Since 2009 when Ifrah Odawa and I set up Streatham Women's Sewing Group CIC it's been a constant struggle to raise even the tiniest amount of funding. Back in 2013 things were so difficult that we decided to give up - as soon as we did this, there was a flurry of local activity and funds were found so that we could continue.
An arts project grant from Arts Council England allowed us to continue last year but once again, with no money in our bank account and not having been paid for our weekly sessions since Sept 2014, Ifrah and I decided to wind up the Group - with a heavy heart.
As a last ditch attempt to raise some support I started an online petition - this was not working wonderfully because many of our participants have no computers, no email addresses, so yet another uphill struggle.
However, one person saw the petition and got in touch - Patrick Nyikavaranda, whom I'd met back in 2009/10 when we'd first started the Group and asked if we would meet the director of Certitude where he now worked because they might be able to help. http://www.certitude.org.uk/
So I set off for the meeting with Selamawit, one of the women who attends our sessions regularly and while we were prepared to beg and plead, we were not optimistic and expected to be fobbed off with vague offers of help and suggestions for strategies which we've already been through a number of times.
We were flabbergasted when the director Nicholas Campbell-Watts immediately offered us some basic funding, made extraordinarly positive comments about our work, reassured us that we would be supported, that our work was valuable and that we must continue.
Selamawit and I walked home feeling light headed, grateful and hugely optimistic for the future.
This year when I flew to China for IRISH WAVE 2015 it was with the intention of giving up, doing some great shows and then letting go of this project which has caused me such stress and financial difficulty over the last few years. I came back to London feeling very differently because of the great support we had from the Irish Embassy in Beijing this year - we felt genuinely supported and appreciated.
I realise while writing this that, of course, the appreciation will have to translate into significantly better funding for next year's IRISH WAVE.
However, I can't help feeling that it's only when I stop struggling and am ready to give up, that my projects gain support - this feels deeply counter-intuitive and weird!
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