitch up social wounds.
Here, we happen to use the metaphor of craft, but more importantly, I believe, we use the magic of community. Our work to date has been amply recognized – with Small Business of the Year Awards, with selection for participation in two national pilot schemes, and as of this week, being named a “Love Your Clothes’ Champion in the National Scheme to raise awareness of and combat Textile Waste. But its my view that the amazing, humble, and absolutely inspiring individuals who have been central and instrumental in making this anniversary possible have not. Sadly, but rightly, you all would boo me out of the room if I tried to name them all. So I would now like to embarrass, I mean acknowledge two of them in representation of them all. Would Zelda and Kaye, please come up? These two remarkable women are our two longest serving volunteers and have inspired many, many others and been rocks amidst for the staff team amidst many a tumultuous moment.
I invite and encourage you to ask them, and most anyone in this room tonight how they have interacted with Significant Seams. The array of ways is wildly varied, as are our cumulative impacts. I encourage your reflections, and invite you to share your ideas for new projects and activities we might undertake. As always, I also invite your purchases and encourage you to speak to our fabulous staff team: Fran, Shamal and Zelda about how your organization might commission us going forward.
Finally, please share a note about an impact we have had on our birthday poster. Many many thanks for coming tonight – and for being part of the project to strengthen the seams of community.