After more than three million knitted stitches, thousands of hours of warm conversation and countless shared stories, as well as many hundreds of cups of tea and a lot of cake, the six-year ‘Knit the Walls’ community-focused art project will come to an end this November.
Across the month, God’s House Tower (GHT) will host a final exhibition and series of public events and activities, commissioned by Southampton arts organisation ‘a space’ arts, to celebrate the project, its creations and its many contributors.
‘Knit the Walls’ is a co-created community art project, conceived and led by Southampton-based artist Sarah Filmer, working alongside city residents in the production of a knitted version of the city’s medieval walls. The project emerged from the realisation that whilst the walls have silently witnessed the everyday lives of millions of the city’s residents over hundreds of years, the stories we hear of the city’s past describe the big events, those of national and international importance. But we each live our own day-to-day existence, with small occurrences and personal stories comprising our individual lived experiences – often of no interest or consequence to anyone but ourselves and those close to us.
Since 2016, the work has seen an ever-growing, evolving community of contributors come together each month at God’s House Tower and other venues, bringing together hundreds of knitters from across Southampton’s diverse communities and beyond. ‘Knit the Walls’ has offered a space to gather, knit, to be creative, or just to chat, laugh, and be surrounded by community.
The knitters have attained the confidence of ownership, and have taken the initial concept of the knitted stones and let their collective and individual creativity guide them to new places. Sections of wall have been constructed; there are knitted suits – an outcome from trying to imagine ‘being’ the walls; and video projections of the knitted suit-wearers eerily animating the stones in GHT.
In recent months, the project has evolved further through the creation of other knitted objects, the outcomes of which will feature in the final exhibition, launching at GHT on Friday 11th November. Just as the stone walls hold the stories of the city, household objects hold our personal stories, and knitters have been encouraged to bring items and encase them with stitches, to contribute to a woollen ‘front room’ complete with knitted wallpaper, that will feature in the final exhibition.
Sarah Filmer commented: “during an artist’s residency in God’s House Tower in 2015, i wondered how we might access or channel the stories witnessed by the walls over 700 years, stories that were somehow held within the fabric of the stones. ‘Knit the Walls’ emerged from these musings, inviting knitters to make connections with women of the past, through actions now.
“Since 2016, the ‘Knit the Walls’ community has arrived and thrived through word-of-mouth and social media. I have held sessions monthly ever since, with between 20 and 50 people joining each time – some regulars, some occasional, and every time, some new people.
“There has never been pattern for this project, nor any rules. Each knitter has been invited to knit freely, the wool and needles becoming tools of expression. as the stones in the walls are each different, so are the knitted stones – an assortment of size, shape, skill, and colour. Knitting has long been a way to bring people together for social contact and sharing news, though rarely as a pattern-less, in-the-moment, sensory and expressive creative practice.”
Andreas and Cristina attended their first ‘Knit the Walls’ session four years ago and became regular contributors. They said: “We turned up to the first session without any clue about knitting, no needles no yarn, not even the most basic knowledge of it. Absolutely nothing. In no time we were warmly welcomed. We were equipped with yarn, needles, basic instructions, and negotiating our first horrible knots, but surrounded by an amazing group people. It was just awesome.
“Knitting is an amazing activity and very easy to embrace. But for us, the most striking aspect of it is the rewarding feeling that your little squalid patch can contribute to a far bigger and beautiful piece of art, empowered by the whole community of knitters. It is an opportunity to share a great time with a group of lovely people that you get to know in a relaxed and fun atmosphere. We couldn’t be more proud and grateful for the existence of this project in Southampton.”
Daniel Crow, Director of ‘a space’ arts, said: “Sarah and her work have been integral in creating the modern incarnation of God’s House Tower. Before the refurbishment project began and the monument was transformed into what it is today – in fact not long after we got the keys – Sarah became artist-in-residence. She led a small and passionate group of artists who played a pivotal role in re-imagining the building for the next phase of its existence, and helping us to realise the potential artists held in bringing GHT back to life.
“I’ve had the joy of witnessing first-hand how Sarah and her ‘Knit the Walls’ project stitched together a genuine, supportive community with a clear shared purpose. And – just as the stones of GHT hold the building’s stories – the yarn of ‘Knit the Walls’ now holds the personal stories of the people who have stitched, conversed and created this amazing and beautiful community project.
“As ‘Knit the Walls’ comes to a close, we will all miss what Sarah has brought to GHT and our city. We will be forever grateful that ‘Knit the Walls’ happened and for Sarah having the vision, dedication and talent to realise the project.”
- GHT will host a launch event for the ‘knit the walls’ finale on Friday 11th November from 6pm – 8pm. Tickets are free and available on Eventbrite here.
- You can find details of activities and events throughout November on the GHT website.
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