The Royal School of Needlework is a registered charity (312774) and as such has a responsibility to undertake and promote its public benefit.

During 2020-21 the RSN has been actively promoting stitch for mental health and wellbeing and this has been appreciated by long-standing and new customers around the world. We have received many comments from people for whom their class was their only communication with the outside world during the second lockdown and even for some, the periods in between. For example a lady in France told us that she was in isolation and her time in the class was the only time she felt in contact with anyone else.

Since September 2020 we have offered two monthly talks. They have featured the contents of real and virtual exhibitions as well as dives into the Collection and Archive. These are open to anyone and we have welcomed hundreds of people each time from countries as diverse as Colombia, Russia, Norway, Ghana, Japan, countries across mainland Europe as well as the English speaking US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We receive lots of feedback on the night and afterwards thanking us for the talks and there has been strong feedback to continue them, which we are doing through 21-22.

The RSN is the international leader in technical hand embroidery and has multiple teachers all trained to the same standard, so we have played to our strengths to offer technical evening classes that have not previously been possible by offering the Technical Tuesday programme. This so met need that we had to put it on four times simultaneously. The RSN is the only organisation that can do this.

While the uncertainties of the pandemic linger on, the RSN recognised that it was not going to be possible for its people – tutors or students – to travel even into the summer. So to give people the opportunity to still feel like they were going to have a ‘holiday’ the RSN established the first online International Summer School. This involved more than 270 people across 17 countries for anything from 2 to 6 days. There were classes, talks and events to try to make it as like the summer school experience as possible. Plus the students did not just receive their kits but they also get a box of ancillary items which all go to reinforcing the professionalism of RSN stitch (hoops, binding to wrap them, tissue paper and a bag to keep work clean, pen, pencil and notebook for the details and a mug for the all-important breaks. All of this added to the event and response from customers has been fantastic as they received their goody boxes. We wanted to give everyone the feeling of a holiday even if they are still in the same room they have been in for months.

In addition being online meant we have made ourselves more accessible to disabled people to participate because they do not have to overcome the transport challenges (Frances only leaves the house to go to the doctor. Through the online classes and especially the Summer School she is able to fully participate in something, regardless of her disability and to meet with other people.)