What Does Community Mean To You?
A community doesn’t have to be based on a geographical location. Community can be a feeling, a feeling of togetherness, inclusion and support. Through partnering with Cortile Coffee, it has been possible to explore what community represents for nine different people in South Wales. They were each asked to recall a time they experienced the true meaning of ‘community’ and their responses are illustrated here through the use of embroidery on fabric stained with a selection of teas and coffees. Each piece tells a story and demonstrates that, although the circumstances differ, they possess the same feeling of belonging and unity.
The accompanying soundscape supports the visual art by allowing the listener to embark on an immersive journey through the participants’ experiences. Plain text transcripts are available via. the same link. I hope that this piece will perhaps stimulate discussion about what community means to others. So what’s your story?
Image Description: This embroidery piece is bordered with a dark brown circular frame and the fabric appears to be tea-stained. The embroidery inside the frame illustrates four outdoor metal chair placed around a matching circular table. The table is covered with a blue table cloth and on the table there are cups, a teapot and a three-tier dessert tray. Behind one of the chairs there is a bright red balloon, implying a celebration for this tea party. In the foreground, towards the foreground is a small bed of white daisies.
"If you’d asked me this question Saturday, I would’ve given quite a different answer. Yesterday morning I woke up feeling down, useless and old. Until I’m sitting there and my daughter came along with my Sunday lunch and what do I see? My grandchildren! Which brightened things up. And we had a lovely meal and then I had to leave for an appointment and okay, I was upset because I didn’t want to stop the conversation. But when I came back, my daughter took me through the garden, which I didn’t understand why and there, standing there were all my friends and family together! Four generations, ages twenty-four (24) to ninety-four (94) all getting on well together, there’s no difference in their ways of talking, they understood another and I thought, ‘this is what it should be like, always!’."
"So my story, when I was working in a nursery last year, I had to work one-to-one with this boy who was two years old. He was a bit slower than the other children, he had a learning difficulty and he was slower with how- he didn’t really know how to use his cutlery properly, or like he was potty trained and things like that. And one thing he could never do, that all the other children could do was put on his shoes and coat. So then one day- So I would always put on his shoes and one day one of the little girls asked “Oh can I try putting on his shoes?” So then, with the velcro shoes, she put on the velcro shoes for him and then all the other children saw and one-by-one they wanted to help him with his shoes! And it started off being with shoes and then all the job I had as an individual needs assistant for this boy, they wanted to do! Like, for example, hold his hand, take him out and show him things, and they were all- there was even a point they were arguing “Oh I want to take care him, I want to take care of him!”. So I put a system down in place where everyone would have a go taking care of him and they absolutely loved it! And he loved it because originally he wasn’t very social and this is how he was brought into the social environment and joined in with everyone. So it reminds me of that quote, ‘It takes a village to rise a child’, because they were all working together to take care of him, so he would have a good time at the nursery."
Image Description: This embroidery piece is bordered with a dark brown circular frame and the fabric appears to be tea-stained. The embroidery inside the frame illustrates a pair of shoes, with one being bigger than the other. These blue and white shoes resemble children’s trainers with two straps. Growing out of the shoe hole are two bundles white of daisies.
"When I was younger, there was a boy in our village who was really amazing at football and he got a scholarship to study in America which was incredible but he couldn’t afford to get there. So a couple of the streets in our village all banded together and put money in and managed to get him there, to study. So yeah, it’s pretty amazing."
Image Description: This embroidery piece is bordered with a dark brown circular frame and the fabric appears to be tea-stained. The embroidery inside illustrates a black and white football laying on textured/bushy looking grass. Peaking out of the grass is a few yellow daisies.
"I worked as a nurse on a Covid ward recently and I became really close to all of the team members and with all the nurses and healthcare assistants on the ward and it became kind of second family to me because obviously I didn’t see my own family and we all just really cared about each other and it was a big support system during a hard time. The kind of good example I can think of is on the day that we only had two long-term patients on the ward that we got to know really well. One had Parkinson’s and his ability improved amazingly, so he was able to use a wheelchair. And then the other patient he was absolutely hilarious, he was came in very delirious and confused but overtime he got to know us and he also improved so much and he was just staying there for social reasons.
The memory I can think of is when it was only them two on the ward and ‘Dancing Queen” (ABBA) came on and we were all dancing in our PPE and it was just, it was that feeling that we all just trusted and respected each other. It was just like a really happy moment, really positive and I felt like I was a part of a community then."
Image Description: This embroidery piece is bordered with a dark brown circular frame and the fabric appears to be tea-stained. The embroidery inside illustrates a hospital bed. The bed is lined with a flower patterned fabric and is stuffed, bring a raised effect to the piece. Next to the bed is a bed side table with a bouquet of colourful flowers. To the left of the bed, there are music notes coming out of the bed, implying music is being played.
