can you knit?
It’s hard to imagine how my life would be if Sam, my psychologist, hadn’t asked me this question during one of my therapy sessions 18 months ago. It was November 2017, I was extremely poorly with PTSD, anxiety, and depression and could so easily have dismissed her comment, but thankfully even then I had a hint of my core of steely determination to get better, went home and created a doll. This really was the beginning of a set of extraordinary opportunities, circumstances or simply #greaterforces moments that has led me to be writing my third blog post, reflecting on a magical time as the creator/designer of the World’s first full-sized knitted show garden for the RHS (even writing that sentence seems surreal!)
The Work Of Heart Garden’s (and my) journey in the last 18 months has been incredible. As I stood within the garden with Claire and Dawn, my two Chief Knits, the evening before we opened at RHS Malvern Spring Festival, and we placed the “icing to our cake”, a bedspread created in secret by five of us, we knew our lives would never be quite the same again.
None of us slept well that night, we were all awake at 3.30, eager to get to Malvern and show everyone what more than 450 of us from across the globe had spent 12 months creating. I had bought a “power’ dress for the occasion as I’ve learnt that this gives me the courage to face the media. Almost as soon as we arrived bright and early to the Three Counties Malvern Showground, the media frenzy began- I’ve lost count of how many interviews and photos I did that day- but my passion for Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice saw me through, as did the unwavering support of my Chief Knits and Sue Ryder staff. For me, the surrealist moment of the day was unexpectedly explaining my concept to board members of the RHS, and posing for photos with them all, sitting on a bed, in a knitted garden…
Almost as soon as they had moved on to the REAL gardens, my Festival highlight happened- Alan Dart who is the creator of many knitting patterns, and the actual creator of our now infamous JJ the Gnome came to visit Work of Heart Garden. He was so very lovely: again, I’m not sure he quite knew what was happening to him when I squealed “what, the ACTUAL Alan Dart is here?!” Alan and his partner Malcolm were so super lovely and I’m looking forward to working with them again very soon.
We then had our official opening, with Chris Beardshaw doing the honours with a knitted ribbon and scissors (obviously!) Celebrities kept on coming after that and we welcomed Valerie Singleton, Carol Klein, Jekka McVicar and, John Torode, who were all presented with their knitted selves. Dom Cotter from BBC Radio Gloucestershire also broadcast live from Work of Heart Garden! I ended day one by doing live TV for ITV - no wonder I was so tired as we drove home, I wasn’t even sure what day it was! But I have no complaints- it was a truly magical day that I will remember forever.
Day two was a tough day for me, it was cold, I was feeling overwhelmed by the previous day and there was still a huge media presence. By lunchtime, I had a massive anxiety attack, but thanks to my support network, I got over it and managed to complete the day. Ken’s art therapist, Brigid, came which was very emotional for me, as without her input into Ken’s time at the Day Hospice, I wouldn’t have the passion to support the hospice. Alan Titchmarsh called in too and was presented with his Alan doll by Claire who knitted him
Day three was super busy and an emotional rollercoaster too. So many people stopped by to talk to us- my children’s ex-headmaster and teachers, friends I’ve known since I was two, or who travelled from as far away as Cheshire and a lady from The Netherlands who flew in JUST to see Work of Heart Garden! Ian the widower who donated all his late wife, Jane’s wool to me also came to see the sunflower pot I created using Jane’s wool. He brought Debbie, who used to be Jane’s carer along too. It was so very important to me that they both approved of what I had created, and it was emotional when they both saw it. Thankfully, they both agreed that it was a perfect tribute to Jane.
Joe Swift and Valentine Warner were our celebrity visitors of the day on Sunday - to see how grateful they were that we had taken the time to knit them was very touching - it just goes to show that its thought that counts. I decided to re-create the heart of hearts under the Work Of Heart Way of Trees by lunchtime on Sunday too - it certainly added another layer of poignancy to an already emotion-filled aspect of Work Of Heart Garden. I feel very privileged that so many people felt able to express and acknowledge their losses and grief as they placed a heart. Incredibly, to date, we’ve raised £16,086 which is an amazing amount of money and means we’ve already raised 32% of my ambitious #50kforken target.
My nutty knitters and I popped along to BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s Dom Cotter’s show on Thursday to give him an update - he has been so supportive since we launched in January. To hear myself say I’d appeared in The Sunday Mirror, The Daily Mail, and done so many photo shoots, made me realise that my primary aim of raising awareness of the incredible Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court has exceeded my wildest dreams. To then have Elise, the Hospice Director calling into the show and use the word “unprecedented” about the level of awareness we’ve managed to create was for sure one of my wobbly moments - but made me so very proud of what we’ve all achieved- we are all #teamworkofheartgarden. I also hadn’t heard any of the show he broadcast from RHS Malvern so it was amazing to listen to some highlights.
Work of Heart Garden truly is the gift that keeps on giving- we’ve now been offered the chance to install at The Cotswold Show, Cirencester, in July and unbelievably, at Gloucester Cathedral throughout August - I really hope that I get the chance to meet even more of you then. Throughout June, as Ken would have been 50, we are hoping that as many of you as possible will hold a #50cakesalesforken, either at work, with your knit and natter group, WI, at school or just at home- the possibilities are endless! Please be in touch with the hospice - firstname.lastname@example.org as we can arrange for an information pack to be sent to you. We would love to see your photos of any Work of Heart Cake sales too.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for all you’ve done to support me and Work Of Heart Garden in our incredible magical journey so far - I’m definitely a work in progress and hope that by being brave enough to admit my mental health challenges, which really are still ongoing, that I will have reached even one person who now feels able to get help. I’ve chosen to keep some of my story private, but hope that in the coming months, I’ll feel able to share more with you all.
Here’s to the next chapter on the magical world of Work Of Heart Garden!