A Necklace of Stars (2020-2022)

  • Margaret Giller Star detail

arthur+martha worked with housebound, isolated older people at home to make “a necklace of stars” – an embroidered quilt with a poem border and a poetry/song soundtrack inspired by lullabies. Lullabies bring calm and comfort, but also tell insightful stories that pass onward human experience from generation to generation.

Artist Lois Blackburn led the quilt design and making, poet Philip Davenport led the creative writing, working with singer songwriter Matt Hill, who devised melodies, arrangements and further lyrics for the new lullabies. Lullabies are deceptively simple carriers of complex messages. They pave the road to sleep and the magic carpet of dreaming, but they bring danger too. “When the bough breaks the baby will fall…” An embroidered quilt was the project centerpiece, evoking childhood bedtime stories and song; safety, comfort, protection: a portal into dreaming.

Marylyn MacLennan Stars
Shooting Stars, Marylyn MacLennan June 2020

Necklace of Stars was a project designed to reach out to isolated older people. But when the pandemic started at the same time the project launched, the whole thing was at risk of being cancelled. It took a few deep gulps to move the project from face-to-face workshops to working over the phones for over a year. 

The Necklace of Stars theme of childhood lullabies, stories and the night sky was a great stimulus for some: “There is an aura off the starlight, it’s very powerful. It draws us to it, gives us peace and makes us feel our place… I’m exploring it. Opening my eyes to the starlight.” N, participant quote. But other people wanted a different kind of space. They needed to address what was going on in the world immediately around them and in their own heads, writing about the pandemic: “Stories come into my head. All the different ways people have reacted to this time of isolation and shielding…” J, participant quote

In summer 2021 Philip and Lois were invited to participate in an Arts Derbyshire case study about delivering poetry workshops over the phone during Covid for Necklace of Stars — read here. We also worked with The Institute of Mental Health, who produced an independent report, pinpointing learning points and exploring the significance of this type of focussed work with a marginalised group. The aim is to achieve a new model of artistic practice with isolated older people. Loneliness is a huge problem for older people, The Campaign to End Loneliness states: Making art develops intimate connections […] it counters loneliness, brings togetherness/intimacy, builds confidence, enhances feelings of being valued.

For more examples of embroidered stars for the Necklace of Stars quilt, please visit:


  • cross stitch star

We were delighted to have been shortlisted for @weareforthearts #HeartsForTheArts 2021 Awards for our project A Necklace of Stars’  To read more about our nomination visit For The Arts 

A Necklace of Stars is a collaboration between housebound, isolated older people in Derbyshire,  arthur+martha,  Arts Derbyshire   DCC Public Health and Derbyshire County Council Home Library Service. 

A Necklace of Stars, is supported by Arts Council England, Arts Derbyshire, DCC Public Health and Derbyshire County Council Home Library Service.


I’m a path of light across your room,

up the wall, into the mirror and out again

through the open window, into the garden /

now a negative, shadow on shadow on black.

I’ll sit on a branch with the owl, show him the

hummocking mole, slip in and out between trees /

I’m a flitter, a flibbertigibbet, play hide-and-seek

with your certainties. On the twenty-eighth day I’ll be gone,

your world will turn black , you’ll walk into a door /

stub your toe in the darkness, and the owl will call,

a lunatic cry, from the asylum up on the hill,

night after night. But if you look out, look up /

you’ll see my new crescent, delicate, small

in the overall blackness, a fragile sign –

and you’ll know I’m on my way back /

Lorna Dexter 24.10.20

Derbyshire CC Logo no strapline purple

13 thoughts on “A Necklace of Stars (2020-2022)

  1. What a lovely project , really disappointed I can’t join in , I’m 60 and retired living in Derbyshire. I broke my back just 6 weeks ago so lock down has been a challenge in a brace. Good luck with this inspiring projecthe.


    1. Hi Yvonne, thank you so much for your kind words. I’m so sorry to hear about your back, I can only imagine how much pain, and how frustrating that must be. Although a Necklace of Stars doesn’t quite fit for you at the moment, perhaps you can take a look at our other project https://arthur-martha.com/portfolio/here-comes-the-sun/ Here Comes the Sun, is a project open to everyone, from everywhere. In the meantime, thanks again for your support, and good luck for a fast recovery. Take care, stay safe. All the best Lois (arthur+martha)


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