‘You’ve seen nothing yet!’- Meet the Ripon knitters who reinvented street art under their own rules

Gazette reporter Natasha Audsley went to meet Ripon’s notorious knitters to find out about the ladies behind the wool, and some of the most unique street art in the country.
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The knitters meet every Monday between 9.30am and 11.30am at Hazel House.

They come together to have a natter, get creative and make sure everyone has a chance to offload problems.

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The Poppy Project, since it began in 2018, has stitched for a number of events.

The Poppy Project in Ripon which have reinvented street art for Ripon City show no signs of slowing down.The Poppy Project in Ripon which have reinvented street art for Ripon City show no signs of slowing down.
The Poppy Project in Ripon which have reinvented street art for Ripon City show no signs of slowing down.

Their next feature is top secret, and promises to be their most ambitious yet - however, I’m sworn to secrecy there.

Hazel House, a community building around the back of Ripon Workhouse Museum, was renovated by force of nature, Hazel Barker, back in 2009.

Mrs Barker, one of the Poppy Project’s founders, had got a handle on things, and proudly showed me around.

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Hazel House was derelict before she sought funds to put it back in action, and is now home to various community groups.

I entered a large room which extended to a good size kitchen.

The long table was surrounded by ladies (and one man), the sound of needles drowned out by their excited natter.

The girl gang who had established their own rules were clearly having a good time.

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They made sitting down with a stranger feel like someone I’d known all my life.

The knitters prefer to be known as a collective, and with over 70,000 poppies and more than five projects which put Ripon on the map, I can see why.

One of the knitters said: “She’s the clever one, she comes up with all sorts of intricate ideas.

“She’s got the flare.

“Some of us don’t want to do anything complicated and come for the natter.

“When it comes to putting everything up you need an army.”

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The Poppy Project is a charity which has relied on grants while attracting thousands to the city.

Their many creations have gained national coverage with some of the most impressive displays in the UK.

Another knitter said: “What started as a gaggle of peas has turned out to be a well organised madhouse.

People say it's amazing, I’m going to bring my mother to see them.

“Our mums always knitted for families, and fixed things.

“We used to wonder, how do you do that? So they taught us.

“These days people just replace things.

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“Although we’re retired, we’ve still got this need to do something.”

The ladies covered the streets for several projects including the Queen's Jubilee, the King's Coronation and Ripon’s Classic Car festival.

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Another knitter said: “I’m the baby of the bunch.

“When my dad was ill, I needed to keep my mind occupied.

“I took my knitting into the hospital, it really helped me through a tough period.

“They’re a friendly crowd, so if you’re feeling lost it's like therapy.

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“We’ve been knitting jumpers for refugees with the extra wool, nothing gets wasted.”

Another knitter said: “I noticed other towns putting up plastic stuff.

“Environmentally we are ahead of the crowd.”

As I was leaving, Mrs Barker's final comment - “watch this space” - was reminding me of their top secret project depicting the D-Day landings.

From the knitters that have reinvented street art for Ripon, “you’ve seen nothing yet!”

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