Monday, 11 June 2018

Processions 2018 and being a Soroptimist

What started as International Women's Day 2018 in Tunbridge Wells with a quickly scrawled placard and a little reenactment costume snowballed into joining with 30,000 women and girls in London for Processions 2018. Processions 2018 This event was taking place in 4 cities across Great Britain at the same time- London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff.

When I first booked an entry I was not sure if anyone would come with me but as usual the  Soroptimists at Si Tunbridge Wells: Soroptimist International Tunbridge Wells were up for it. So armed with a new banner which is the more permanent fabric design we boarded the train from Tunbridge Wells armed with Ask me why I am a Soroptimist badges and our postcards and there the conversation started and it continued all day.
People were curious- where were we going and what was a Soroptimist? From a little boy who wanted to discuss the meaning of the colours green, white and purple, to the ladies from Australia and Sevenoaks on the number 9 bus from Charing Cross to Hyde Park, who didn't know us or each other, but they did by the end of our journey- we left them with postcards and a wave.We emerged from the bus momentarily pausing to take in our surrounds greeting other women who were dressed in similar colours as if we have known them for ever. From the young girls from Manchester who had left home at 7 am to travel to London to Ruth who was on her own from Norfolk but soon became one of our group. We all momentarily disappeared into a group of vibrant women all milling around the Dorchester Hotel seeking shade under the dappled trees on a Park Lane cleared of cars.

More and more women arrived, with banners and outfits and smiles and we streamed toward pantechnicons to collect our scarves of green, white and violet, chatting all the time, handing out postcards and sharing stories. It was jubilant, expressive, emotional, hot and freeing. We are so lucky to be able to vote, to celebrate that fact and to be actively encouraged by all the organisations who helped make the day so successful. We have come a long way since women (over 30) were first able to vote in 1918 but still have a long way to go and yet here we were being able to shout about it all in major cities, cleared of traffic to make our voices heard.

Being a Soroptimist is about sisterhood, and yesterday felt very positive. We had found our tribe for that day and met some fellow clubs along the way, Soroptimist International Folkestone, St Albans and Sevenoaks. We also talked to nurses, midwives, parliamentarians, feminist publishers, children, girl guides, seamstresses, WI Groups, journalists, jewellery designers, women on Mum's Net and the list goes on.

We saw amazing banners:

Everyone wanted to see

be seen

and heard, others came to support

We all had our quiet moments for reflection

At the end of the non finish line many paid  respects at the monuments to Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett.

Even on the train home, when our costumes and banners were dishevelled the day continued as other participants joined us on the train and we heard their stories of community involvement and research.

Why they had come to spend the day with strangers to celebrate the rights of women all started so long ago by one of the first feminists ,Mary Wollstonecraft with her Vindications of the Rights of Woman.

The train dropped us at Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells and continued to Hastings with women talking and making connections.

A great day and as I took my shoes off and rubbed my tired feet I reflected on one image I had seen, a tiny pebble, picked from some beach by an anonymous person and placed in London with the words suffragette painted on. We are all alone, until we find our tribe. On this day with my Soroptimist sisters we were a group who became a larger collective and together we made a noise and celebrated our rights and dreams for the future. When I became a Soroptimist I had no idea what would happen but so far it has been an amazing journey.
                                                            In friendship.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Cold days & Silver Linings

A crack has appeared in our kitchen ceiling. I had spent anxious times wondering why? Is there too much weight on the floor above? Do I have too many things? (Well, yes is the answer to that!) Today the first question was answered as the crack seemed larger. 
So I pondered out loud, was it possible we had a water leak? 
Yes, it turns out, we have.
A leaking water tank and now no hot water. For how long I don't know.
In my frustration I decided to sort out a few drawers and cupboards and so started with my scarves and as I was refolding the ones I no longer wear to donate to the charity shop, I remembered I had ordered a new one!
Here it is-

The white jiffy envelope revealed the most beautifully wrapped retail purchase I have ever received.A personal card and a double tied ribbon box.

Tissue-wrapped interior

Inside the tissue a glimpse of the contents.

 The silk cascaded over the bed in all its glorious indigo and gold richness and the irony of  situation was not lost on me.
I had been cursing the water and the now urgent need for a replacement water tank and possibly a new ceiling and here I am about to wear water!
This scarf is a based on a photographic impression of the water reflection of the Golden Hinds rigging against a blue clouded sky.

