2018 Reeth, Swaledale UK

“British eccentricities and a slightly bonkers attitude”

The 9th TIGHR Triennial, the culmination of the work of the UK Board’s work, took place in Reeth in Swaledale from Monday 8th October to Thursday 11th October 2018.

The Meet & Greet was held in St Andrew’s Church, Grinton, where the exhibition ran for the next three days. As well as rugs made by TIGHR members, the rug show featured work by British hooky and proddy groups including Ebor Ruggers from York, West Riding Ruggers, St Mary’s Heritage Centre in Gateshead, Lunesdale Rugmakers, Durham Rug Makers, Rebellious Rags from Mansfield, Oxton Rug Group, Woodhorn Matters and the Richmondshire Refugee Craft Textile Project.

There were 135 exhibits from around the world in the catalogue, plus wreaths, mandalas and angels, rugs made by Founder Member Joan Lindsay on show near the altar and the Blackburn Chapel was devoted to the President’s rugs. The event was open to the public and over 1,000 people visited. The comments passed on by the curator Kathryn Guy and her band of helpers suggest that everyone thought it was a truly wonderful event. Visitors gave over £2,600 in donations, money which was divided equally between the church and TIGHR President Heather Ritchie’s social enterprise Rug Aid cic.

Before the Meet & Greet started at two o’clock, a patient queue (left) formed outside. Luckily – and perhaps to a few people’s surprise – the sun was shining and it wasn’t raining!

Once inside the church members registered in a system designed by TIGHR Treasurer Margaret Hayden, whose logistical and planning skills made the Triennial such a success. Each member was given a goody bag: as well as containing a small pack of traditional Yorkshire tea and a wax-wrapped cheese made by Reeth’s own cheesemaker, Simon, each contained a ‘wreath’ made by the Durham Clayport rugmakers, a quilly keyring made by Karen Walker of Woodhorn Matters, a photograph by Anne Hewitt and a dressed dolly peg provided by the Swaledale Museum in Reeth.

The postcards members brought to exchange were pinned to a display board (below left) and everyone was offered a cup of tea and a piece of fruit cake with Swaledale cheese to enjoy while they chatted and took a first look at the exhibition.

When people started to take their seats, they saw that each pew-end was decorated with a wreath made by the Reeth Rug Group. The building – which always looks incredibly beautiful – looked fabulous with rugs hanging, lying and pinned up in every possible place (above right and below).


Heather welcomed members in a witty and unscripted address (below) before Dr Helen Clifford, curator of the Swaledale Museum, gave a short talk which took us through the history of the dale in ten objects, including a fossil and a quilt.

Heather’s address is available on the TIGHR 2016-2018 YouTube channel if you want to see it again and Helen’s talk is there as well.

After Helen’s talk, the ‘popular North East Folk Group’ Fourum started their short concert by inviting everyone to sing Happy Birthday. This was in honour of the Vicar of Swaledale with Arkengarthdale, the Rev Caroline Hewlett, who had to leave immediately afterwards to return to parish business. She cheerfully admitted to being fifty and was delighted when Heather presented her with the rug which had featured on the exhibition posters, a scene showing St Andrew’s by moonlight (left).

Both Heather and Caroline took part in the recording of an Inside Yorkshire at Triennial time, and they make fascinating listening: Caroline’s is number 19. In Heather’s, number 21, from about 23 minutes onwards there are lovely contributions from TIGHR members Dana Rea, Linda Bishop, Miriam Miller, Ti Seymour, Diane Hodder and Kay Lewis.

Classes took place on Tuesday morning and afternoon, and on Thursday morning. Each session included a hands-on talk about textiles by Dr Helen Clifford. Given in the upstairs room of the tiny-but-perfectly-formed Swaledale Museum (below), everyone who attended said that it was really interesting. Many of the members who heard Helen speaking on Monday or in the museum commented that she is a great communicator.

Other class venues included the Ice Cream Parlour and Fremington Sunday School as well as Meg Evershed’s Nutmeg Room. Anyone who didn’t want to take a class or go on a trip was invited to sit and hook in The Hub (below), our home-from-home in The Buck. The Cornish rugmaking group Mesdames Myrtles – the group to which TIGHR Membership Chair Diane Cox belongs – filled the room with colour and it was a glorious, welcoming place which attracted yet more visiting members of the public. Cilla Cameron ran a pop-up shop in The Hub, selling essential supplies for members who had forgotten something as well as a range of beautiful fabrics and must-have items to buy as a souvenir or for a gift.

Most people chose to join the trip to Beamish open-air museum on Wednesday. After having been told to be ready at 9am prompt, there was an unfortunate delay getting away from Reeth.

To make matters worse, the mist got heavier and heavier as we travelled east along the valley of The Swale. But the murk finally cleared and members who had made the journey by coach, including Fumiyo Hachisuka and her friends who came to the Triennial from Japan (below), enjoyed a beautiful sunny day in County Durham.

