NW Regional Day write-up

Merseyside branch offered to host the 2020 NW Regional Day and had booked the venue, speakers and stall holders etc when the pandemic struck. After renegotiating with all participants, we eagerly anticipated the meeting in 2021 – you know what comes next – the pandemic continued but our meeting could not. Ticket money was refunded and we were left without a meeting.

The amazing Merseyside branch, led by Vicky Williams had an audacious plan. They would still hold a meeting but this time using Zoom. My branches use Zoom for occasional speakers, workshops and general chats but never for a whole day, how could they make it work? Well, I have to report that it was an amazing success. The meeting was introduced by our Regional Chair, Sue Chisnall-Sumner and after formalities, where we were asked to mute and not be seen, the fun began. The traders were invited to demonstrate and discuss what they had for sale, several of them then offered an online discount.

After a short comfort break we had the first of the speakers, Linda Millar with her talk on ‘Creative Machine Embroidery’. The screen was split, and she demonstrated how to use a sewing machine, perhaps more clearly visible than you would see at a workshop. We were then able to drool over her extensive number of pieces. Most containing people, pets and /or countryside. She worked very small brooches to larger pieces of about a metre and examining the work at such close quarters showed the density of stitches. She mainly used a simple running stitch with a variety of threads, but I won’t say more as you may want to hear her too.

We had nearly an hour for lunch and as the day was glorious, I took my sandwich into the garden – good to stretch the legs and get some fresh air. More trader presentations and then the charity, Sreepur Village, who are well supported by Merseyside, was introduced by Janette who is the daughter of Rubina (Ruby) Porter, who many of us know. Ruby had made 47 visits to Bangladesh, teaching the girls how to stitch and make a living. There are also school rooms and classes for all subjects – they are totally inspirational and I am so proud to know Ruby.

A short break and then Michele Carragher gave a lecture ‘The Embroidered Narrative:Costume Embroidery for Film and Television’. Michelle has worked on many productions including the one that many will know, Game of Thrones. This production has never attracted me, and I wondered how and where embroidery would fit into a medieval /fantasy theme. How wrong I was. Her embroidery was exquisite and perhaps not obvious to start with, but once pointed out became such an integral part of the production. Her collars were amazing, designed to match the personality of the wearer, but looking more like a very fat sausage than a delicate collar that we might wear. She explained that once commissioned, she would never be quite sure if her pieces would survive the cutting room edits, and if they did, they might only be a fleeting image. She also told us that she often had to make perhaps 8 of the same piece because in the course of the story they might get damaged, covered in mud or even blood. Again, if you have the opportunity to hear her speak about her work, don’t miss it – I might even have to watch an episode of the programme just to spot her work!

A quick comfort break and then competition results. Yes, we still held our two competitions, but this time we sent in a photo and once we had registered we sent in our votes. Another tradition was our raffle and yet again we had a theme of hand made bags filled with goodies. A draw was made for 7 items. Vicky then closed the meeting with a few words, and I hope she soon had a gin and tonic in her hand!

As a former NWR chair I understand the worry and stress before an ordinary meeting, but I have to compliment Vicky and her team (I dare not mention names in case I forget one). They were very brave to take on such an unusual venture, but the many many hours of preparation were obvious. The technical skills that they had to learn were amazing and they never flinched with the odd hitches. All the presentations, lectures and stalls that we would expect at a Regional day were available but from the comfort of one’s own armchair. It was an honour to have participated in such a wonderful day. Val Coleshaw