"Yeah so there was this one time where I was actually on holiday at the time, and I found out that my dog had gone missing from my back garden. The dog-walker that I had hired to come look after her, accidentally let her out, left the back gate open. And I posted it on social media and everyone, well, loads of people, sort of, I think about forty (40) to fifty (50) people in my community went out searching for my dog and they actually found her within two days. And then this person who I didn’t know from the community actually kept her for me until I came back from holiday so she was safe! And yeah, it was a really nice experience."
Image Description: This embroidery piece is bordered with a dark brown circular frame and the fabric appears to be tea-stained with heavier coloured spots scatters across the piece. The embroidery inside illustrates a lined drawing of a dog with their tongue out, panting. The breed of the dog appears to look like a Staffordshire Bull Terrier aka. A ‘staffy’. On each side of the dog are two small bouquets of dark blue daisies, with leaves coming out of it.
"For about a year, two and half days a week I was working in children’s care with under five’s (5). But on a Friday morning, I went to a reading group in a library. And that morning I look forward to so much. It was time away from my work, away from them children. This group of ladies and a couple of guys, about twelve (12) of us. We didn’t have to read a book, it would be a piece of writing, one chapter and we’d talk about it, none of us had read it in advance so we’d read and then we’d talk about it. And often it brought out a lot of discussions about our personal life and our past, which people were very willing to share. And when we finished it, we’d end with a poem, and that was the finishing part, where we’d end with a poem. And it was such an honest group, we didn’t know each other outside the reading group but that Friday, we got to know a lot about each other’s lives, our past and people were very willing to share quite intimate things connected as well with the literature, and what that brought out as well. So the whole combination was amazing, it was just a lovely, lovely feeling of belonging, and being together and sharing."
Image Description: This embroidery piece is bordered with a dark brown circular frame and the fabric appears to be tea-stained. The embroidery inside illustrates an open book with colourful, dreamy-looking flowers and twinkles coming out of the pages. A flow of leaked ink shadows these dreamy elements.
Image Description: This embroidery piece is bordered with a dark brown circular frame and the fabric appears to be tea-stained. The embroidery piece inside illustrates a hand holding an American Sign Language sign of the phrase ‘I Love You’, a common phrase used by all Sign Language users. The sign is done by hold your hand, open forward (as if giving a high-five) but folding in only your middle and ring finger. The hand is embroidered in black whilst there’s a vine of colourful flowers, at the top of the piece.
"Okay, well I think with me, I wasn’t born D/deaf, I became deaf later, at the age of fifteen (15) / sixteen (16). So for me, obviously that’s a big life changing event, I didn’t know anything particularly anything about the Deaf world, I was just completely at a loss, knocked me senseless and I had no idea who I was anymore. So I started to slowly overtime meet some lovely D/deaf people and they were really encourage and helped me to feel- gain some more confidence and they helped to find and discover who I am, myself and my identity, who I was as a D/deaf person. They just made me feel so welcome! I now have loads of D/deaf friends, I feel I’m completely one hundred percent (100%) in the Deaf community and I feel like the Deaf community is my home. That’s where I feel safe, it’s my home. And it’s just, for me, that’s it, that’s my home, it’s where I feel the true sense of community."
The following story has a content advisory for suicide and grief. If these are topics that you find to be distressing or sensitive, please do not read the story below.
"So I’m a part of lots of different communities. Obviously I work in the Deaf community, I’m part of the interpreting community, I’m part of the dance community in Cardiff, the carnival community. I’m a member of two Samba bands so they’re kind of big communities, as well as the Welsh speaking community. I’ve married into the African community so I’ve kind of got toes in lots of different communities. But the time that I felt most part of a community was after my son killed himself. [moments of silence] There was such an outpouring of grief and kindness and support. All of the people he had touched in some way, reaching out. Within a few days, thousands of pounds (£1000s) had been raised for his daughter. Tributes left, a vigil that went on for weeks at the local park, at a local bench, it ended up looking like a flower shop. But yeah, his friends, the boys were there day and night, day and night for weeks and weeks and weeks. If only we could’ve seen it, really. People would knock on my door with flowers, people I had never met to tell me stories about ___ or letters and then contact from other parents who’d children had died. Or even now I still get calls from parents. So yeah, that made me feel part of the community more than anything else."
Image Description: This embroidery piece is bordered with a dark brown circular frame and the fabric appears to be tea-stained. The embroidery piece inside illustrates a memorial bench with large bouquet of flowers, mostly with pastel colours. The bouquet to the left is wrapped in dark blue. A large succulent plant is sat on the bench. Next the succulent and hung on the seating of the each are cream-coloured blank picture frames. At the bottom of the bench is fluffy light green grass.