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Stitches and Stories: Transforming Psychology research into textile art

Quilt representing maps of segregation in Belfast

Inspired by Professor John Dixon’s ESRC-funded Belfast Mobility Project (BMP), The Belfast Quilt, devised by Dr Heather Richardson, Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing is a stunning piece of collaborative textile art, in the form of a patchwork quilt made of upcycled Irish linen.  

Dr Richardson, whose practice as a creative writer brings together text and textiles, based the design of the quilt on one of the maps of segregation produced as part of the BMP. It was stitched together by a group of thirty volunteers from all sections of the community in Belfast. At this stitching event, ‘Stitches and Stories’, participants were encouraged to share their own stories of Belfast. 

An article about the quilt has been published in the journal Textile: cloth and culture. The article explores the way the quilt suggests multiple narratives, from the post-industrial legacy of the linen industry, to the life stories of both the BMP participants and the women who came together to stitch the quilt. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed plans to display the quilt, but with the potential for restrictions to be easing Dr Richardson is developing ideas to enable more people to see it. She says: “My ambition is to have the quilt displayed in venues that are easily accessible to the general public – places like shopping centres and community arts spaces. This will allow us to continue the conversation about what makes us feel like we belong in Belfast, and to further share the findings of the BMP.” 

This work was part of an Impact Case Study submitted in the last Psychology REF exercise. Entitled ‘The Belfast Mobility Project: Transforming everyday mobility patterns in a divided city’, the case study showed how everyday mobility practices may reproduce systems of segregation within the historically divided city of Belfast. In so doing, it provided data to underpin policy decision-making regarding the use and creation of shared space in the city and promoted public awareness of – and reflection upon - the relationship between human mobility and sectarian divisions.

Find out more about the Stitching a Divided City research.


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