Project Pride Nelson-The Launch.

Please click onto, and see the video for the whole Project Pride that includes Accrington and Burnley.

Well, here we all are-(apart from a few of the girls who couldn’t make it), pleased as punch and all looking stunning.

All the hard work paid off in the end and the viewers who came to the launch had an interesting time talking about Nelson, how it was, how it is and what needs to be done for the future.

What will become of the dress after the exhibition is another story: Towneley Hall are interested in displaying it next year and it may make an appearance as part of the celebrations for the opening up of the road in Nelson. If anyone else would like to borrow it for display or educational uses then please leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

Lots of people came to the launch, we had craft demonstrations lead by the girls, an activity about telling your own story about Nelson and a local historian was present who stimulated discussions and memories with her photographs.

And I have to say a big thank you to Mash and Jenny, the youth workers at Marsden Heights Community College for all their support & humour through out the project, Lucy at MPA for your calmness and our funders who all made this possible.  And lastly, most of all, to the girls for making this a fun way of learning about our heritage.  What a fantastic group of young people to work with.

Local history society.
Back of the dress.

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The dress is finished and installed.Wow!

What pressure we were under to finish the dress, organise the launch and do our promotion.

Extra sessions were planned to finish painting on the back of the dress.  Here, Kerry and Nina and seen busy at work in the art room painting the initial layer of Pendle Hill.

From here I took the dress and put the finishing touches to it. Firstly I put the second layer of paint onto the back of the dress, next I drew an image of the mosque in Nelson on the back of the dress at the top.

I then moved to the front of the dress and sewed the patchworked sleeves on. From here I drew images of the mills in Nelson st the top as a background to the embroidered words


I also painted the front of the dress red to symbolise the socialist nature of the politics of Nelson at the time of Selina Cooper.

The next job was to add speech bubbles to the images and finally the appliqued letters.

OK.  Now to install.

At the Ace Centre the first thing was to put the photographs taken from the project upon the wall.  Easier said than done when using the wires and special clips, however perseverance paid off and the effect was amazing.




Next, we installed the dress onto a podium for maximum effect. Now all we had to do was to wait for the people to come and see it.


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Project Pride Nelson gets stuck in.

The heat is on as the launch hurtles towards us with increasing rapidity and, simultaneously it is also exam & assessment time in school for most of the participants.

The group have been working on arranging the launch, designing the invitations, deciding who will come & what food we will order. Since last entry, the promotional image for the textile bags has gone off to print, calls have been made to the Ace Centre confirming our booking and copy for our promotional boards has been written. If you would like to support us and come along to the launch it is taking place on Thursday 7 July at 6-8pm at the Ace Centre on Cross Street Nelson.  Please respond at the end of this blog.

Meanwhile, the dress has to be finished!

Last week Emily has still hard at work on the logo that will be draw, by her on the dress, next session.

Imogen, slightly immobilized by the preceding maths exam, chose to meditate on what she would like for Nelson in the future.  She came up with some fantastic ideas that will be written onto the dress with creative text.

Nina and Kerry got busy cutting out the embroidered words that had returned from the factory. Thanks to Halbro Sportswear Ltd in Bolton for making our job a priority.

Once they had done this they then set to work pinning the words onto the bodice ready for sewing.

As you can see from the pictures, Kerry’s hands are beautifully manicured and painted-another part of the creative process necessary prior to photographing.

It was all systems go last session, here you can see Aleisha and Sanaira painting the back of the dress.  Later Zara and Kerry took over and painted Pendle Hill on the back of the dress.















Whilst all this creative activity was going on Yumna, Zara, Mash & Jenni were hard at work researching someof Selina Cooper’s achievements.  This was a difficult task given that everyone was rather tired, however, they persevered and managed to get 10 facts about her that I will embroider onto organza. Phew!





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Project Pride Nelson Gets Creative

The group met in the textile room at Marsden Heights School today, all 15 participants were present …….. and, after a quick word about Arts Award

we set to work with fervour. We recapped on last weeks session and the ideas that had been generated there, Yumna and Ingela offered to make the patchwork for the sleeves. Ingela taught Jenny some machine embroidery skills too.

I let the group know that I had sourced a firm that would embroider some words from our research-all we had to do was transcribe some of the words from our recordings. Imogen got to work on this immediately.

The jelly baby bag is almost finished, in all, it will have taken 10 bags of sweets!

