“On a dark, and wet, winter night. We bring you light, smiles, sunshine, and joy. In the hope that these sunshines will bring you some cheer this winter solstice.” – Cambridge Yarn Collective
In the now profoundly alien period known as ‘normality’, Jesus Green in Cambridge was a park bustling with vitality – teeming with tourists and residents alike. The generous host of an eclectic mix of guests, it welcomed everyone from tottering toddlers, to fitness fanatics, to tipsy students. It was a place of joy, warmth and community, providing fond memories to all who visited it.
Over the last twelve months, however, between National lockdowns and the different tiers, rules and regulations, this began to slowly change. Where once barbeques of entire neighbourhoods populated the grass, now linger just a handful of lonesome joggers. Lifeless and desolate, Jesus Green stands as a bitter reminder of ‘the new normal’ which we must adapt to in these unprecedented times.
But, as dark and lonely this park has now become, it is still the source of some joy and hope, housing an antidote for these dark times in the form of brightly coloured yarn suns.
Decorating the once-bustling tennis courts of the park is a striking art installation organised by The Cambridge Yarn Collective, known as the Solstice Sunshine Yarnbomb. The project was started by local artist Tigerchilli, but has since grown to include Sophie Neville, Zesty Helix and Hilary Butler. Although this initiative began in 2016, its ethos of bringing ‘brightness to the darkest days of the year’ seems particularly relevant during this long, bleak, winter lockdown.
Shining hope and resilience through their exuberant colours and powerful and inspiring messages, these golden crocheted suns were created to bring joy.
“Every year we have received lovely comments from people who say it has brightened their day or given them a moment of happiness when they were going through a hard time. That’s why we continue the project every year,” the collective explains.
Whether it’s the exhausted parent overwhelmed by home-schooling, or the nurse who has spent hours working tirelessly on the covid ward, or perhaps just someone feeling low and restless, the yarn suns are guaranteed to provide a glimmer of hope and respite.
In a year which has seen the indefinite closure of museums and exhibitions, art initiatives and public displays are more important than ever. When questioned on the importance of public art, Tigerchilli explained:
It literally saves lives, it changes people’s perspective and joins a community together. And the pure joy people have upon discovering this yarnbomb artwork cannot be measured. And that’s a powerful reason to keep doing it.
With communities unable to come together in a conventional sense, these projects are essential in kindling community spirit and uniting the people of Cambridge.
What began with just one sun pinned on Jesus Green bridge in the winter of 2016 – a beacon of hope for those feeling alone or isolated – has grown into an annual tradition. Every winter, these suns, which can take months to make, re-emerge, a new sun added to the collection every winter. In 2018, these suns were dedicated ‘to the courageous woman […] who said the sunshine yarn bomb saved her life and prevented her from jumping off the bridge’. For many in Cambridge, these sunshines are a lifeline; a simple but clear reminder that things will get better, that warm sun will shine once again.