Street Decorations To Lift Shaftesbury’s Spirits During Coronavirus Disruption

Vibrant knitted sleeves have appeared on bollards, signposts and streetlamp columns in Shaftesbury town centre. Each morning, shoppers and workers have noticed more of the creative covers appearing. Alfred spoke with the artist behind the project.

“There are about ten or eleven and I am adding more every night. We sneak out every evening and add more to surprise people the next day,” said Georgie Faulkner Bryant, owner of The Big Beautiful Bunting Company.

Georgie Faulkner Bryant

Sadly, Georgie has had some spare time on her hands. Her orders of bunting for celebrations and events have dropped off under the current coronavirus restrictions. “It’s a real problem. Lots of my colleagues in the events industry have been talking about this,” said Georgie. “Brides are postponing weddings until next year and festivals are being cancelled. We are not getting new enquiries. As I’m usually in charge of decorating Shaftesbury Town for all our festivals, I thought I’d try something a little bit different.”

This practice is known as ‘yarn bombing’. “It was started by a woman in The States. She was in between jobs and she began decorating her local area. Slowly, it took on a life of its own and people started adding to it. I think it’s a lovely way to decorate the town,” said Georgie.

Outside the TIC on Bell Street

We were chatting next to the Shaftesbury branch of Mine. The 20mph speed limit sign stands outside this shop and Georgie’s colourful knitting sleeve has brightened up the dull, grey metal post. “I was lucky enough to be given a really beautiful 1970s knitting machine. I’ve been slowly collecting different threads from the charity shops and I’ve been knocking out these pieces. Instead of going to the challenge of learning how to make socks, I’ve been stitching pieces to lampposts,” laughed Georgie. “Hopefully I’m cheering everybody up.”

And that’s what the project is all about – adding some fun and interest to the streets of a town known for its arts, but which has, temporarily, lost one of its creative venues with the closure of Arts Centre because of COVID-19 measures.

Georgie says her decorations don’t take long to make, with her knitting machine being so fast. And she’s keen to get more hands on deck. “I’m thinking about doing an online tutorial and inviting people to choose colours and patterns. I can make them up and put them up around town,” she said.

‘Keep calm and wash your hands’

Some of the knitted decorations have words stitched into them. “Yarn bombing is usually about just putting the thing up, but I wanted to add another dimension and add messages,” said Georgie. “We picked unusual words that people might not have heard of. You can ‘Google’ them on your phone as you see them and find out what they mean. They’re all really cool words. They’re all positive messages. I think everybody needs a bit of a pickup at the moment.” Georgie gave the example of the word ‘fika’, which you’ll find on a decoration outside the town hall. “It’s Swedish,” Georgie advised.

‘Fika’

Georgie’s project may be ideal for people who have also had their lives disrupted by the current events. “Anyone who is in self-isolation at the moment. There are lots of children at home from school. If they want projects, they can follow my Big Beautiful Bunting page on Facebook, and I can share links for knitting tutorials. I’ve got wool and a whole library of needles I can lend to people,” she said.

Once the town centre lamp posts are decorated, Georgie might attempt a makeover of some buildings, too. “I think it’s really sad that The Grosvenor has closed temporarily. We need to decorate the columns next,” she said, adding that she’s got enough wool. “We are really lucky because we’ve got Hine and Parsons and Bargains who sell it in town, as well as all of our lovely charity shops.”

You can find Georgie on Facebook.