Thou Shalt Knot - Christmas 82/83

Submitted by root on Tue, 10/30/2012 - 12:40

The Idea

picture of Turks Head KnotKnotting is not generally regarded as an art form, but a small amount of research reveals over 2,000 years of experience in what is now a dying craft.

We decided to base our 1982/3 Christmas playscheme around the decorative properties of knots. Work on the project started with the staff and volunteers researching and learning about knots. This, as with most research started with books and moved on to people, materials and equipment.

The staff learn to knotWe were fortunate to find a rigger, Roy Garrett, who was interested in the idea, along with a number of companies and organisations who were willing to donate materials and lend us equipment.

We spent the two weeks prior to the playscheme devising the workshops, practicing knots, learning about macrame, and designing the environment.


Above Peter, Julie Hallam and Tony Mercer learning about knots

The playscheme itself ran for 12 days from December 29th - Jan 9th inclusive (with January 3rd off). There were two sessions a day 2pm-4.30pm and 6.30pm - 9.30pm. People coming to work on the scheme were expected to work 12pm-5pm and 6pm-10pm. Those working full-time did a 10am to 10pm day.   

Counting every visit there was a total attendance of 1,334, made up of 1,096 young people and 238 adults. These, in turn, are made up of 151 different kids and 67 different adults. Making and average attendance of 46 kids and 10 adults at each session.

The Activities

The playscheme had what for us are all the usual elements - an adventure/physical activity area, games, workshops (making and performing), and something to surprise the mind. By the latter we simply mean something unexpected, an unusual idea, etc. And finally a celebration. In addition there was a snooker table and a coffee bar.

The lads playing snooker

       John Lunden takes his shot watched by Ian Foster, Tony Galvin and Colin Birch

The Adventure/Physical Area

Thou Shalt Knot took place on the ground floor where in those days there was a low stage. This was used for a variety of activities. An adventure area where people could climb through knotted ropes and hang on nets.

   The environment being built  Young lad entangled in knots 

Above the adventure area being built and in use.

During the first half of the Playscheme people explored ropes and knots through dance and learnt and created knot dances. These were based on traditional dances - such as Morris dancing which uses knot patterns and also contemporary dance inventing new dances based on knot patterns.

During the second half of the playscheme the area was used for games - where where people had to go through obstacle courses without touching anything (again made out of knotted ropes).

The building of the environment (which had to be constanly changed) and the obstacle course games were led by the Liverpool sculptor, Peter Hatton. Boukji Merek from The London School of Contemporary Dance led the dancing.

Overall 260 kids and 12 adults took part in the dancing and games. We estimated that every child used the play structure at least twice on every visit.  

The Workshops

The workshops consisted of Cooking, people made dough into knots and so produced buns and rolls. The workshop was run by 3 staff, during the playscheme 174 people took part - of which 172 were young people.

John Lunden cooking knot rollsCooking workshop in operation

John Lunden making Knot Rolls and Tania leading the workshop

Macrame (led by Wendy Harpe) in which we made wall hangings.  During the playscheme we produced 19 works of which 17 were finished during the scheme.  3 people came to learn macrame.  Of those who created the 19 works only 2 people had ever done macrame previously.  3 staff, 8 adults and 10 kids took part - the youngest being 7 years old.

Natural coloured macrame wall-hangingsl Delia Fermin working on her wall hangingKaren Agatha worrking ona green wall hanging

                      The macrame workshop in operationKelly posing besides her wall hangingKelly Benjamin finishing hter wall hanging


Right people at work on their wall hangings and Kelly Benjamin with her finished work.   


Puppets in which knots were used to create the heads and 49 kids worked on a puppet show with poems. Over all 30 Knot puppets and 7 poems were produced by 80 people (78 youngsters and two adults). 

Anne Lundenmaking puppets

Knot Making  (led by Sally Morris and Tony Mercer) where commemorative and fancy knots were made into pictures, impressed into plaster of paris and made for the residents of Knotty Ash.

Terry O'Gorman with Tony Mercer

Terry O'Gorman learning fromTony Mercer how to create a Japanese Square Knot

Overall 83 people (77 kids and 6 adults (including our rigger)) produced 9 different types of knots. 

The Surprise for the Mind.

The surprise for the mind was delivering Commemorative Knots as presents to people and places in Knotty Ash

This started with researching the Knotty Ash area. Billy Walshe, Steven Doyle and Phil Lee Yung visited the area, took pictures and looked for possible recipients.

The knots that were presented were made in the knot making workshops but also by individuals who came in outside of the open hours to make specific knots. They included the Knot rolls and buns made in the cooking workshop, and a macrame bottle decoration base around Chinese/Japanese knots.

