The Fabric of Bradford
I’m Claire Wellesley-Smith, Project Co-Ordinator at Hive, a community arts charity based in Shipley. I’ve been invited to write this blog post to share the story of a recent project that worked closely with SDC’s Colour Experience. Hive is an organisation that has worked for over 30 years to promote and deliver creative activities to communities across Bradford. It has a unique non-traditional learning environment with access to all areas of visual arts and crafts and provides opportunities for personal development through courses and projects.
The two year ‘Fabric of Bradford’ project, based at Hive, was funded through a Your Heritage Grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project explored the rich textile heritage of Bradford with particular emphasis on the textile-dyeing history of the city between 1800-1913 through a combination of hands-on activities delivered across the city, community-based reminiscing projects and research using local archives. Participants in the project included older people, young people, mental health groups, families and BAME groups. We also worked with partner organisations Bradford Community Environment Project, Bradford Textile Archive and Bradford Museums and Galleries who contributed to the research and some of the delivery of the project. The SDC Colour Experience team supported the project from the early pre-bid stages and when it received funding played a vital part in the activities.
Central to the Fabric of Bradford project was the creation of community dye plant gardens. These were created in Shipley, Manningham and West Bowling and plants were grown as part of the permanent display in Roberts Park, Saltaire. Bradford Community Environment Project helped us develop this strand delivering sessions for our groups. Creating these growing spaces meant we were able to explore the history of colour in the area from the ground up. Participants explored ‘whole process’ working from seed-to-dye-to-cloth and enjoyed making the connections between their personal and community heritage and the history of their city.
Our community dye garden in Shipley was developed on a piece of brownfield site, tucked away in the centre of town. Thirty five plants with connections to textile production were grown in the space. The SDC team spent an enjoyable CPD day at Hive using locally grown indigo to create designs on fabric.
Project participants have been very enthusiastic about the opportunity to engage with their heritage in this unusual way. A project participant commented, ‘I have developed an understanding of the amazing skills particularly in the dyeing industry. It’s a fascinating insight through conversations and visits, into the social history of Bradford. I have an increased awareness of my part of Bradford and an increased enthusiasm for learning more.’
As co-ordinator of the project I have particularly enjoyed the collaborative aspect of working with the SDC. Richard and Lisa were fantastic supporters of the initial idea, helped develop the project as it progressed and then kindly hosted an end of project exhibition. The opportunity to introduce participants to the history of the SDC, to use the resources and archive greatly enhanced the project and myself and Hive would like to say a big thank you.
For further information about SDC’s Colour Experience, please visit our website.
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