Origins of Bed-In for Peace bedspread confirmed
The origins of one of the world’s most symbolic bedspreads has, for the last 40 years, been affiliated to the wrong person.
The handcrafted ‘All You Need Is Love’ bedspread, presented to John Lennon and Yoko Ono in May 1969 during their Bed-In at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, is now in National Museums Liverpool’s collections.
For a long time, the bedspread was believed to have been presented to John and Yoko by a local Hare Krishna chapter. However, National Museums Liverpool curators were approached last year by a lady in Toronto who expressed to have made the bedspread herself; a claim which has only recently been confirmed.
Paul Gallagher, curator of contemporary collecting at National Museums Liverpool said: “We acquired the bedspread in 2005 to add to our collection for the new Museum of Liverpool, which opens next year.
“We bought the bedspread at auction, with the belief that it had been made by a local Hare Krishna group. That was until I was contacted claiming that a lady in Toronto had in fact made it over 40 years ago, and presented the piece to John and Yoko personally, in a spontaneous expression of friendship and solidarity on the first day of the Bed-In.”
Christine Kemp emigrated to Canada from Hull, Yorkshire in 1967. In 1969, she was living and working in Montreal, as a part-time designer. In the weeks before the now famous Bed-In for Peace, Christine had created a large dark blue felt wall hanging, intended as a room divider for her workshop.
Embroidered with the title ‘All You Need Is Love’ and decorated with coloured felt appliquéd figures from the Yellow Submarine movie, she thought the hanging might make an appropriate present for John and Yoko. So, wrapping it in a Union Jack flag she owned, she decided to try and visit them.
Christine continues: “When I arrived at the hotel, I asked the elevator operator if I could go up, and after a few minutes, I was taken up to room 1742. I entered the room where John and Yoko were in bed, and presented them with the hanging.
“I stayed by the bed watching the goings on, and after a while bade my best wishes and said goodbye. Nobody had taken details of who I was. Once every so often in the intervening years, I had wondered what happened to it, living my life with no idea about its journey ending up in Liverpool, the home of John Lennon and the Beatles.”
Christine last year discovered the bedspread once again, on picking up a book about the Bed-In at a local store and noticing the bedspread in some photographs, credited as being in National Museums Liverpool’s collections.
In order to support her account of events, Christine worked tirelessly with Liz Gormley who owned the shop where she found the book, to find someone or something that could help prove her story, and recently hit the jackpot.
Christine: “Liz sought out and contacted anyone she could locate who might be able to help, even the hotel doorman, elevator operator, manageress, journalists and photographers who were present. Finally, she was referred to photographer Tedd Church, who had been there for the Montreal Gazette newspaper and he was able to provide us with a fabulous photograph of the moment I gave the bedspread to John and Yoko.”
Paul Gallagher continues: “This is a fantastic story, and makes the journey of the bedspread even more intriguing. Coming from humble origins as a room divider in a design workshop, Christine’s kindness and her own demonstration of ‘Giving Peace a Chance’ gave this lowly wall hanging a great start in life. An icon of the 1969 Bed-In for Peace, it is set to be an iconic item in our new museum.”
Christine can also be spotted in the 1988 movie Imagine, which John and Yoko made of their life together. She can be seen at the Montreal Bed-In standing at the bedside in a white dress, holding a red flower.
The fantastic photo and bedspread will be on display in the Wondrous Place gallery of the new Museum of Liverpool when it opens in summer 2011.