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The first cohort of English students at University Centre Shrewsbury (UCS) are a tight-knit group. Ranging in age from 18 to 44 when they started, the students supported each other both personally and academically throughout their academic journey.  They often refer to the students and tutors of the English Department as “family”. 

“I’ve developed such a personal relationship with the students and the tutors, that I can tell them anything and everything,” said Sophie Rogers, who is now pursuing a Masters of Research in Literature. “They were my rock all the way through. That bond was really special and something I don’t think I would have gotten it anywhere else.”  

Professor Deborah Wynne, one of the lecturers in the English Department said, “It was quite extraordinary how they bonded over the three years. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.” 

As the students prepared to graduate and disperse, Professor Wynne wanted to commemorate the cohesiveness and solidarity of the group. Having conducted research on Victorian women writers and how they depict textiles in their work, Professor Wynne suggested a banner. Each student was to make a 30 cm square of fabric including their name and something that reflected themselves or their studies at UCS. Students and lecturers produced 17 personal and very different blocks. 

Elaine Rowland, a second generation sewer who is studying for a Masters of Research in Gender Studies, with a focus on Vintage Dressmaking, was asked to sew the blocks into a cohesive whole. “It was a challenge to make it all work, but I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process,” Elaine said. “It was just so apparent how much all the contributors had wanted to be involved. The degree of sewing skills varied widely, but the enthusiasm with which they had entered into the project clearly did not. It made me really want to create something which did justice to their creations.”

Ms Rowland’s final creation is a triumph. Within the banner are 17 different stories from students and staff woven into a whole.  Medina Evens’s square depicts the skyline of Shrewsbury with a daffodil, the flower of Wales, which represents Medini’s new home and her Welsh roots.  Meg Knight and Philip Jones included some of their favourite books from the course, including Great Expectations, Frankenstein and Paradise Lost.  Lecturer Dr Giulia Miller took direction from her daughter, Noa, age eight, who depicted her mother’s work as a commute including a train travelling through different types of weather. Gaynor Llewellyn-Jones was inspired by her daughter, Louisa, including in her square a likeness of her daughter and the play, Dr Faustus, which mother and daughter shared.  Dr Lucy Andrew included the Serpent of Slytherin, as her research interests include Harry Potter and children’s literature.  Andrea Wolff McDonald used fabric from the Scottish kilt which she once wore as a child, complete with its original pin. Ms Rowland created the title block which shows a mug on top of a stack of books, which she feels  perfectly encapsulates the student experience.  

““We wanted to create something that conveyed a sense of community as English students and staff, and as part of UCS - something that was material and permanent, a legacy that will survive us all.” 

The banner is now on display in Guildhall, UCS’s teaching centre, where it will remain. 

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