One enormous hug

One enormous hug
The Enormous Hug

Bringing comfort at a time of transition and helping St Andrew’s pay for roof repairs.

A huge hug of seventy five quilts encircled St Andrew’s Church in Little Massingham on Monday 13th May following an exhibition of the quilt tops held in the church over the weekend. Each quilt, aka Hug, is unique and is destined for one of the 11,000 young people aged 16 to 25 who leave care every year and move out into the world with limited support and few possessions.

The hug was the culmination of months of work by quilt makers throughout the UK, from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to Norfolk and North Yorkshire to Hampshire and every county in between. The quilt makers are incredibly kind and gifted people who have come to the rescue of the Grade 1 Listed church, which is currently on the Heritage England Buildings at Risk Register.

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From left Rosemary Jewers and Maggie Lloyd-Jones

Residents, friends, quilters and visitors held the quilts in a continuous line around the ancient building attracting press, radio and TV coverage.

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The project began in the small Norfolk village in 2023 in a partnership between FOSLAM (Friends of St Andrew’s Massingham) and the UK wide charity Quilts 4 Care Leavers.

Leading the FOSLAM project at St Andrew’s is patron Rosemary Jewers who started the fundraising to repair the roof of the church following the theft of lead in 2017.

Quilts 4 Care Leavers is a UK wide Charity making quilted patchwork comforter hugs to give to young adults in the UK who have recently left the child care system. Founder Maggie Lloyd-Jones was inspired to set up the charity by the poet and recent chancellor of the University of Manchester, Lemn Sissay OBE, who, at the age of 12, returned to local authority care from the long-term foster placement he had been in since he was a baby having heard him tell an audience that what he had really wanted during that time, was a hug.

Maggie said: “I started this in 2018 but never thought it would get this big; there are groups all over the UK making quilts that are a specific size, but every one is different..

“I’m a grandmother and I know that what youngsters miss is having a hug when they leave care.”

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Maggie Lloyd-Jones 

Standing by an example in the church that had been set aside for a fundrising raffle she explained that it had been made out of scraps cut into strips, “it’s not a typical print pattern but it is so vibrant and jolly and somebody will win it.”

‘We have 75 quilts here but we have enough to make the same number again back in the store so the work goes on!”

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In charge of marshalling all the people holding the quilts, Rosemary needed the loudhailer to get everyone into position as the drones flew around the church and the TV coverage was recorded.

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From left Heidi Rust with Rodney, Petra Smith with Maizy, Karen Rust with Chocky and Rosemary Jewers 

Rodney, Maizy and Chocky and their handlers from Donkeys for Therapy that is based in the village were joining in the fun and supporting the event.

Prior to the enormous hug, attendees gathered in the church. Carolyn Walterton and Tracy Harris are both quilters involved in the project, and they explained that quilts are constructed in blocks. Every month someone from the group requests blocks of certain colours and style and then they get to work producing between ten and fifteen blocks.

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Visitors from left Joan Nuttall, Sally Hyson and Patsy Tipene

The exhibition and giant hug events were free to attend but donations were welcomed. If anyone would like to donate to the church restoration they can do so via the website.

The 19th to 20th July sees Quilts 4 Care Leavers return the quilts to Little Massingham once more having added the backing, wadding and topstitching to the quilts. After they have been seen by the public for the last time, the completed, now quilted, Hugs will be handed over to local authorities to distribute to care leavers.

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