I also received this book for Christmas- How to Tie a Scarf
So I am off to play with my gifts I had put to one side in the busyness of everyday life and remember that old cliche- every cloud has a silver lining.
In this case- they are gold.
Thank you Linda Pocock

Monday, 1 January 2018

In search of Angels

This year, 2018, I will be visiting local cemeteries and churches in search of the beautiful, the interesting and the poignant. First stop is St Peter's Church Southborough. In the corner near the boundary wall I found what I believe is the only surviving Angel within the grounds. In Memory of Clara, she is framed by beautiful orange lichen, or Xanthoria parietina. British Newspaper Archive research reveals that on the 16th May 1875 Clara, the 'beloved wife of George Delves' died at Grove Lodge, Southborough.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Belgians Refugees in Tunbridge Wells 1914

Extracting Detail from Newspapers on

Following on from the Weekes advertisement for British Toys for British & Belgian Children, I continued to study the rest of the newspaper (Kent & Sussex Courier, Friday 27 November 1914) to see what else could be found relating to Tunbridge Wells and its Belgian refugee connection.  Music seemed to play a part in building up a sense of patriotism with general benevolent acts of fundraising toward the war effort in general being evident. The Tunbridge Wells Opera House, built in 1902, was the centre for all things musical.

Figure 1, Tunbridge Wells Opera House, Photochrom.Co.,Ltd. London, 1905.
  The concert involving Clara Butt and Kennerley Rumford (her husband, a baritone) was mentioned twice in this edition of the Kent & Sussex Courier.

         Figure 2, Kent & Sussex Courier, Friday 27 November 1914, p.4.
Extracts of interest: ‘The programme includes items which appeal to our pity and to patriotism…’

        Figure 3, Kent & Sussex Courier, Friday 27 November 1914, p.4.
Madame Clara Butt (1872-1936) would later become a Dame. A renowned contralto singer she was involved with many concerts raising money for the Red Cross and other charities.
Here is a You tube link to Madame Clara Butt ‘God shall wipe away all tears.’

                Figure 4, Kent & Sussex Courier, Friday 27 November 1914, p.5.

We shall be glad to receive contributions of eighteen-pence for the Special Xmas Boxes to be sent to soldiers at the Front …’
One of the subscribers was the Opera House:
Opera House (per Mr. Harry Ball) Profits on sale of Fred Elton’s song. ‘Bravo, Little Belgium!’
Here is the text of Elton’s song:
                   Bravo! Little Belgium, it’s proud we are of you
                  Bravo! Little Belgium, you’d the pluck to see it through
                  Hats off to Little Belgium,
                 You’re a fighting race sublime!
                Your flag is still unfurled
                 In front of all the world
                And we’re with you all the time.[1]
 John Mullen (2011) suggests music hall songs were for ‘uniting the British [sic] nation and its allies’[2]

Figure 5, The Opera House as it appears today without the statue of Mercury upon its dome. 
So these entries can be interpreted as contributing to the town’s general feeling of support and friendship towards all war efforts and refugees by extension of this attitude.
Perhaps this community project could look at reviving performances of these songs?[3]
I like to imagine this cherub-like statue from the roof-line is watching all the 21st Century developments with great interest. I wonder at all the events and people he has observed over one hundred plus years.

                                        Figure 6, Dome detail of cherub.

[1] Andre de Vries, Flanders: A Cultural History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 17.

[2] John Mullen, ‘Propaganda and Dissent in British Popular Song during the Great War.’, Discours autoritaires et r´esistances aux XXe et XXIe si`ecles, Centre Interlangues, non pagin´e, (2011), p.6. <>[accessed 4 March 2017]
[3] This link suggests Fred Elton’s song is out of copyright:

Monday, 27 March 2017

 Week One: First thoughts:  The Belgian Refugees in Tunbridge Wells; A Weekly Diary by Caroline Auckland
The very first thing I decided to do after joining this community project was turn to the written past. We had been asked to think about what we might like to work on, research or how we might contribute.
I decided to scan the local newspaper, the Kent & Sussex Courier, of 1914, for references to Belgian refugees in the area. Firstly to see if there were any and secondly to isolate themes. Yes, there were references and now I have a file full of themes with columns of text waiting to be dissected.
But, unexpectedly the major item which jumped out of the editions I scanned digitally on British Newspaper Archives on-line was not an editorial piece, it was an advertisement.
An ephemeral filler, the search function had located the word ‘Belgian’ and provided me with the first challenge to my perception of this project.

Figure 1 Kent & Sussex Courier, Advertisement for Weekes Department Store, Friday 27 November 1914, p.4.

Full transcript:
Now Open
R.W. Weekes’
Grand Christmas Bazaar.
British Toys for British & Belgian Children.
Dolls! Dolls! Dolls!
British, French, Belgian, Russian and Indian Soldiers.
R.H. Artillery. Boy Scouts and Transport.
Naval Landing Parties. 4.7 Guns.
English Castles as Fort
British Squawk-a-Boo   Fur Animals
All Kinds of Games   Dean’s Books and Rag Toys.
‘Meccano’ for model construction, a splendid pastime for Boys.
Please enquire about the £200 ‘Meccano’ prize Competition.
Christmas cards and Calendars.
Tom Smith’s Crackers Lanterns and decorations.
R.W Weekes
Opposite S.E. & C.R. Station, Tunbridge Wells

An advertisement for Christmas toys is worded ‘British Toys for British & Belgian Children’.
This posed the following issues:
A respectable shop advertises its wares. Seasonally marketing products to increase its own profits.
By introducing a nationalistic title to ‘children’, defining them as either British or Belgian within the same sentence, both groups them as a collective - ‘children’ and separates them as different from each other within that definition. ‘British Toys for British & Belgian Children’ also promotes home produced items, but by prefixing the child with a country of origin suggests that the child from one country is different to another.
Do they need different toys?
Implicit is gender reference. 
The advertisement suggests they need: ‘Dolls! Dolls! Dolls!
‘British, French, Belgian, Russian and Indian Soldiers.’ The miniature toys of war, but even they are defined by race.