The teachers during the three days of classes were Jan Haines, Ann Hewitt, Maureen Murano, Jill Denton and Sue Gilmartin. Classes on Thursday morning included (left) Brigitte Kaufold teaching in Hudson House.

Because demand for Ann’s Thursday morning Dry Stone Walls class in the Nutmeg Rooms was so high, a second session ran at the same time in the adjacent Threshing Barn and Heather helped out in that class (below). There were two other invaluable class helpers during the Triennial, Angela Gray and Sue Tregear.

After lunch on Thursday, almost everyone boarded one of three vintage vehicles hired from Cumbria Class Coaches and enjoyed the spectacular journey past St Andrew’s and Grinton Youth Hostel and across Redmire to Bolton Castle (coaches and castle below) where they were greeted by a falconry display in the lovely gardens and yet more sunshine.

The Triennial General Meeting, the business part of the whole event, had been scheduled to take place in Reeth on Wednesday after everyone got back from Beamish. As that day got off to a late start and ended much later than planned, the Board decided to re-schedule the TGM and hold it at Bolton Castle.

It started at 15:30, took place in the Buttery and the Old Kitchen (left) and must rank as the most unconventional business meeting ever held. There was a roaring log fire in each of the two rooms and an open space in the wall between them. People sat on benches, boxes, barrels and shelves – wherever they could sit – and lots more people stood.

The very welcome suggestion was made – and has been acted upon – that a Ning group should be formed so that TIGHR members who attended the Triennial can identify each other and everyone can keep in touch with their new friends. The incoming Newfoundland Board, who will take office in January 2019 and plan to hold their Triennial in St Johns in 2021, was introduced to members. Their details appear on the Contact page of this website.

The Gala Dinner was held in Bolton Castle’s Great Hall and everyone got a seat at one of three beautifully decorated long tables. Sitting down was a lovely surprise for the Board as we had been expecting a stand-around buffet! The food and service, provided by local chef Guy Fairhurst, was excellent and Trouvere Medieval Minstrels played while people ate or waited in line. Then a fanfare played – and in walked Mary Queen of Scots, better known as the TIGHR President! Mary stayed at Bolton Castle for six months from July 1568, hence Heather’s choice of outfit, which was sourced by TIGHR Secretary Kathy Bryan. This charming photo, below, taken by Rug Hooking Magazine’s editor Debra Smith, shows Heather chatting to Australian member Jacqui Thomson.

During dinner, while more live ‘medieval’ music played, at the suggestion of members a collection which raised £363.30 was taken up for Rug Aid cic. As the dinner came to an end, Debra Smith and Kathy Wright spoke about the Founders’ Cup, which had been awarded to Kris McDermet during the Sauder Village Rug School in August.

The end of the final Triennial event echoed its first event as one of the musicians’ last tasks was to play Happy Birthday: this time everyone present sang to Gail Dusfresne!

On Friday after the Triennial, Heather and Kathy Bryan organised a Mini Fibre Fest. About 100 members travelled by coach to Farfield Mill and the lovely village of Dent. Sadly, it rained heavily and blew a gale all day, but the group was given a very warm welcome at The Tan Hill Inn on the way back to Reeth.

During the following weekend, Cilla Cameron and Heather ran a rug school in Reeth. They both taught sessions, and the other teachers were Janet Connor, Anne Hewitt, Gail Dufresne and Jill Curwen.

During the week there were plenty of activities for anyone who didn’t want to take a class as well as for their non-rugmaking partners, including cycling, a trip to a brewery, an astronomy evening, outdoor photography sessions and several organised walks. This photo (left) was taken on one of the walks and shows the participants on the footbridge across the Swale.

A few delegates stayed on to explore Swaledale and the north east of England after the weekend. Many more had extended their stay in the UK, taking the opportunity to visit London, Bath, Stonehenge and other places of interest.

When the event was over one much-missed member, who had been unable to attend due to poor health, wrote to Heather saying that she had been kept up-to-date with the week as it unfolded. She said: “My goodness, what a terrific feat you pulled off with the TIGHR Conference.  It just sounded amazing.  Thanks to some people I knew I was able to eavesdrop on some of your scenes. Just wish I could have been there! … You and your committee did a fantastic job. What more can I say? Just WOW!”

A member of the UK Board responded: “I think it was the British eccentricities and slightly bonkers attitude that did it! It was well organised, cosy, homely, natural, full of textiles, fibres, history, laughter and fun!”

We, the outgoing TIGHR Board, hope that every delegate found something to enjoy in our four-day Triennial. We really enjoyed meeting all of you and we have some vivid memories of our time together in Reeth, Beamish and Bolton Castle. We hope you have taken home plenty of happy memories that you will both share with your new friends and relive, time and time again. If you enjoyed visiting the places we showed you and those you took yourself to, please remember to rate your visit on Trip Advisor as it makes a big difference to small businesses like those who really enjoyed seeing – and loved serving – you in Reeth!

The Darlington & Stockton Times published this article about the event, which had also featured in The Dalesman in October.