Celia passes on crochet skills at craft festival

Wayne Sleep dances with GrandMaker Celia Dennis  at GrandFest, hosted by Royal Voluntary Service

Wayne Sleep dances with GrandMaker Celia Dennis at GrandFest, hosted by Royal Voluntary Service

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Local lady Celia Dennis from Coldwaltham returned to GrandFest for a second to teach the art of crochet at the one-day festival in London recently.

Thousands of visitors descended on Spitalfields on Sunday June 5 to celebrate London’s unique craft festival, GrandFest. Hosted by older people’s charity, Royal Voluntary Service, the festival celebrates older people and the heritage skills they have to share with the younger generation.

72 year-old Celia has volunteered with Royal Voluntary Service for two and a half years, working with the Good Neighbours Scheme since she retired from the health service. Celia covers the whole of West Sussex and spends around three days a week visiting clients and giving presentations to help attract volunteers.

As a child, Celia remembers her mother knitting while watching Wimbledon, and this first sparked her interest in crafts. It was her grandmother who inspired her to try crochet and she would sit at her knee while making decorative table mats. From there, she went on to experiment with making clothes and now regularly makes gifts for family and friends, such as babies’ shawls, christening gowns and cardigans. Celia believes crochet is a great way to relax and switch off while creating something beautiful that gives a sense of achievement and pride.

The skilled GrandMakers, all aged over 70, hosted a series of master classes from breadmaking to crochet and basket weaving to wood turning to share their fountain of knowledge and inspire others to pick up a hobby. The fun and interactive master classes took place in various shops, cafes and museums in and around Spitalfields.

Celia hosted a popular crochet master class at GrandFest and was thrilled to be part of the event. “In my master class I showed people how to do basic crochet stitches to give them the confidence and skill to tackle their own projects at home. Creating your own clothes or accessories means you can choose the colours, styles and shapes that suit you rather than having to wear what fashion tells you to wear and gives you a great a sense of achievement.”

Many of the heritage craft skills that were taught are experiencing a renaissance as they have become popular once again with previous research by Royal Voluntary Service identifying that 80 per cent of 18-24 year olds would consider learning a new skill or craft if they had the option.

In April, the GrandMakers met HRH The Duchess of Cornwall at the Geffrye Museum. As President of Royal Voluntary Service, the Duchess was provided with a sneak preview of the skills each GrandMaker was planning to showcase at GrandFest.

David McCullough, Chief Executive of the Royal Voluntary Service, says: “Royal Voluntary Service launched GrandFest to celebrate the many skills possessed by older people and to highlight the importance of them continuing to enjoy and share them in later life. We were delighted with the amount of people that turned out to support us at GrandFest. Our GrandMakers were delighted to showcase their skills and inspire the younger generation to get involved too.”

The Royal Voluntary Service is one of the biggest volunteer organisations in the UK, which supports over 100,000 older people each month. Through its army of 35,000 volunteers, the charity runs services such as Good Neighbours (companionship), Meals-on-Wheels and Books-on-Wheels that alleviate loneliness and help older people. Royal Voluntary Service also provides practical support for older people who have been in hospital through its ‘On Ward’ support and ‘Home from Hospital’ services and via its network of retail shops and cafes.