We spanned the bridge!
We had worried about rain, we had thought about snow, but fog took us completely by surprise. International Women’s Day on Friday 8 March dawned on Lemons Hill Bridge, Tattingstone, shrouded in mystery, but as 11 o’clock drew near, it had lifted enough to look strange but beautiful. By 10am the tea and coffee were brewing in the village hall, and Tattingstone Primary’s PTA were getting the lunch ready. Carol and Jill had been in early to set up the exhibition of children’s work: we hadn’t known quite what to expect, but the writing, drawings, multi-media displays, along with a couple of clay sculptures from the youngest were well beyond our highest hopes. The theme common to all was inspirational women who spanned the centuries, with here-and-now mothers all beautifully described in words and artwork. Not to be sentimental, but many of those who visited the exhibition over lunch time had tears to brush away.
The processions to the bridge started at 11 and more and more people appeared out of the mist, the choirs on one side, others opposite. Radio Suffolk began their interviews which went out live on the Mark Murphy Show, with Carol from the planning group, Elaine who is head of Ipswich High School for Girls, and Lily, a student at Holbrook Academy, setting out the reasons we were celebrating.
Meanwhile more than one hundred children had arrived, including the whole of Tattingstone Primary, and groups from Stutton Primary, Holbrook Academy, and the choir from Ipswich High School for Girls.
Susan gave a welcome to everyone and a few words about why we were there on the bridge and then the singing began, led by Fran and Tracy who organise community harmony singing groups, with one of their groups, Lifting Spirits, twenty of whom had been working on the songs for several weeks.
The harmonies were very heartfelt and moving and all concerned women’s commitment to peace (and harmony), some in other languages. A welcoming song from South Africa was sung by lifting Spirits and Ipswich School, Bella Mama (Beautiful Mother Earth) was sung as a round, all the schools in good voice, and a song about a Kenyan woman, Wangari, who is worldwide renowned for her commitment to helping fellow Kenyan women raise their income while planting woodlands. Tattingstone School went solo with a favourite of theirs (Oil in my Lamp) .Ipswich High School’s choir finished the singing with a version of Bridge over Troubled Water. By now all were spell bound standing in the lifting mist.
Ann Baeppler, the interfaith minister, then led a short meditation reminding us of our own past struggles for women’s rights we now enjoy, our continued commitment against violence affecting women and girls here, and the support we need to give to women all over the world in their often awful conditions. A pause for reflection in silence, then daffodils were distributed , and were thrown into the waters where they drifted in lovely processions in the currents across the water.
Marshals all in their special yellow jackets then helped everyone to cross over to join the choirs, and we began to link hands : would we span right across? Lemons Bridge is very long! Our planners held their breath for the conclusion of this event…and success!! A brilliant moment, well cheered. We all turned and walked off the bridge towards the village hall. Fran and Tracy started up a final song, and many knew it and joined in. Most people crowded into the hall to have a lunch of homemade food contributed by visitors and local people, sold in aid of Lighthouse Ipswich Women’s Aid, and to look in detail at the children’s work displayed there.
We started to plan the event back in November, and what made it so special was that 4 schools wanted to join in and Music in Our Bones, Fran, Tracy and Jenny, wanted to be involved. Jo from Lighthouse too was so very helpful in every way. The East Anglian Daily Times published a double page spread after the event, and Suffolk magazine will also publish an account and photos in April or May.
Thanks so much to Andy, who provided the sound system, to all the people from Stutton and Tattingstone and far-flung places who agreed to wear the famous hi-viz jackets, the photographers, the cooks, Julia and helpers on refreshments, Lloyd and Chris for their support, Tattingstone Parish Council, police woman Joanne, and of course to all the teachers and teaching assistants who were so absolutely committed to helping children understand the importance of the day and do their very best. Thanks of course to all the hard work of the planning group, Fran, Jenny and Janet in Stutton, Ann in Harkstead, and Carol and Susan in Tattingstone. And thanks to the weather..it poured all afternoon just after everyone had gone home or back to school. And then it snowed….
Let’s all remember the good example we can set when we show the children and young people in our community standing together right there with them, in this case literally on the bridge, on matters which concern us all in our desire for a better life for all. That’s the least we can do for our young people as they approach their own years as adults in a complex world.
We think we can say it was a magical International Women’s Day for the villages of Alton Water.
News: by popular request, the children’s work from all 4 schools will be on show at Stutton Village Hall for one hour before the film Skyfall is shown there on the evening of Friday 19th April, and then open again on Saturday morning 20th until the Community Shop next to the village hall shuts at around 12.30.