Project will sew a Silver Thread of arts and history

The project's sewing group, left to right: Colette Mumford, Yvonne Thomas, Beth Porter, Eunice Kirby, Joyce Lilwall, Lynne Tandy & Sue Collingwood.

The project’s sewing group, left to right: Colette Mumford, Yvonne Thomas, Beth Porter, Eunice Kirby, Joyce Lilwall, Lynne Tandy & Sue Collingwood.

As part of a celebration of a quarter of a century working in community arts, Walsall Council’s Creative Development Team are now set to deliver a unique year long community arts project for Walsall Borough.

The scheme is being funded through a successful application for £73,400 from Arts Council England Lottery Funding.

Involving an army of local people, the ‘Silver Thread’ project will see 11 unique tapestries created, representing the six towns and other areas in Walsall Borough. The tapestries will reflect the borough’s living history, diversity and commonality; acknowledge the past, reflect the present and embrace the future.

A common thread

Creating the tapestries will provide the common thread to produce a commemorative book featuring 25 of Walsall Council’s Creative Development Team projects, which include the Bloxwich Tardis monument, the Brownhills Miner, festivals and a host of other projects from the 25 year history of the team’s work.

The book will tell the story of the engaging creative processes and the impact participatory arts have made in Walsall’s communities across an area so diverse in history, heritage and geography.

The Silver Thread Tapestries and the book project will demonstrate how the Creative Development Team is a thread linking people, places and policies and instigating positive change in communities. The aim of the project is to celebrate and bring to life the thread sewn over the life of the teams work in community arts.

Meetings across the borough

Throughout February and March organisers will be hosting meetings in 11 different areas of Walsall to plan the content for the tapestries and they are inviting local community groups, history groups, and individuals to help decide what to feature on the tapestries. If you would like to help tell Walsall’s story or you would like to attend a meeting in your local area please contact 01922 653114.

Awl blades of Bloxwich repute

Local historian Billy Meikle took this picture of a typical Sandbank awl blade maker’s workshop in 1915 (courtesy Walsall Local History Centre)

Local historian Billy Meikle took this picture of a typical Sandbank awl blade maker’s workshop in 1915 (courtesy Walsall Local History Centre)

Included on the tapestries will be leather work to show the rich history associated with the leather industry in Walsall.  An example of this link can be seen with the famed association Bloxwich had for centuries with needle and awl blade making through local people in tiny home workshops and firms like Somerfields of Clarendon Street, who operated for over 200 years until around 1992.

During their time in Bloxwich, Somerfields made it into the Guinness book of records for the world’s largest needle measuring more than 6ft long for sewing mattresses, made by Mr George Davies, master forger.

Letterhead of Somerfields of Bloxwich, circa 1930’s, (courtesy Walsall Local History Centre).

Letterhead of Somerfields of Bloxwich, circa 1930’s, (courtesy Walsall Local History Centre).

A tribute

The Mayor of Walsall, Councillor Underhill, when talking about the project stated:“This project is a fitting tribute to the work the team has carried out over the last 25 years and reflects the creative energy that the people of Walsall exhibit in not only the industry of the borough but also throughout the region’s history and culture.”

Content and sewing

Once the content for the tapestries has been decided, Midlands Artist Hunt Emerson famous for being an artist on the Beano comic will create the designs for the 11 tapestries. Once the designs are completed organisers will be recruiting an army of volunteers through sewing groups and individuals to help sew the images.

Starting after Easter sewing will continue until the autumn to create the unique set of tapestries to be exhibited together and toured around the borough in January 2017. If you or your sewing group or community group would like to take part in the sewing we call 01922 653114.  As well as sewing volunteers project organisers are also keen to hear from sewing experts able to lead groups and look after a tapestry as part of the delivery team.

Past projects included

Over the past 25 years Walsall Council’s Creative Development Team (Formerly known as Walsall Council Community Arts Team) delivered hundreds of participatory arts projects involving thousands of local people.

Of the best projects 25 of the best will feature as examples in the ‘Silver Thread’ book and the team are eager to hear from anyone who remembers participating in past projects to help tell the story of local communities and the impact these had for participants. If you remember taking part in any of the theatre projects, exhibitions, events, projects or festivals thye want to hear from you. Contact the team on 01922 65311.

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