Quaker Arts Network Day in Birmingham – Reviews from Friends

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On Saturday June 1st, QAN held a day event at the Priory Rooms in central Birmingham, to include our 2024 AGM, some arts activities and opportunities to meet informally in person. 

The morning was a hybrid set up and included our AGM, which discussed the 2023 annual report and accounts. We appointed several new trustees and welcomed back returning Friends (link). We also revised our constitution, which you can find more about here.

After the AGM, we gave opportunities for participants to speak briefly about aspects of their work or news of local Quaker arts activities, including the Loving Earth Project, the Quaker Music Network, and QAN’s plans for participating in Greenbelt this year. You can find more about these plans in our July 2024 newsletter.

The afternoon was in-person only, with some participative arts activities including a rich and exploratory mandala presentation, a fun seated dance activity, and some villanelle poetry writing exercises. You can find reviews from Friends in attendance below.


Review from Lee Gunn

Thanks so much for the QAN event – I enjoyed the afternoon enormously (I’m sure I would have enjoyed the morning too if I’d been able to make it). Every one of the sessions was interesting, absorbing, and inspirational. I’m so glad I came, and hope to keep in touch. 

Review from Charlotte Allen

It was a pleasure to meet you all, for a wonderful day of warm fellowship and spiritual enrichment. What great organising, fabulous clerking and impressive time management. A huge thank you to John, Linda, Kate and all those who contributed in all possible ways. 

Review from Amanda Jones

It was an adventure to rely entirely on passenger assistance on the trains to travel to the AGM. All the way, people were kind and helpful. Thank you to everyone. Once settled at the Premier Inn I enjoyed a long chat and lunch with Josiane who arrived as I did then chilled to recover in my lovely room. Then my adapted motor on my wheelchair was tested as John took me with everyone to the restaurant. After a good meal and chat we went back to the Premier Inn to talk. It was great to get to know Friends better and to actually meet in person for the first time after many years.

The AGM the next day Andy’s kind support continued and whizzed me into place after our trips to and from the hotel. Business passed and I was delighted to talk about my new book ‘Kathleen’ and my first traditionally published. It is a story of love from being a young carer, to accepting disability and finding peace in Quakerism. Personal experience helps others in similar situations and my reason for the book is for awareness and support. Being published in the ‘Feisty Women’ imprint of my publisher it takes you through my Mum’s story and mine. It is available on Amazon, my publisher, ordered through local bookshops, the Quaker bookshop and global distribution lists. This is the link leading to more links: The Bridgetown Café Bookshop: Kathleen by Amanda Jones (thebridgetowncafebooksshop.co.uk)

The success of the Loving Earth Project was celebrated which was very topical as the exhibition was happening in Okehampton, my home town, and I had come to the AGM fresh from stewarding. We had just enjoyed my choir singing earth songs and the National Marine Aquarium visit. Hosted in an accessible, gaming and virtual reality arcade it has been very popular through all ages.

In the afternoon we enjoyed wonderful stories behind mandala creation. Then chair based dance enabled me to participate with others in gentle, meditative exercise. I haven’t been able to find movement like this which doesn’t make my pain worse and it felt really rich with everyone. Finally we followed John’s villanelle poetry writing exercise with the below coming from me.

Thank you Friends.


By Amanda Jones

All the busy people crossing the streets

They sometimes look up as well as down

Finding their way to secret heartbeats

Then a smile resonates as someone meets

Another, another as they come to the town

All the busy people crossing the streets

Someone old drops something, then greets

A young person stooping, once with a frown

Finding their way to secret heartbeats

The rush of the crowd constantly competes

For the simple joy found where we can drown

All the busy people crossing the streets

Back on the train the journey completes

Conversation starters taking the sound

All the busy people crossing the streets

Finding their way to secret heartbeats

Review from Julie Reynolds

I went to the AGM of the Quaker Arts Network (QAN) at the Priory Rooms next to Bull Street Meeting in Birmingham.

There are 400+ members signed up for the newsletter, but only 17 +1 Zoom present. I felt disappointed about this, however, I was heartened by the news and views from members attending. Talking about activities or showing their work.

