Hand-made conflict quilt ‘opened up old wounds’ for creators

Eithne Fleming and Rosemarie McGrath working on the quilt in 2012.JPG
Eithne Fleming and Rosemarie McGrath working on the quilt in 2012.JPG

The completion of a quilt – depicting key moments of the conflict from the 1960s to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement – by women whose lives were deeply affected by the Troubles “opened doors we thought had been closed”.

Eithne Fleming, 57, a member of WAVE (Women Against Violence Empowered) in Ballymoney said she agreed to take part in the quilt-making, “not realising the emotions and tears it would bring out in me, and what I had not still dealt with”.

Eithnie's story photo page 15.JPG

Eithnie's story photo page 15.JPG

The quilt, which took four years to complete, was hand-made by a selection of cross-community volunteers based in the Ballymoney and Ballymena area and is made up of a series of individual panels depicting their different experiences and significant events of the conflict.

“We all had a piece that was very personal to us and we got strength from each other, but we felt the pain,” she said.

“We had no idea when we agreed to do this of how we would react. There are pieces in the quilt of life before the Troubles, then the Troubles and then the Good Friday Agreement.”

Mrs Fleming, who lived in north Belfast until she got married, became involved in WAVE six years ago after her father died and “I felt everything came to a head”.

She said she moved out of Belfast so that her children “would not have to live through anything I did and took as normal”.

“Like a lot of people, I had a relative murdered – my uncle in 1972,” she said.

“When I was younger the Troubles meant we didn’t go out to dances or to the cinema a lot because the doors were shut in the evening.

“That was life and we didn’t know any different and you took it as the norm.

“Then as a nurse I saw a lot of casualties (of the Troubles) and it didn’t matter whether you were the aggressor or the victim, they all sat side by side getting their treatment. I did my piece on the Royal.”

The ‘Quilt of Remembrance’ is one of two creative projects in receipt of PEACE III funding which are set to go on public exhibition in September.

The quilt will be on display at Belfast City Hall from September 1-8.

Meanwhile, the ‘5 Decades’ project – delivered by the Forthspring Inter Community Group based on the Springfield Road interface area, Belfast – will be exhibited on the second floor of the Belfast Central Library throughout September.

Both projects will coincide with the Special EU Programmes Body’s PEACE III Conference ‘Sharing and Understanding Experiences of the Conflict’ on September 2.

The conference will be hosted by journalist and actor Ivan Little, who has covered many of the events of the conflict during his career.