Pennine Lancashire is shaped by textiles; they are woven through its social and urban fabric. By the end of the 19th century the area was producing 85% of the world's cotton goods and it was this global trade that brought thousands of workers to drive its mills over the ensuing centuries, building a creative, industrious and diverse population that shapes the area today.
Inextricably linked to the development of these towns is the waterway that flows through them. The construction of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal played a huge role in shaping the development and influencing the location of the textile industry – to transport goods and power the mills and machinery. Today, this 200 year-old canal is looked after by us.
Drawing on this rich heritage, Fabrications is the UK's first festival that celebrates and explores textiles and the textile industry through the eyes of artists. Taking place in galleries, museums and former textile mills across Blackburn, Hyndburn, Burnley and Pendle, along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, the festival presents exhibitions, residencies, major art installations and performances, a symposium, workshops and a craft fair hosted by Selvedge magazine and includes the world premiere of Suzanne Lacy's film produced with the people of Pendle.
As part of the Fabrications Festival, mixed media performance artist Harriet Riddell (who specialises in observational drawings) will be cycling along 22 miles of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, between Pendle and Blackburn from 1-6 September. Travel and freedom are key themes in Harriet's work which are represented in the journey made to create the work, as well as the how the needle travels freely over her canvas. Harriet uses her bicycle as a generator and will ask people she meets to pedal to generate electricity for her sewing machine.
Pulling her sewing machine in a trailer behind her and inviting local people who use the canal to jump on the bicycle and pedal to create electricity and power the sewing machine. Harriet will then stitch portraits of the ‘pedallers' and canal life and the landscape onto the back of cotton shirts. The canal's history, peoples' stories and Harriet's journey will be weaved into each shirt using a continuous one line thread drawing. The art-works will be exhibited at the Fabrications Exchange on the 29th and 30th of September.
Tim Eastop, executive producer of the Arts on the Waterways programme said: "Our canals are a network of cultural capillaries that have potential to carry ideas but also — literally — to carry new works of art to places where the arts traditionally haven't been able to reach. During Harriet's week-long residency for Fabrications Festival she'll be engaging communities along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, namely Pendle, Burnley and Blackburn. We're realising the tremendous opportunity for cultural activities on our waterways, thanks to support from Arts Council England and exciting, high calibre artists and arts partners"