IN PRAISE OF MAKERS
Arts&Heritage residency 2019-2021
Colne Valley Museum, Huddersfield
THE SUBTLE ART OF SOLIDARITY
A streak of radical political activism and non-conformism runs through the Colne Valley near Huddersfield in West Yorkshire. The causes of Universal Suffrage, Luddism, Chartism and the later Suffragette movement were all taken up by the local population over the course of several generations from the early 19th century onwards. These movements were borne out of the struggles of a proud community whose independence and subsistence depended on the handloom weaving industry and the production of fine wool cloth for which the region was famous. The large-scale industrialisation of textile manufacture which swept through the valley in the early 19th century brought about an irreversible shift in the fortunes of the handloom weavers who now found their livelihoods and independence undermined by mass production.
The Colne Valley Museum, perched high up in the village of Golcar, tells the story of the handloom weavers and the vibrant community of makers, innovators and radical thinkers who shaped the identity of the area over three hundred years. Ed's residency at the museum between 2019-21 took an in-depth look at the museum’s collection of ceramics, samplers, pamphlets and posters and the graphic culture of protest in early 19th century West Yorkshire. Two historic, locally-made, hand-painted and embroidered protest banners - The Skelmanthorpe (1819) and Oastler (1832) Banners (Tolson Museum, Huddersfield) - provided the basis for a series of fonts which were in turn used to compile the lettering for the new embroidered maxims illustrated here. The Skelmanthorpe banner, created in 1819, honours those who lost their lives at the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester - four panels carried text in support of Universal Suffrage, the right of every adult man to vote in elections. The Oastler (Tolson Museum) banner was made in 1832, and was used at a meeting held by the anti-slavery campaigner Richard Oastler to petition for a 10-hour limit on factory and mill working days. The new embroideries were stitched over the course of several months by members of the Colne Valley Museum community. These meticulously-crafted pieces bring together the rhetoric of early 19th century reformists and the values of their current-day makers.
These pieces were exhibited as part of the IN PRAISE OF MAKERS exhibition, which took place at the Colne Valley Museum in 2021. The residency was part of the Meeting Point programme supported by Arts&Heritage and Arts Council England .