Kirklees’ first textile festival has been hailed a success by its organisers as thousands of people flocked to the week-long celebration of the districts textiles industry.

Over 105 events were delivered as part of the WOVEN festival, which took place between June 8 -16 across Kirklees in collaboration with creative organisations, artists, education settings, businesses, industry and heritage sites.

Organised by Kirklees Council’s Arts and Creative Development Team and festival curators HATCH, the festival was created to celebrate the area’s globally renowned textile heritage, innovations and creativity – and the opportunities it can bring in the future.

An estimated 7,000 people attended events taking place across Kirklees, from Batley to Slaithwaite including mill walks, tours and open days; pop up exhibitions; events in theatres, museums and galleries with local artists, music and film; and craft markets, including the Made Beautifully Here market which attracted over 1,500 visitors alone.

The festival kicked off with The Big Knit on 8 June, which saw hundreds of colourful yarn-bombs hung from lampposts, bollards and trees across the district and an impressive 8-metre long blue wave was displayed in Batley town centre. The wave, created with the support of YSP resident artist Connor Shields, was designed to represent the historic waterways that played an instrumental role during the textile revolution, transporting goods across the country.

On Saturday, 15 June, over 150 pupils took part in the WOVEN Future Fashion Challenge to demonstrate their interpretations of tomorrow’s fashion. The pupils from 15 primary and secondary schools around Kirklees showcased their creations on the catwalk at the University of Huddersfield. The event, which was supported by Kirklees Learning, EVOKE and The Children’s Art School, was part of the Spectacular Showcase of Textile Innovation, which aimed to showcase the incredible scientific and creative innovation taking place in the textile industry across Kirklees today.

A song written by Boff Whalley, ex-Chumbawamba guitarist/songwriter, Mandy Samra and Hardeep Sahota was created especially for the festival, telling the stories of the South Asian communities who were drawn to Kirklees by the textile industry. Woven into Song was performed twice during the festival by choirs across Kirklees to hundreds of people.

WOVEN is set to become a biennial event in the Kirklees events calendar, with the next festival taking place in 2021. Due to the success of the first WOVEN festival, curators HATCH have been awarded the tender to manage the next festival in two years’ time.

Reflecting on the inaugural festival and looking to the future, Alison McIntyre at HATCH comments: “We are thrilled with the outcome of the WOVEN festival and seeing so many communities come together in celebration of the area’s heritage.

“We want to say a huge thank you to all the companies and local schools who were involved in the festival and the cultural partners, artists and musicians who made the festival so special and memorable.

“We are thrilled to be involved with the second WOVEN event in 2021, and are looking forward to collaborating with many more companies, organisations, clubs and schools across the district.”

Councilor Rob Walker of Kirklees Council adds: “The WOVEN festival was a great success and really showcased the innovations that shape the textiles industry today, driving it forward for future generations. We would like to say thank you to everybody involved and to the team at HATCH for pulling it all together.”

Other key WOVEN events during the festival included:

  • The Textile Trail – Visitors were given a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of the textile industry, watching independent artists at work in their studios and gleaning tips on where to source the finest textile supplies.
  • Guided walks – Four walks took place, including a ‘walk, make and sketch’ event above Marsden, an unbeWEAVEable scavenger hunt in Huddersfield.
  • Holmfirth Arts Festival and Banner Parade – Embracing the theme of ‘generations of innovators’, the streets of the village were transformed into a carnival of colour and music while there were musical performances from local choirs, including the first public premiere of Woven Into Song.
  • Art installations – Textile artists from across Kirklees showcased their work at Temporary Contemporary at Queensgate Market while there was a welcome return of Wendy Meadley’s Hypervelocity flag installation, originally made with the community for Le Grand Depart in 2014.
  • Performances and workshops – Kate Fox, of Where There’s Muck There’s Bras, gave a special performance and separate writing workshop, while Word Weavers Cabaret brought together poets from across Kirklees in a celebration of words spoken and written. A film programme included screenings of textile themed films, as well as some especially commissioned pieces from Alistair I MacDonald and Creative Scene.
  • Craft markets – Three pop-up craft markets tempted shoppers in Slaithwaite and Huddersfield.
  • Careers fair – The Textile Centre of Excellence (TCoE), based in Huddersfield, hosted a Careers Fair to showcase the many different roles and jobs that are available within the district, including its apprenticeship schemes