WORLD-RENOWNED artist Grayson Perry said he was ‘proud’ to have inspired a community tapestry woven with the stories of people from South Lakeland.

The tapestry was created through a collaboration with Kendal-based homeless charity Manna House and Lakeland Arts commissioned artist Donna Campbell in 2019.

A team of fifty people, including clients and staff at Manna House, worked for four months weaving their tales and experiences into the fabric of the brightly coloured piece.

The Westmorland Gazette: COLLABORATION: Clients from Manna House helped create the tapestryCOLLABORATION: Clients from Manna House helped create the tapestry

With the project being inspired by Perry’s tapestries, including his Julie Cope’s Grand Tour, which came to Abbott Hall in 2018, Donna was determined for the artist to see the tapestry and a recent performance at Kendal Leisure Centre provided the perfect opportunity.

The Westmorland Gazette: EMBROIDERY: A close up of the tapestryEMBROIDERY: A close up of the tapestry

After a series of train delays, it looked like the artist and broadcaster would not get to see the work but thanks to the help of the leisure centre’s manager, Donna left the tapestry outside Perry’s dressing room, and on returning to collect the tapestry, she was delighted to find him admiring it.

The Westmorland Gazette: PRAISE: Grayson Perry with the tapestryPRAISE: Grayson Perry with the tapestry

“I was very excited,” she said.

“It was amazing, he came out in his big daisy coat with his bright yellow eye shadow.

“And he said he was really sorry about the train delay and thanked us for bringing the tapestry to him.”

He left a note praising the work, which also featured a drawing of his famous teddy bear, Alan Measles.

The Westmorland Gazette: NOTE: Grayson Perry's note to DonnaNOTE: Grayson Perry's note to Donna

"Perry values everyone with authentic compassion and humour and I incorporated these qualities as much as I could within the process of making the tapestry,” said Donna.

“Manna House is an exceptional model of social inclusion for the homeless and vulnerably housed people of South Lakes. The tapestry intertwines the Manna House story with the stories of the ordinary and extraordinary lives of the community there and of the people passing through.

“I transformed part of their new building, which was to house the tapestry, into an art studio with a gentle social environment which suited the tapestry workshops.

“People felt validated in the workshops and in the tapestry, it was important to foster an atmosphere where people felt safe to share their stories."

The Westmorland Gazette: WRITING: Grayson Perry penning a note to DonnaWRITING: Grayson Perry penning a note to Donna

Among the many hugely personal stories included in the tapestry is that of quilter Margot Agnew, who had stage four cancer.

She sewed an image of her coffin onto the tapestry, and the year after the tapestry was hung at Manna House’s centre, Margot’s flat-pack coffin arrived and she decided that the ‘zany purple’ pattern behind her coffin on the tapestry could be painted onto her real coffin.

The Westmorland Gazette: HAPPY: Donna Campbell with MargotHAPPY: Donna Campbell with Margot

Last summer, Donna painted the coffin and organised a living funeral with Margot where her friends and family gathered in a beer garden to celebrate her life and write messages into the design on the coffin.

“She was very skilled and it really gave her purpose,” said Donna.

“And she said she forgot her pain when she was working on the tapestry.”

Sadly, Margot died in February.

Prior to her death she asked Donna to add the date to her coffin on the tapestry.

89-year-old Valeria Butcher, who used to be an art teacher, was the oldest person to work on the tapestry.

The Westmorland Gazette: INTRICATE: The tapestry took four months to completeINTRICATE: The tapestry took four months to complete

Costume designer Kate Reid, textile artist Naomi Turton and fashion designer Claudia Vignali all helped on the mammoth job of sewing the tapestry together.

And many homeless people who sought support from Manna Hose contributed to the piece with additions symbolising their experiences of homelessness.

“I feel so honoured to have been part of Manna House and the people’s lives there,” added Donna.