Is this to appeal to the Belgian families to come and buy toys for their children?
Or is this an altruistic appeal to the local community to visit the store to buy toys to donate to the refugees who have arrived with very little and are being provided with clothing and homes by local committees, families and the church?

Have their children become objects of social curiosity, almost playthings, a counter celebrity status, and the children of war. They become the ‘other’ the outsiders, their needs defined by their place of birth or departure and slightly exotic in their differences.
Dolls are not listed by type but toy soldiers are- all from the same side of the war but still distinguished by nationality with no opposition mentioned- no Germans, Turks or Austrians?

Here is a postcard of Weekes- with it awnings. Its close proximity to the railway station is also interesting. This station is where many of the refugees arrived in Tunbridge Wells and it is also the main travel artery to London and the coast. Which, significantly, is even mentioned in the advertisement ‘R.W. Weekes Opposite S.E.& C.R. Station, Tunbridge Wells’ therefore it could be suggested positioning itself as a symbol of modernity, movement and connections.

 Figure 2 1911 Postcard, Unknown Publisher. Weekes, Tunbridge Wells
It is also important to consider the rest of the page, what is this advertisement placed next to? What is the editorial content of the rest of the page? What other editorials also appear?
I would love to know if Tunbridge Wells Museums has a selection of dolls and toy soldiers from this period, plus the other toys mentioned. This could make an interesting small exhibition to run in conjunction with this project.

All questions to mull over during the next week.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Lino-cutting the Victorians

Cards and postcards are relatively easy to produce as long as the photographic image is appealing but sometimes you don't want to produce an image that looks directly like a symbol of mourning. But cemeteries can be a wonderful source of original inspiration.
One of my favourite angels is in Tunbridge Wells Cemetery and here she is:

This monument is to Gertrude Mary Engledue, (1868-1952) she was reputed to have been the second wife of Sir Arthur Henderson Fairbairn (1852-1915), the first Deaf and Dumb baronet who resided in Broadwater Down, Tunbridge Wells.

But enough of history, today I took the photograph and turned this celestial being into a lino-cut during another craft work shop with Elizabeth Harbour.

After lots of this , the following emerged

And a while later after intensive concentration

And actually. considering it is my first attempt I am quite happy with the result.

Thank you again Elizabeth and Tunbridge Wells Museum for another inspirational day. 

Elizabeth Harbour :

Tunbridge Wells Museum: Tunbridge Wells Museum

Friends of Tunbridge Wells Cemetery

Saturday, 5 November 2016

One I Made Earlier

               What to do after finishing an MA? The books are not tidied away nor the papers filed. I am awaiting the final confirmed result and feel a little in limbo land. So when in doubt go back to a museum. I am so lucky to have Tunbridge Wells Museum as my local resource. Others may go shopping on a Saturday, I go back to the past. This time not to research but to play, to be inspired and to relax a little.  I was worried I had forgotten how to just be, to have no expectations, no requirement for precision.

         The academic course followed me in my head as I wandered around the museum looking for inspiration. Should the object I chose be Victorian?  If I copy it will it be plagiarism?  Can I even remember how to hold a pencil to draw rather than take notes in the British Library?

I should not have worried, in the expert hands of Elizabeth Harbour the inner child emerged and I chose this horse brass for inspiration. Liking its contained, repetitive pattern, its smallness and solid metallic surface I started to draw.

But as the process continued, I realised just how difficult it is to repeat patterns perfectly and physically I could feel myself relax. The shoulders which had been weighed down with academia began to feel lighter and my drawing began to move outside of the contained space. Perfect hearts wanted to be different from the hearts next to them, they wanted to leave the circle, fly off into their own space, to elongate and kick left and right rather than just tick a box of perfection.

            After tracing , I was let loose with a scalpel and my heart truly began to beat.

Using the plastic film, similar to the type normally used for covering my children's school books, the template emerged.

 Roller-brushed with acrylic paint and then randomly outlined a few hearts with black fabric pen and my tote bags were hung to dry.

                    I saved the hearts cut free from the page and popped them into a saucer.

The others in the class were creating amazing items all inspired by different objects from around the museum, butterflies and birds from the Natural History Section being a particular source of reference. So I carried on playing and scattered my hearts as if they were being blown by the wind, the bold blue a visual representation of strong gusts.

                                          Then love in a dark place:

                                          A great way to spend a Saturday.

                                               Thank you to :

Elizabeth Harbour :

Tunbridge Wells Museum: