17 April 2019.
A purl-er of an idea from two women who met at a Coventry knitting group is blossoming into a network of friends coming together weekly to chat, craft and overcome isolation.
Even when one member is having a bad week or thinks they may not show up, the others rally round and they come anyway.
So how did the arts and crafts group start?
Michelle, from Grapevine’s Help and Connect project, met Tracy at Bell Green library’s knitting circle – a large, animated, all-female group who gather each Thursday to swap skills and put the world to rights.
Although beneficial for many, Michelle and Tracy felt the dynamics weren’t quite right for quieter voices who needed time to talk and get to know others first.
The ladies they were thinking of had learning disabilities, long term health conditions or different experiences with their mental health.
So the duo took a shared love of arts and crafts – plus a generous helping of Tracy’s personal craft supplies – and set up a new, smaller group on a different day.
Still at the library, the two-hour Tuesday session provides a space to create and catch up on the week’s events, lending an empathetic ear, advice or practical support as needed.
There are five core members (including a man now) of the purposely select group, meaning it remains safe and supportive – no posters on a notice board here. Everyone involved is accepting of one another’s differences.
Its need is undeniable as people regularly arrive early and leave later than the scheduled finish time. The session helps them feel more connected.
The library location has stuck because it is local and accessible even on days when it can be hard to leave the house. The library provides hot water and the group brings the tea, coffee and biscuits.
The five have also enjoyed Christmas lunch together at a local café and a cooked breakfast at another eatery across town.
Encouragement was evident at the session we attended when painting was on the agenda (other crafts have included Christmas decorations and 5D art) as Tracy coaxed: “If you always do the same thing, you never stretch yourself and you never find out what you can do.”
A fitting way to sum it up we thought.
Michelle recalls another recent exchange with Tracy along the lines of: “Are we doing something good here then?” – to which Michelle replied, “You don’t realise the impact this is having on people!”
From small gestures, come big things. And when Michelle moves on to help others get connected, she can be sure the group will continue.
Help and Connect by Grapevine is commissioned by Coventry City Council.
We’re celebrating this story as one of our 25 stories for 25 years of Grapevine. Look out for more stories and a big event coming this October!