Visitors to the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery from 21 October will get to see the City’s Spitfire like they’ve never seen it before thanks to a local branch of the Women’s Institute (WI) – and they want you to get involved.
On Friday 20 October, members of the Let’s Make Jam WI will drape a blanket of hand-crafted poppies from the wing of the famous Spitfire that will cascade to the floor. The display includes over 1,000 poppies in all shades of red made from wool, felt, and even paracord, sewn onto cargo netting and into a wreath.
When the display was first created in 2021, monthly meetings were taking place in Wolstanton, and so its first outing was to the cenotaph at St. Margaret’s Church in the village. But unlike some WIs, the Let’s Make Jam group members don’t all live in the same small area, and with 65 members from across the whole of North Staffordshire, they decided to present the poppies where the wider community could enjoy them. And so in 2022 an even larger version was featured swathed along the railings along the entranceway to The Potteries Museum. This year, bigger than ever, it is moving inside to the Spitfire Gallery itself with the world-famous aircraft becoming part of the display.
WI committee member Samantha Ward OBE, said: “The red poppy and Reginald Mitchell’s Spitfire are both icons that immediately bring to mind the British fighting spirit and the bravery of our armed forces. We’re very fortunate to have this space in the heart of our community where people can visit in the run-up to Remembrance Day, feel proud of our local connection to such an iconic piece of military history, and take some time to reflect on the sacrifices that have been made on behalf of us all. We sincerely hope that everybody who comes along to see the poppy cascade feels that it is a fitting tribute.”
The display opens to the public on Saturday 21 October, and Let’s Make Jam are inviting you to come along between 11am and 2pm to make your own origami poppy to add to the display. The activity is free and everybody is welcome. Members of the Royal British Legion armed forces charity will also be there to take donations in support of veterans and those currently serving.
The WI group regularly supports good causes including collections at each meeting for the Period Power campaign. But member Pauline Forrester has a very special reason to hope that the display raises some much-needed funds. Pauline’s late husband, Anthony Forrester, served in the 237 Squadron of the Royal Logistics Corps and was Chair of the Meir, Longton & District branch of the Royal British Legion. For five years he was also the Poppy Appeal organiser for Hanley, home of the Spitfire.
Pauline said: “My husband was a passionate supporter of the Royal British Legion and wholeheartedly believed their work makes a difference to veterans and their families. I’ve made poppies this year to honour his memory and to continue his support of a charity that he dedicated so much time to. He would be incredibly impressed with what the Let’s Make Jam women have achieved.”
Stoke-on-Trent Armed Forces Champion, councillor Desiree Elliott said: “This is a wonderful display that has been thoughtfully crafted. It’s a poignant tribute that honours our history and the sacrifice of those who served.
“I’m really pleased and excited that this is happening in our city and I urge all our residents to visit the museum and experience the awe-inspiring City’s Spitfire display. It’s a fantastic opportunity for everybody to come together where we can all appreciate and learn from.”
You can see the City’s Spitfire poppy display in the Spitfire Gallery at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery from Saturday 21 October to Sunday 12 November. And you can make an origami poppy with Let’s Make Jam members next to the display on opening day between 11am and 2pm. Let’s Make Jam WI meet on the second Friday of every month at St John the Evangelist Church Hall, Chesterton. To find out more, visit their Facebook page.