In Newark we met an hour before the performance time and, after comparing each other’s efforts with the needles, we settled to listen to Gill from Galerie read from a document call Wartime Newark. Our town doesn’t have an obvious connection with World Wars I and II and most of what people think about in terms of war in Newark harks back to the town’s central role in the Civil War. However the readings reflected on more recent events and as a group of people who have all moved to the town from elsewhere we learnt much of the human consequences of the World Wars in the place where we live now. As a market town it wasn’t an obvious target for the Luftwaffe but it was bombed; it isn’t an obvious choice for Jewish refugee children from Europe to be housed but it looked after many. The landscape around Newark was however an obvious choice for providing air fields for British bombers to take off. Being next to what was to become known as ‘RAF Lincolnshire,’ the flat fields near Newark were ideal for the purpose but with tragic consequences for one Newark family when a British bomber crashed into their house killing 6 of their children.
Sharing those stories prepared the tone for us to commence knitting in silence the final repeat of the Shamrock Lace pattern to finish the white rosette we had all prepared in advance of the performance. The pattern was found hand-written in a notebook of Nurse Clarice Spratling who served in the first world war. The four leaves of the shamrock lace are said to be symbolic of faith, hope, love and luck. At 11am silence was punctuated only by the soft clangs of needles, the sound of reaching for scissors and the soft placing of the completed rosettes on the table.
When all complete we ate a communal lunch listening to music resonant with WW1 then went to place our rosettes in places affected by war: the site of the bombed munitions factory (Ransome and Marles) where 41 workers lost their lives, Spring Gardens where Jewish refugees were housed, The Tudor Hall which accommodated evacuees from Sheffield, Newark Parish Church for being a place of refuge and the runway at Winthorpe’s old airfield.
It was a moving and reflective event and brought us together as a group. Thanks Dawn in Margate for encouraging the responses of those of us further afield.