Education and career opportunities in textiles are at the heart of the UK’s first ever festival that aims to tackle the perception that the textiles industry is one of the past, but one of innovation, digital entrepreneurship and creativity, offering a diverse range of careers.

Despite the thriving future of textiles, more must be done to support career development in the UK’s textile industry and attract the next generation. Taking place between 8 – 16 June in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, the WOVEN festival aims to highlight the sector’s career prospects as well celebrate its heritage and innovative future.

Bill Macbeth, managing director of the nationally-recognised Textile Centre of Excellence (TCoE) based in Huddersfield, said: “In our part of the world the Fashion and Textile sector is about much more than simply making fabric and clothes.  Our companies produce for top fashion brands in the world, but also make materials for the aerospace, automotive and healthcare sectors among many others.

“Our business advantage comes from the quality of the products we produce and how we make them, using the latest technologies with a minimal impact on the environment.  We are now offering an increasing choice of careers for people interested in digital technologies, global marketing and data management alongside a growing range of design and manufacturing occupations.”

Over the last few weeks, fifteen schools across Kirklees have been taking part in the Future Fashion Challenge where pupils have attended workshops and been encouraged to use their imaginations to demonstrate what tomorrow’s fashion will look and feel like, and potentially do. Their future fashions will be showcased on the catwalk at a careers event taking place at the University of Huddersfield on June 15 at 1pm.

Part of the WOVEN festival, the Future Fashion Challenge is being supported by Kirklees Learning and EVOKE, which aims to broaden and enrich the arts provision and experiences of young people and their parents and carers, as well as The Children’s Art School, which offers regular art clubs for children and young people and work with schools, local community groups and festivals to offer creative opportunities and champion the visual arts.

Stephanie Bartholet, from Kirklees Learning, said: “We appreciate the creative, artistic and cultural diversity in Kirklees communities and strongly believe the arts are a valuable driver to engage children and families in enjoyment of the world around them. Through WOVEN we’ve been able to provide a universal offer to Kirklees primary and secondary schools to take part in creating innovative textile fashion designs to be showcased during the festival.

“We believe this cross-key stage fashion show will help foster community cohesion as well as showcase and celebrate the diversity of work produced in our schools. The marketplace event will also help to raise awareness of potential arts jobs and career paths their children might choose to follow.”

Chloe Williams, from The Children’s Art School, said: “Hands on material experimentation is crucial to children’s development and understanding of the world around them. Innovation and problem solving comes from creativity and by teaching our children how to be creative thinkers we are giving them the skills they need in all areas of their lives to face the challenges the future holds for them.

“To be involved in creative endeavours and to have their artworks exhibited is a wonderful experience for children and young people giving them the confidence to believe that their ideas have merit and that they have the power to change their world. It is vital that we find ways to celebrate our children’s individuality and champion their imagination.”

On Friday 14 June, WOVEN’s Spectacular Showcase of Textile Innovation is being held at the University of Huddersfield and will focus on how science and creative innovation has created a thriving textile industry in Kirklees and will highlight the diverse careers that the industry now offers.

The Textile Centre of Excellence (TCoE), based in Huddersfield, will also be hosting a Careers Fair on the day from 1.30pm to showcase the many different roles and jobs that are available within the district, including its apprenticeship schemes.

On Saturday 15 June, the second day of the Spectacular Showcase of Textile Innovation held at the University of Huddersfield, is aimed at schools and families. This event will showcase the incredible scientific and creative innovation taking place in the textile industry today and will include the Future Fashion Show featuring designs created by schools from across the district.

WOVEN is to become a biennial event in the Kirklees’ calendar, with the next festival taking place in 2021, and will help embed activity through long term projects across the local cultural, education and industry sectors. It has been initiated by Kirklees Council, which has commissioned HATCH to collaborate with local businesses, schools, communities and artists.