Manchester’s former identity as the great Cottonopolis of the world is a subject to which countless exhibitions, displays, artworks and now even drinking establishments have been dedicated. Yet far less of a cultural spotlight tends to be shone on the overall role of the wider Pennine Lancashire region – the very birthplace of Britain’s textile industry, and from where around 85% of the world’s cotton goods were once produced. All this is now changing, however, with the launch of Fabrications (7 – 30 September); the UK’s first festival dedicated to exploring and celebrating textiles and the textile industry through the eyes of contemporary artists. Led by arts commissioning organisation Super Slow Way, the month-long, region-wide programme stretches throughout a network of 15 galleries, museums, former textile mills and unusual locations across Blackburn, Hyndburn, Burnley and Pendle.
Among the many highlights, the world premiere of Suzanne Lacy’s The Circle and The Square offers a deeply moving meditation on the demise of the textile industry as an economic and social driver in the North West, and the resulting separation of South Asian-heritage and white communities who used to work together in the region’s vast mills. The piece was created in collaboration between Lacy and the people of Pendle, using the age-old vocal traditions of Shape Note and Sufi chanting. Presented as a film installation at Northlight (the former Brierfield Mill textile factory, where the film was made) along with an accompanying display at Brierfield Town Hall, The Circle and The Square truly lives up to Lacy’s reputation for awe-inspiring, large-scale choreographed works.
Travelling North for the first time, on 23 September the Selvedge Fair will showcase a curated selection of wares by 26 talented textile designer-makers, as well as a series of free drop in workshops and demonstrations. Mixed-media performance artist, Harriet Riddell, will exhibit the results of her 22-mile cycle along the Leeds Liverpool canal from Pendle to Blackburn with her pedal-powered sewing machine in tow, creating ‘stitch portraits’ of the people she met along the way. And interactive theatre company, METIS, will play upon our awareness of mass production and vulture capitalism through its critically-acclaimed, sell-out performance of World Factory.