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Inspiring Women Talk: Sheila Dawkins and the Bristol Tapestry

Sheila Dawkins in front of the Bristol Tapestry at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery speaking to the audience.

On Saturday 7 October , we had the privilege of meeting Sheila Dawkins, one of the many contributors to the Bristol Tapestry.

Humorous, spritely and informed, Sheila was committed to her mission; get the Tapestry recognised as the artistic feat it is! 

About the Tapestry

The Bristol Tapestry is split into four frames totaling 22 metres, depicting the last 1,000 years of Bristol’s history in 27 scenes. 

The Bristol Tapestry was the idea of Mrs Jean Tanner and Mrs Marjorie Bleasedale in the late 1960s to record important events from the city’s past.

Made as a passion project by a collection of dedicated women, it utilises everyday textiles, such as a school tie and old dress. Undertaking a year of historical research first, the women went about making the tapestry in the confines of a living room.

By 1976 the project was complete, having involved over 90 local people. In fact it’s not a tapestry at all, but includes many different embroidery stitches, appliqué techniques and screen printing.

 In 1999 the Tapestry came to its present home at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. The events chosen and the story they tell reflect the time at which the Tapestry was made.

Despite its humble beginnings, the tapestry is far from tatty; its diverse panels each elegantly tell a story. It’s the kind of piece that really inspired the desire to know more.

Unfortunately, in recent times the tapestry has been rather forgotten. It’s hung unceremoniously in an unassuming corridor in the Bristol Museum, in a confusing order. 

Sheila asks:

if this had been painted in oils, by a man, would it be receiving the same treatment? 

To find out more about the Tapestry, and to hear Sheila speak, see the Bristol Museum website.  

Find our full Inspiring Women Talk event listing here.


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