The ONCA Gallery is currently open for Dresscue on Friday mornings, and for one-off events. See below for more information.

Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Threads of Survival Quilt: 75 years of the NHS

5 July 202310 July 2023

A photograph of colourful quilt blocks supporting the NHS.

Threads of Survival is part of a long continuum of textile protest or radical stitching. This collaboratively-made quilt, stitched to mark 75 years since the foundation of the National Health Service, is viewable in the ONCA window gallery 5-10 July.

Sewing, stitching and embroidery were long disparaged as ‘women’s work’, and therefore inferior. However, from this position people have engaged in powerful acts of protest, a practice which art historian Roszika Parker has called “The Subversive Stitch”. 

During the colonial struggles in India, cotton known as khadi was used to boycott imported textiles and ultimately promote Swadeshi or home rule. Khadi was homespun and handwoven to make fabric for clothing, the wearing of which became an important collective act of protest.

In Argentina, at 3.30pm on a Thursday in 1977, in the face of a brutal military dictatorship planning the systematic murder of thousands, Las Madres de Plaza de  Mayo began to walk around the square in front of the presidential palace. They were wearing white nappies as headscarves, embroidered with the names of their lost children, the young people forcibly disappeared by the dictatorship. Week after week they continued to walk, until those responsible began to be revealed and condemned.

In San Francisco in 1984, the AIDS Memorial Quilt was begun as an act of protest and of memory. At this time, there was little treatment available for people with AIDS. People who died of AIDS-related illness were prevented from receiving funerals, either because of stigma, or because funeral homes would not receive their remains. Today, at 54 tons, embroidered with the names of those who have died, the quilt memorial is the largest piece of community art in the world. 

In Brighton in 2013, moved to act by the slow rise of the far right in Europe, a group of artists, activists and community campaigners began to remake Picasso’s painting, Guernica, as a protest banner, to deploy the power of art against fascism, militarisation and war. The banner continues to be used in countless protests, as well as hanging in galleries all over the world.

In all the above projects, the simple act of threading a needle and making stitches gave the stitchers consolation and courage to resist. This has also been the case for the people who have been working on the Brighton Threads of Survival Quilt, all of whom care deeply that the NHS will not be destroyed: universal healthcare for all on the basis of need, free at the point of use. As Aneurin Bevan reputedly said in 1948: “The NHS will last as long as there are folk with faith left to fight for it.”

Find out more about the impacts of the Illegal Migration Bill on NHS patients


5 July 2023
10 July 2023
Event Category:
Event Tags:


ONCA Gallery
14 St George's Place
Brighton, East Sussex BN1 4GB United Kingdom
+ Google Map

Data Security and Data Protection

Please note that personal information provided by you via Eventbrite will be used by ONCA for the effective administration of your registration and to send our feedback survey, link to sign up to our newsletter and link to our membership registration page. ONCA will not pass your details on to any external organisations for marketing purposes. Click here to find out more about our Privacy Policy.


Please contact or 01273 607101 if you have specific access needs, please note the gallery is wheelchair accessible but the toilet is up five stairs. We have hearing assistive technology and our staff have Basic BSL & Deaf Awareness training. For more information about access and facilities at ONCA please click here.


Have you been to an ONCA exhibition or event recently? If you would like to share your thoughts with us, please do so by clicking here to complete this form.