I wish I had taken photographs of two items in particular. Linda Murgatroyd had made a folded book to represent a meeting for worship and a special box, the meeting place, to contain it. When the book is opened there is a fan of handmade papers that are blank representing the waiting gathered participants. Another member had been inspired by an alder tree, collected twigs and made a special cylinder base to hold these. The cylinder was decorated with calligraphy about this tree and reasons to protect trees, their help with our climate problems.

We had an interesting talk by Ann Lyon about a Biblical Literature Festival followed by a very enthusiastic invitation to support and/or attend the Greenbelt Festival. Quakers have a space booked to put on activities from short meetings for worship to tech games! Their talk just made me wish I could be there! They have to raise £5000 to cover expenses, insurance, site, etc. They hope to get volunteers to steward and help, and have some funds started as QAN is now a recognized charity within the Yearly Meeting.

There was an up to date briefing by Sue, one of the original Loving Earth Project members. It had been expected that the project would come to an end last year. However, panels are still being made. As there are so many, the group put bundles of 50 together and get ready boxes to send out when requested. 

I spoke about the Ludlow meeting exhibition, and a member from Malvern told us about the music activity in QAN. There is a weekend meeting of musicians and singers at least once a year, which she finds very uplifting.

After lunch a most inspiring talk about mandalas by Charlotte Allen. I have been rather dismissive about mandalas as just pretty patterns. However, Charlotte gave new insights. There are traditional meanings to making them, shapes and colours used linking to these elements, emotions and spirituality. Initially Charlotte learnt about making them at a Woodbrooke course. This led her to reflect on her own personal interests and feelings. The mandalas she showed us were beautiful. She explained why the designs came about, covering Quaker concerns and her own followings of activism. There was a range of cards using printed copies of her images and she asked us to take one. It was hard to choose. The one I picked was a copy of one of the first she made. Written on the back: ‘Let your light shine into the dark corners of the world’. I have since looked up the background of mandala making. It is very fascinating and inspiring. I shall have to have a go!

I wish I could have stayed longer to talk to Charlotte and others about their art activities. I was worried about how crowded the train back would be as it is always a busy line. 

As shown by the members attending, QAN has a lot to offer and covers a wide field of


I’m very glad I went. It gave me such a feeling of joy, to be there and hear the enthusiasm and variety that is happening. I’ve felt rather lost about what creating art means to me since I finished the course at Hereford Art College. Woodbrooke closing meant that I lost courses like Appleseed which I found so valuable to linking art, spirituality and Quaker life.

Now I shall look into mandalas and perhaps that’s a new way forward!

Review from Caroline Coode

This was a superbly organised event and I thank everyone involved in that, which contributed so much to the smooth running of it. I know how difficult it is with so many different elements to fit together!

Bull Street meeting house was a surprise. It is surrounded by high rise buildings which dwarf it. Yet in spite of that, inside it is light and there is an outside sitting area and garden with flourishing large leaves plants which soften the brutality of the tall brick buildings all round.

It is obviously a very well run conference centre with several spaces occupied with other meetings in addition to ours. 

The morning was a mix of sharing personal artwork and news of future plans for the Loving Earth project. I was delighted to see 3 panels which had been made at a workshop I ran in Newcastle upon Tyne!

Also information about upcoming QAN activities. Our presence at the Greenbelt festival was vigorously and enthusiastically described by Caitlin, Andy and David,  with requests for volunteers. Of course!

The AGM was gently and expertly conducted by Kate and John.

The food provided for lunch was varied and well presented. 

Afternoon workshops included Charlotte showing her beautiful, colourful mandalas inspired by her spiritual insights. And free cards to takeaway! Thank you Charlotte.

I was intrigued by the title ‘sitting dance’ led by Dorothy. Gentle stretching and swaying movements and expressive hand gestures accompanied by a variety of tuneful and rhythmic music.

It certainly helped gently loosen backs somewhat stiff from sitting a long time. 

Writing poetry? Not something I had ever attempted. But John was enthusiastic and encouraging and gave us templates to follow. A lot of talented writers’ pieces emerged. Not mine!! I’m better at visual art. 

I was catching a train to Worcester so, anxious about getting back to New Street and navigating its confusing concourse, I left before the final worship.

It was a delight to catch up with friends I had not seen for quite a long time and make new ones I hope to see again at future QAN events. 

All in all it was a stimulating and inspiring day with much to think about on my train journeys and share with my local meeting.

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