In January 2015 I was contacted by Dennis Gimes. As a former member of RAF Bomber Command and a Trustee of Soldiering On Through Life Charity, he wanted to start his own campaign to raise awareness about homeless veterans as well as some much needed funds.
Dennis told me of his idea to make a signature quilt: as he is in touch with many celebrities through his charitable work, he believed that the quilt idea would generate good publicity and felt he was in a position to get famous people to help. So we invited Dennis to come to the January 2015 London Quilters meeting to discuss the idea of making a signature quilt. Everyone agreed that it was a good idea to work on this project, and a collaboration was born.
I showed Dennis some simple designs for signature quilts and he picked the Rail Fence pattern. We decided on a red, white and blue colour scheme, as these were the charity’s own colours. I prepared dozens of blocks using purchased white fabrics and my own red and navy fabrics so the quilt would have a scrappy look. I ironed freezer paper to the back of the blocks, to make signing them easier, and Dennis took several dozen to give to various celebrities for their signatures.
We composed a letter to send out with the blocks, with instructions to recipients about how to sign fabric. Then we sat back and waited for the blocks to arrive. We weren’t disappointed. We received signatures from such luminaries as Joanna Lumley, Matt Lucas, Sir Roger Moore, Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Ranulph Fiennnes, Dame Kelly Holmes, Baron Paddy Ashdown, Nick Clegg and Richard E Grant.
We were very proud to get actress Barbara Windsor's signature.
Jeremy Irons took time out of his busy filming schedule to sign a block.
Here is Matthew Wright, TV presenter of The Wright Stuff, holding the block he signed for the Quilt for Homeless Veterans.
Dennis cornered actor and singer John Altman (perhaps best known for playing "Nasty" Nick Cotton in the popular BBC soap opera EastEnders) and got him to sign a block.
Writer, director, radio presenter, comedian and actor Steven Merchant gave his signature.
Denzil (Only Fools and Horses) actor Paul Barber, supports the Homeless Veterans Quilt.
Dennis went to visit Earl Spencer in his home, and he was very happy to provide a signature.
Sir Redmond Watt KCB, Governor of The Royal Hospital Chelsea, signed a block.
Chelsea Pensioners, Tom Mullaney, John Hilliar, Robert Leele and Joe Herman with Sir Redmond Watt.
One of the names we are very proud to feature is that of Miss Simone Segouin who was a French Resistance fighter during World War II. Simone was born in Thivars, France in 1925. During the German occupation of France, she was a member of the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans Français. On 23 Aug 1944, aged just 18, she was in the thick of the fighting and was credited with capturing 25 Germans in the Chartres area. She was also present in Paris during the city's liberation. For her efforts during the war, she was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and was awarded the Croix de Guerre.
And we can't forget Dame Vera Lynne, who gave such hope to soldiers during World War II when she sang, "There'll be bluebirds over.....the white cliffs of Dover....tomorrow......just you wait and see."
In the next post, I'll tell you how the London Quilters put all the blocks together.