The Great Port Vendres Tapestry Asssociation now have a permanent exhibition space for ‘La Grande Tapisserie de Port-Vendres’ in the Cultural Centre, Place Castellane, along with an office/workshop. Watch this space for more info in the next newsletter.
The Great Port Vendres Tapestry
“Every picture tells a story”
About the association
Enamoured of both the beauty and long and fascinating history of Port-Vendres, the Great Port Vendres Tapestry Asssociation was started in July 2015 to create a large tapestry of the history of the town. The main objective was to build a tourist attraction that would ‘give back’ something to the place the members had come to love.
The first panel was started in October 2015 – the coat of arms of Port-Vendres. At that stage there were only 2 embroiderers, but gradually others were attracted until there were 16 at the finish.
Like Port-Vendres, formed by different peoples over centuries, the project reflects the varied influences of other places. Nobody involved was born in Port-Vendres, most live there, but two still live in the United Kingdom, one in Eire and another in Norway, although they are regular visitors to the town.
Since the group expanded beyond the first two, they have shared conversation, embroidery traditions and tea, on over 200 Wednesday afternoons. The past of Port-Vendres has been seen with fresh eyes – from England, Ireland, Russia, Scotland, the U.S.A., and France itself.
Some joined the group in trepidation, never having held a needle and thread before in their lives. Others joined with clear skill already in their hands and 1 had even been an embroidery teacher!
The members learned that there are different methods for sewing similar stitches as well as developing their linguistic skills (for at least the odd word!). There has been an interchange of cultures and information about what is happening in the region.
As they stitched the history of this wonderful place, they began to appreciate that there is ‘tapestry in the blood’ here. In fact, Maillol had a tapestry factory in Banyuls and the stitching in the group’s panels is very similar to the tapestry produced there.
The finished tapestry
The project evolved to 21 panels, each 70 cm², now framed and ready to be gifted to the town of Port-Vendres. The official handing over ceremony was led by the Mayor and the Adjoint responsible for Culture on Friday 16th October (by invitation only). Once the sanitary situation allows, they will find a permanent home and be opened to the public.
The panels depict the history of Port-Vendres from the Phoenicians to 2020, representing hours of research and interviews with local residents. There have been many discussions and decisions about how to present each historic theme and debates about artistic interpretation.
There are around 80,000 stitches in each panel, demonstrating an investment of time by each of the members. Countless hours have been put into generating interest to gain funds, from commercial and private people. Even their search for wool, with few other resources at the time, took much energy and effort.
In viewing the tapestry, you are invited to travel through time and discover fascinating stories, from pre-history volcanoes to the modern port. You can learn of the Romans, whose sunken ships and amphorae have been discovered in our harbour; the possible journey of Hannibal over the Pyrenees on his way to conquer Italy and atrocities wrought by Nazis as they exited our village towards the end of World War II.
The tapestry celebrates the stories of the history of Port-Vendres, lovingly rendered in colourful detail to delight residents and visitors alike.
Postcards are being printed of the panels so you can take a piece of the artwork home with you. The members have also written a book about their adventure which will be published in the spring of 2021… watch this space!
For more info