From the hands and hearts of female workers, weaving threads from North to South.
Gillingham and Chatham
"It is the cord that links us, runs through our blood, in the way that we move, the dust in our lungs, the residue of tar, the similar twist in our stooped backs, our knotted fingers."
This artistic partnership was between Luan Taylor, Tara Gould, Lisa Wolfe, Mimi Mcgarry and the venues LV21 in Gillingham and The Hat Factory, Luton, and was seed funded by Greenhouse.
In the run up to applying for Greenhouse, we really wanted to work with venues and organisations who were based in areas with an Industrial heritage. When we came across LV21, an amazing Light Vessel docked in Gillingham near Chatham, we knew this would be a very interesting collaboration. Paivi (the artistic Director of LV21) is passionate about engaging with those who do not normally participate in arts events, and bringing in new audience/participants to her venue. Myself, Lisa Wolfe(producer) and Tara Gould (writer), spent time on the ship and used it as a creative base during our time in Kent.
We created questionnaires, specific to the local industrial heritage and invited people to attend a reminiscence session at a local older people’s home, called Prospect place. We brain stormed many reoccurring themes, the threads that link all the women we were meeting. Time, repetition, hopes and dreams, perseverance, stamina, pride, friendship, community, work, skill, the hands.We met some wonderful women who had lived their lives in that area and who had worked in various factories throughout their lives. They described what their jobs entailed and the working conditions they were put under. They also talked about friendship, pride, camaraderie, and the identity of their community.
The ropery I had done an initial site visit to the Chatham Historical Dockyard, when I first met Paivi, before the project started. I had found the place so inspiring, visually, and atmospherically, that I wanted to take Tara and Lisa. The scale of the place is awesome. It is deeply rooted within the town’s identity and history and was once an employer of hundreds of women workers. The techniques used were very similar to those in the spinning sheds of the North, and In fact, we learned that Northern spinners were brought down to Chatham to literally ‘show the ropes’ to the workers in the South. The descriptions of the machines and the various techniques used within the process of rope making, became a catalyst for Tara’s writing which were later used in the creative exploration with 2 performers.
"My first day, I remember the almighty noise, an assault to all of my senses – the roar of steam powered machines, clattering and thrusting and spinning threads into rope, oh and the awful heat, the smell of tar and sweat, and the dust that burned your lungs.
The air itself was combustible – a single spark and the place would go up in flames. While everywhere around me, loose rope, endlessly piling up in coils, lovely as a wave of golden hair, glinting in the dusty sunlight.