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WOVEN will celebrate Kirklees' globally recognised industry from the past, present and future this summer. It’s an exciting festival that has really caught the imagination of everyone from all sectors, in all towns and villages across the district.

The programming may have started in earnest in January with the appointment of the festival curators Alison McIntyre and Natalie Walton of HATCH. However, the development of the approach started many months prior.

This festival has come from the transformation of the Council and the change in how the Creative Economy team functioned. As a result of this change process and in consultation with the sector, textiles is referred to in the outcomes described in the 2016 Culture Kirklees document.

However, it wasn’t until the new place-based approach was adopted, could we really take hold of textiles. I explain place-based working as a way of understanding who we are and recognising what has shaped us, and culturally we know this has been driven by the textile industry. Our communities, our diverse music offer, our reputation, it has been born out of the industry, whose reach and impact is far beyond the walls of any mill or manufacturer. Kirklees is a real example of where business drives culture, and we in the Council want to celebrate this.

The festival itself may showcase textiles through a series of events from Batley to Slaithwaite, Dewsbury to Holmfirth, Huddersfield and everywhere in between. It aims to celebrate the industry’s heritage, innovations, as well as future opportunities for careers and creativity.
WOVEN brings together four distinct sectors, the Council – as a public body, the textile industry itself, education from schools to the University’s research and priority for technical textiles, with the cultural sector. But this was not an easy task in the beginning.

First, to encourage Senior Managers that the festival was so much more than a heritage festival and that it is about who we are today and who we can be tomorrow, and that this was a festival of placemaking.

Second, to provide assurance to the industry that this is about innovation and will recognise the world leading transformation within the sector. Also, to really raise the profile of how the industry has changed, and today the sector needs data technicians, scientists and creative thinkers and that they need to attract people with these skills.

Third, the cultural sector needed to feel this was a festival that was about art and creativity, and that would celebrate the talent we have in the district. Finally, the University would be supported to present and showcase its research that is changing how people live their lives across the globe, as well as inform teachers that textiles is so much more than fashion. Textiles is also medical, engineering as well as fashion and design.

Each area was slightly suspicious of the other, but through bringing partners together and we were able to create a shared vision, built on a collective understanding. We all have realised that textiles is so important to us all, and this festival is the combination of that appreciation. We recognise that it is just as important to the industry to attracting talent into the workforce, is as it is to commission high quality art working with cultural partners across Kirklees. It is vital that we shout about the research from the University and that teachers have an understanding that textiles is cross cutting, it truly is fulfills the STEAM agenda.

Therefore, WOVEN aims to tackle the perception that the textiles industry is one of the past, but it is instead one of innovation, digital entrepreneurialism and creativity, as well as offering careers opportunities for future generations. WOVEN will be a central point for career advice, showcasing opportunities to secondary, FE, HE and connecting the future workforce to Industry 4.0.

This first WOVEN festival is a pilot, and is about allowing us to build the foundations for future iterations of this now biennial festival. We want the partnerships forged in 2019, to build towards the next festival in 2021.

It’s the start of an exciting journey, and we look forward to working with you over the years to come, to make this a festival of local, regional, national and perhaps even international reputation.

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