Tapestry expected to draw 10,000

It is doubtful if its 400 makers in 15 countries ever imagined their work on display in Norwich Cathedral. But the city's best-known landmark is now playing host to the product of 31,200 hours of careful labour.

It is doubtful if its 400 makers in 15 countries ever imagined their work on display in Norwich Cathedral.

But the city's best-known landmark is now playing host to the product of 31,200 hours of careful labour.

The final panels of the Quaker Tapestry have been put in place, ready for a display expected to attract 10,000 people. This exhibition alone has been two years in the planning, plus a week of work for three people putting up the display.

Two years ago, the team first visited the cathedral to measure up the available space. The next stage was to map out where each panel would go - all 39 are in chronological order according to what they depict - and then they all came to Norwich, each wrapped in a cotton 'nightie' and bubble-wrapped in crates. The lighting was carefully arranged - too much light can damage it - and the display boards have been made to cope with the uneven cathedral floor.


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From its summer base in the Quaker Tapestry Centre in Kendal, the exhibition each winter visits another location around the country, and this year is the turn of Norwich, where centre staff feel it can be shown off at its best.

Spokesman Michael Barrett said: “It's a fantastic location, amazing.”

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The display is launched opens to the public on February 1. Although comparisons are inevitably made with the Bayeux Tapestry, there is nothing else quite like it. It started in 1981 and was 15 years in the making. Each panel took 18 months on average to sew.

Exhibition director Bridget Guest said: “We see people who say there's no way they could possibly come to Kendal. They say, 'Thank you for bringing it, it's really nice'.”

The tapestry includes two panels about Norwich prison reformer Elizabeth Fry - one made in Britain and one from Australia.

Ms Guest said: “It sort of changed the lives of the people making it. Quakers who were housebound were able to invite friends to their house to bring the panel, so that created a social event once or twice a week. People in the Highlands of Scotland made an effort to get together; people got to know each other better.”

This exhibition includes an audio-guide for the first time - with different commentaries for adults and children - and a short film.

But, says Ms Guest, there is just one question that every visitor asks.

“The answer is, it's finished. We think 77 panels is big enough and we ran out of backing cloth. The weavers who made it retired, so we thought that was a good place to stop. But there are panels being sewn all over the country by people wanting a panel to keep in their own meeting house.

“It's lovely to think it's continuing in that sense, sharing the techniques, the stories, the stitches.”

t The tapestry will be on show from February 1 to March 11, open Monday to Saturday 10am-4pm, admisison free.

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