Still, on the theme of the cotton mills and the working class women from them. My research has taken me to several places mainly in Manchester and smaller towns in Lancashire too.
Quarry bank Mill a national trust property was really helpful in providing, me with lots of info and access to their archives of letters.
As was Geoff senior from collections at Manchester Met Uni, and Tameside Library.
Altogether having collected and read so much about the working classes of the north, that I feel it needs to become a part of my art practice at the moment. I have letters and interviews some carried out by myself along with photos and film archives. All this info ranges from the 1860’s up to present day, this is an area of industry that has been constantly changing and contributing to society at every opportunity whether consciously or not. So much of what was found is so relevant today.
There was a pay gap for women back then that still hasn’t changed and is being debated at present, many problems were happening for and against immigration and migration during the industrial boom, as there is now, and protests against slavery and trafficking which are becoming more prevalent than ever before.
Brexit has also brought to mind the facts that we no longer have this kind of internal British industry we once did, and that brings with it many problems, as was seen when the cotton trade moved from Lancashire to the rest of the world!
Digging within archives has become something that I really enjoy. Finding lost fragments of people’s lives through the objects they have left behind. The work is challenging and eye-opening, finding out how this country was actually built and who we exploited and still exploit now to put the “Great” in Great Britain.
Individually we have become more distant, self-absorbed and unconsciously dependent on this country to run itself, we don’t want immigration but we complain about waiting lists and lack of staff in hospitals and are constantly wanting lower priced goods, and food, that has to be produced by someone who needs a fair wage and willing to do the work of these low paid jobs.
You may ask what has this got to do with the cotton industry?
Well it is pretty much where it all started for this country, the industrial revolution and mass production made Lancashire one of the biggest industrial areas of the world and the biggest producer of cotton in the UK, Manchester was wealthier than London yet still had low wages, long hours, slave labour, poor conditions, pretty much the same as it is today for many working class people.
Yet these people back 1862 did something that I don’t think any well-meaning or protest driven person would do today. They went on strike, not for themselves but for the slave labour that was going on in America, the abolition of slavery within the cotton trade. At a meeting in Manchester’s free trade hall in 1862, the working people offered support to Lincoln to emancipate all American slaves, despite the economic distress this action would cause putting their principles before their self-interests.
Since then the cotton trade never really fully recovered, that along with two world wars and mechanical progression of equipment, and the country selling off our perfectly workable equipment to India and Asia, meant that our industries one by one closed. The loss of this industry didn’t stop many of the traditions that had arisen due to whole communities working in the same buildings.
It is these traditions, connections and ways of living that I am exploring through my practice. Events such as holidays which were called Wakes Weeks, that languages and dialect spoke.
Using hidden texts and languages to translate the information that has been uncovered or found, through film archives or personal letters, and ephemera.
To do this I have been looking at artists like Hans Haacke and Ed and Nancy Kienhol, and looking at how they translate information through installations, tableaux and sculpture.