The River & Rowing Museum is set for a celebratory dressing up thanks to the creativity of the local community. Over the past few days, Henley residents have been collecting their craft kits for the museum’s ‘Flag Up My Hero’ initiative, which invites people to pay tribute to their lockdown champions through the creation of hand-sewn flags. The flags will be strung together to create bunting and used to decorate the River & Rowing museum — a visual celebration of the Henley community and its coronavirus crisis heroes.
The Flag Up My Hero scheme was inspired by the nautical tradition of boats being ‘dressed overall’ – decorated with flags and pennants for special occasions. The museum has been working with local partners on the scheme, particularly Lady Sew & Sew. Flags can be easily made from fabric such as an old pillow case or tea towel using the template and instructional video on the museum website. The museum are also offering flag kits for those seeking a little more guidance, which can be requested via the River & Rowing Museum website. The kits are free of charge, though voluntary donations are welcomed to help support the museum through this challenging time.
The flags can all be personalised to recognise your own lockdown heroes. You may choose to weave in the colours of your school, club, community group or company, make a flag using scrub colours as a thank you to the NHS, or recognise other key workers such as teachers and supermarket workers. The River & Rowing Museum is welcoming anyone to get involved in flag making, regardless of age or sewing experience.
Louise Wymer, who works at the museum and collected her Flag Up My Hero Kit last Friday, will be making flags with her 11 year old daughter. She said, “I think it’s great for lots of reasons. One is that it gives children something to do when they’ve been out of school since the middle of March. We’re constantly looking for new activities to keep them busy. Secondly, it recognises people who’ve done such amazing work. From a community perspective, the museum is front and centre of Henley and we need to be able to get the whole community embraced around it.” Louise’s daughter has made VE Day bunting and a dress using a 1895 hand sewing machine during lockdown, so is very much looking forward to a new sewing project.
Our Editor, Michaela Clarke has made a flag celebrating the Henley COVID-19 Mutual Aid group. She said, “Members of the Henley COVID-19 Mutual Aid group are all community heroes in my eyes. They’ve volunteered their time to help people in these unprecedented and difficult times. They’ve shown that Henley really has a community spirit and they are the real ‘stars’ of our community during this crisis.”
Another flag has been made by another supporter for her friend Jim. She explained, “Jim is a friend I have known since I was at school and in the past year or so we had been in contact quite regularly. We had chatted on the phone about how all the precautions were being taken in his care home but the next news I had was that he was in hospital with Covid. Of course we were all very concerned as he is approaching 90 years old. I started a flag and decided to dedicate it to him. It was a way of thinking of him while I waited to hear news. He is making a good recovery now.”
As visitors once again return to the museum (which reopens tomorrow Thursday 6th), the flags will serve as a visual reminder of this tough and turbulent time, whilst also applauding the strength of the local community and celebrating all things Henley. River & Rowing Museum Director, Sarah Posey said last Friday, “I think it’s a very powerful visual way of Henley coming together and celebrating community as we all come out of a very troubled period and the town reopens for business. It’s fabulous today seeing so many visitors to Mill Meadows and when we display these flags, instead of having displays inside the museum, we’re going to use the walls of the museum as the display so the museum will come inside out. We have a very beautiful building but it’s quite a quiet building, so I’m really looking forward these flags celebrating the community of Henley and Henley’s heroes during lockdown, and making the museum really come alive and be noticeable to all these visitors to the town.”
The River & Rowing Museum will display the flags at the end of the summer holidays, so there is still plenty of time to get involved. For more information, visit the River & Rowing Museum website.