A stitch in time

PUBLISHED: 11:46 02 May 2014 | UPDATED: 11:46 02 May 2014

DRINKSTONE FEATURE

DRINKSTONE FEATURE

Archant

Community spirit is alive and well in Drinkstone thanks to the commitment and dedication of its residents as well as their skills with a needle and thread

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When a village loses its school, its post office, the pub calls last orders for the final time and the remaining shop shuts, it’s easy to assume the life and soul of a place has disappeared.

The village of Drinkstone, six miles southeast of Bury St Edmunds, not only suffered these losses, it experienced a further blow when the old village hall was severely damaged by fire in 2011 and the decision was made to pull down the 1920s structure.

What’s left when all this has gone? The 650 villagers of course. And in the case of the Drinkstone residents it was their determination and spirit that saw a new village hall rise from the ashes to become the centre of a vibrant village community.

Drinkstone village hall – officially titled the Drinkstone War Memorial Institute – opened in July 2013 and was dedicated as a War Memorial on Armistice Day of the same year.

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But, as I discovered when I visited recently, this is no ordinary hall. For a start the green credentials of the timber-framed building are impressive – solar panels on the roof, recycled newspaper insulation and, perhaps most impressive of all, two 170 metre-deep bore holes that provide a constant source of free underfloor heating.

Time to sew

What makes the hall unique is the display of 57 brightly coloured tapestries representing houses from the village. They have been stitched together to make the Drinkstone Village Quilt and now feature on the walls of the main hall. The quilt was the brainchild of villager, retired geography teacher and creative workshop instructor Margery Ward.

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“When I found out that we needed extra funds to start the building work of the new village hall I was determined to do something,” said Margery. “Sewing is one of the loves of my life, so it got me thinking I could use that skill and experience to good effect.

“We needed something where lots of people were involved and most importantly they were having fun. I’d been to a textile exhibition at the NEC where I saw some mini-quilts which was the inspiration for the project.”

With the support of Liz Schmitt and Sue Foulsham, village hall secretary and chairperson respectively, Margery started a series of workshops in the village church.

“I knew there were some fine needlewomen in the village, but the quality and variety of work amazed me,” says Margery. “The theme was ‘My House’ and the idea was that people would relate to this more readily – it would also create an historic piece of work for future generations to appreciate. We would all leave something behind when we leave this mortal coil.”

Each resident donated £10 to the hall fund for their square of fabric, plus another £10 if they wanted the work completed by Margery.

Community effort

When work began on the £340,000 hall in July 2012 it was the culmination of many years of fundraising events in the village, including the tapestry, combined with grants and planning gain money from the sale of the village pub by Greene King.

“Without the support and enthusiasm of the Drinkstone community none of this would have been possible,” says Liz. “There were fundraising activities taking place continually and it really brought the village together.”

“None of us had been involved in managing a building contract before and it was a steep learning curve,” adds Sheila. “We used a local building company, JH Vaudrey and Son, who were absolutely brilliant and very understanding of our needs. We now have a place that is the true centre of our village and will remain so for a long time.”

To find out more: www.drinkstonevillage.co.uk

To contact Margery Ward email margeryward@john-lewis.com

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