Karen Bowden and Claudine Su Lin working out the journey to Knotty Ash The preparations included working out the journeys, creating presentation boxes for the Knots and Lilian learnt a poem and suitable presentation speech.

Right Karen Bowden and Claudine Su Lin working out the journey


Kelly Benjamin and Lindsay Lundenwith the rose basket

We took a rose basket full of Rose Knots to Baskett's Newsagent. A decorative bottle holder made in the macrame workshop on a rum bottle to a pub. 

Left Lindsay and Kelly Benjamin with the basket of Rose Knots, below Kelly delivers the bottle in its macrame holder to the pub landlord. 

Pub landlord reciving his bottle from Kelly BenjaminPublican with his decorated bottle

Monkey Knots for each of the 12 Little Bong Cottages. A Turk's Head Knot for the cafe of that name which sadly had become a garage - but we still delivered it.

Sally, Liliane and Phillip Lee Yung with Steve Doyle set off for Little Bong Cottages Lilian delivering a monkey's Fist to Little Bong CottagesKnot recipient signingthe book

 Resident of Little Bongs receiving a Monkey's FistSigning for the KnotDelivering the Truk's Head Knot to the garage

Sally Morris, Lilian and Phillip Lee Yung with Steve Doyle setting off to Knotty Ash and delivering Monkey Fist Knots to Little Bongs Cottages (7 were delivered, two people were out and two sadly did not want a knot) and a Turk's Head Knot to the garage.

We mounted the Square Japanese Knots on board and delivered them to appropriate recipients.  And we took Knot rolls and buns to an old folks home. In total we made 6 presentational visits to Knotty Ash. 

Karen Bowden delivers a mounted japanese Square KnotClaudine delivers a squre Japanes Knot to Andy Cavan

Karen Bowden delivers a mounted Japanese Square Knot Delia Fermin and Tammy Benjamin deliver Knot rolls

Karen Bowden and Claudine Su Lin deliver mounted Square Japanese Knots including one to Andy Cavan who worked on the Rainbows with us, and Delia Fermin and Tammy Benjamin deliver Knot Rolls and Buns

Recording the Event

We employed Robert Jackson to record the event through drawing - his work was exhibited during the playscheme.

Drawings of Thiou Shalt Knot

The Celebration

Held on January 9th, we sent invitations to parents and friends to attend any time between 2pm and 4.30pm for tea and buns, and to view the work we and the kids had done during Thou Shalt Knot.

In addition Wendy took all those who had made wall hangings to The Playhouse to see Blood Brothers. This was a seminal moment for Phillip Foster (who had with much help from his friends finally produced a green macrame owl), he decided there and then that he would become an actor. And indeed he did.

Staffing - as with most playschemes at this period in our history the staff included full-time workers, volunteers, visiting artists, people who came for specific sessions and young people (which included who both those who came to the playscheme and those who were somewhat older and had been attending the Blackie for sometime). 

In terms of full-time staff Thou Shalt Knot was led by Julie Hallam. Billy Walsh with John Rossiter were responsible for raising the materials, the layout of the room, and the clear up - both also worked on the Knot Making workshop. Judy Bates, Wendy Harpe (macrame), Tony Mercer (Knot Making) and Sally Morris (taking knots to Knotty Ash) led workshops. 

Taina, Janne, Karin and Alex were all volunteers and all staffed workshops as well as undertaking general tasks.

Boukji Merek from The London School of Contemporary Dance was with us for 8 days and led the dance work. Peter Hatton, sculptor, was with us for 7 days and led the environment building and games.

Vi Caffrey and Kevin McIntyre both came to learn more about macrame and to work on the workshop.

Billy Lunt worked on the afternoon sessions running the snooker table and doing the door.

Nicky Dewison, Gerry Martin, Maria Agatha and Maureen McHale from the older generation of young people put time in on the door.  From the younger generation Lisa Agatha, Karen Bowden, Lilian Lee Yung, and Claudine Su Lin helped on the coffee bar.


We would like to thank the following who donated, loaned or gave reduced prices on rope, nets, shackles, twine, jute, and sellotape with particular thanks to Roy Garnett for his expertise and time.

British Ropes Ltd. (Doncaster);  Coubro Scrutton (Liverpool); Flemings Rope and Twine (Warrington; J.W & R Healey Co Ltd. (Heywood); The Kings Division, Fullwood Barracks (Preston); Liverpool Boatmen's Association Bootle); Samuel Handley & Sons Ltd. (Manchester);  Titherley's Ltd. (Liverpool) and Roy Garnett from Wirral Riggers