The Zhoosh! Brighton Blog
June 27th 1987, saw a group of people living in San Francisco put together some panels of material measuring 3’ X 6’ (the same width and length of a grave) with the names of their loved ones who had lost the fight to AIDS. From then the ‘Names Project’ captured the imagination of people across the world and similar projects, including Brighton, sprung up giving everyone an opportunity to share their grief and celebrate the lives of those they had lost.
With the huge improvements made with anti-retroviral drug treatments, the number of people dying from AIDS has dropped dramatically, although the Names Project has continued to grow particularly in the USA; here in the UK the project had been assigned to the history books with the Brighton Names Quilt folded away and mostly forgotten about.
Twenty five years on and a group of local Brighton people have got together to re-launch the Names Project in the shape of ‘The Hankie Quilt’ project. Zhoosh met up with one of the volunteers, Maurice, and asked how the idea came into fruition.
Maurice: Bear-Patrol is a social group that also raises funds for the Sussex Beacon, during one of our meetings we were discussing what to do for this year’s LGBT Brighton Pride parade. One of the ideas was about colours and social history which led to us talking about doing something creative around the hankie code. The hankie code was prevalent on the gay scene in the 1970’s and early 80’s where different coloured hankies related to sexual preferences. From here we talked about sewing the hankies together into a quilt. We then got talking about the Brighton Names Project and discussed how we could revitalize a similar project for 2012.
Zhoosh: What has been the response since you launched the idea?
M: In April we set up The Hankie Quilt on Facebook, which instantly generated a lot of interest. As we began to get everything into place, we were getting more and more people asking about the project. Since then we got all the details needed together, ready to send out; within the last week we have sent out over a hundred information packs telling people how they can create a names panel to be included in the quilt. We have also been contacted by the local W.I. who have said they would like to share their skills in getting the panels sewn together. We are also extremely pleased to have actress, Ann Mitchell (Widows, Eastenders) joining us to help with promoting the project.
Z: How did Ann Mitchell get involved with the project?
M: A friend of mine is good friends with Ann and mentioned the project to her. Right away Ann said she would like to create a panel for the project then asked if there was anything else she could do. She has since come on board and has been a great advocate in helping promote the project to a wider audience.
Z: The Names Project in the USA is now available online, are there any plans to the same for the Brighton Hankie Quilt?
M: Yes, everyone who sends a panel in will be given a number of the grid, so they will be able to go online and see exactly where the panel is. We are also putting together a book which will have a copy of the panel. People will also be able to send in a photo and give more details about the person they have dedicated the panel to be included in the book.
Z: The project is a way to remember and celebrate those who have lost their lives to AIDS, Zhoosh was reading that the Hankie Quilt Project will include the names of those who are living with an HIV+ diagnoses?
M: That’s right, The Names Project was created for those who had died from AIDS, but since those early days of the epidemic there have been huge advances in medical treatment with many people living well with HIV, as such we wanted to reflect that in the project and to give loved ones the opportunity to show their support to those who are living with an HIV+ diagnoses.
Z: How will the quilt be displayed during the LGBT Brighton Pride March, will it be on display at the park?
M: From the early discussions we said we wanted to carry the quilt along the route of the Pride March, rather than having it draped from a float. We have had a great response from people saying that would like to volunteer and help carry it through the town; we are also hoping to have a stall inside the park where people will be able to get more information about the project and how they can get involved and donate a panel. Other events penciled included the quilt being on display at the Jubilee Library as part of the World Aids Day exhibition on December the 1st
Z: What else do does the project hope to achieve?
M: The project wants to raise awareness about HIV, as well as raising funds through selling our Hankie Quilt project T-shirts and from public donations; all of which will go direct to The Sussex Beacon and The Rainbow Fund. The project is completely run by volunteers with all donations going direct to our chosen charities. There is a link on our website where people can make a direct donation as well as finding out how they can find out more about creating a panel or getting involved as a volunteer.
More information about the project and how to get involved can be found on the project’s Facebook page: ‘The Hankie Quilt’.