The Somerset women who dressed royalty and lived through the Blitz

A number of care home residents have shared their life stories for a community art project.

Irene, Ruth and Della are among the women who have discussed their experiences of the first and second world wars over a series of podcasts produced by Yeovil Art Space.

Artist Natasha Rand interviewed those involved over Zoom to create a series of 18 podcasts entitled Together We Are Stronger.

Among those interviewed for the project are Irene, Ruth and Della.

Irene is 91-years-old and in 1943, she got a job at a fashion house in London aged 14.

She didn’t want to ask her parents for the money for art college, so instead worked her way up to the firm’s design room, where she occasionally worked as a model despite being shy.

Irene holding a photo
Irene

Irene went on to dress royalty as well as film stars such as Patricia Loc.

Her father worked as a secret code breaker, something she wasn’t allowed to speak of at the time.

Ruth, 85, similarly lived through the war, during which her father was stationed in India.

Ruth
Ruth

After the war, Ruth trained to be a teacher and went on a two year trip to Australia, after travelling for a month aboard a ship.

Ruth made lifelong friends, climbed Ayers Rock and eventually travelled home where she became a headmistress.

Della is over 90-years-old and was 14 during the Blitz in London.

Della was responsible for looking after young school children orphaned during the bombing, which prompted her to pursue a career in nursing.

Della

She said: “I think most of my generation weren’t taught to be what I should call ‘namby pamby’ and that was our way of life.

“It helped me to cope. Life is not a bowl of cherries for everyone. You have to keep on trying.”

Ms Rand profiled residents and staff from Somerset Care and local elders from Yeovil to ask how they have been coping and to share their life experiences, capturing their travels, friendships, wartime hardship and mental health.

Ms Rand and Yeovil Art Space hope to use the podcast conversations as a springboard to wider community connections.

She said: “The aim of the ‘Together We Are Stronger‘ project is to create more opportunities for intergenerational work in Yeovil and support cohesion and new partnerships, linking different groups and organisations together.

“We would like to thank, for their generous support, the individuals and organisations who have made this project possible.”

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Emma Brown from Somerset Care said: “We are delighted that residents and staff from our Burnworthy House care home in Yeovil have been able to share their stories as part of this project.

“At Somerset Care we support our residents to live the life they choose, and these podcasts show that they are very definitely living life to the full. Their stories are fascinating, inspiring and a real tonic during these challenging times.”

The podcasts are available to listen to in full on the Yeovil Art Space website here and are also on Spotify.

Ms Rand and Yeovil Art Space worked in partnership with Eastville Project Space, Somerset Care, Somerset Libraries Yeovil, Love Yeovil, Yeovil College, Buckler’s Mead Academy and the Quedam Shopping Centre with support from The National Lottery Community Fund, Somerset Community Foundation, South Somerset District Council and Arts Council England Lottery Fund.

Do you have a tip or a story to tell? Email me through rebecca.cook@reachplc.com to get in touch.

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