To go with the theme, Kerry, Nina &, later, Imogen started to make tissue paper shoes that will have Victory V wrappers on them.

Meanwhile Emily put her graffitti skills to the test  and drew up a project pride logo.

Alisha & her crew discussed ideas for the promotional bag. They drew up a few designs of the dress and then decided on a diagram that will be imposed onto a background of images of buildings in Nelson.

Maryam took control of ideas for the skirt part of the dress. Her group considered what type of images they wanted to put on the dress and how they would attach images. Maryam drew up a design and next week they will start painting the background and ironing on images.

Kerry  wondered if a picture of Admiral Nelson was a good idea and so we had a quick dance to dubstep to think about things. It helped.

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The Dress Appears.

The group has done most of its research and now is the time to use this to develop the final piece. Last week I sourced a dress and a shop display mannequin. As soon as the participants saw the dress ideas started to fly.

We began the session by developing an action plan, everything has to be completed by Friday July 1st 2011 & so this leaves 6 sessions in which to complete the exhibit, design & order promotional material & organise the open evening.

The open evening was discussed: What would happen there? Who would come? Why promotional material was important in getting the message out about the project. The group decided that they would create a design that would be printed onto linen shopping bags to help promote the project..  The image would include photographs of Nelson, perhaps a drawing of the dress and some text that wil say ‘Project Pride Nelson’. Alisha agreed to develop the design.

Next we focussed on the dress, what sorts of images and designs would we attach to it? The group listed images that came to mind from their research about Nelson. Ingela remembered the textile samples that she had seen at Lancashire Records Office last week, she wants to make a fabric collage of fabric scraps and cover the sleeves. She also put forward the idea that we should leave the body of the dress plain except for attaching text relating to the stories that we have collected. To find out how to attach text the group looked at embroidery magazines for inspiration. Building on the ideas for text we discussed how we could put text onto strips of fabric that will hang from the dress.  We’ll have to transcribe some of the stories that we have collected.

With regard to other images that could be incorporated, the group came up with rail track  (could we get a photograph of the sign ‘Nelson for Barrowford’?), barges, buildings, the face of Selina Cooper.  How would we get these images onto the dress? I outlined various ways to put images onto fabric, for example, by printing onto cotton then sewing or glueing the images on, or using iron-on products. Zara said that she would do a drawing of Selina Coopers face to sew in free machine embroidery the following week.

Lastly, I offered the idea of making some shoes from Victory v wrappers.  The factory that made Victory V sweets and Jelly Babies used to be situated on the site where Pendle Wavelengths is now.

Meanwhile, Zara got busy witht he glue gun and made half the jelly baby bag.

Next week we will be in the textile room up at Marsden Heights School.

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Project Pride Nelson goes to Preston

As part of our research for Project Pride we visited the Lancashire Records Office in Preston.  We wanted to see original documents that would give us a better idea of what Nelson used to be like in the past.

The archivist David Tilsley took us into a vault where documents as old as 900 years were stored. The atmosphere was monitored to ensure that the artefacts were preserved in the best condition possible.

The documents came from, amongst other places: courts, education offices and councils. All the documents were original and kept in labelled boxes.

These are court papers and from a document like this we could find out the types of crimes committed, what sort of sentence someone may receive & the cultural values of that time.

Back in the lecture room maps, photographs, books & textile samples had been laid out for us to examine.  David outlined the history of the beginnings of Nelson which helped to reinforce the history walk that we had attended previously. He added to our knowledge by telling us about the appalling conditions of the weavers in the mills. Women had to share toilets with men and the toilets had no doors. Imagine that! Selina Cooper, a weaver, decided that she would do something about this. This was the start of an important contribution to improving the living and working conditions for both men and women in Nelson. Selina was part of the women’s suffrage movement, set up the first antenatal services in Nelson, campaigned for better employment security, was part of the town council and was politically active well into her 70’s. Apart from a blue plaque to say where she lived there is nothing to mark her contribution to politics in Nelson.

if you would like to find out more about Selina Cooper then here are some sources:


2. One hand tied behind our backs:The Rise of the Women’s Suffrage Movement Jill Liddington & Jill Norris

3. The Life & Times of A Respectable Rebel: Selina Cooper 1864-1946 Jill Liddington

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Project Pride Nelson Begins!

Project Pride Nelson

has its background in ‘Talking Shop’, an art and regeneration

project managed by MidPennine Arts (MPA). Talking Shop has encompassed projects that focus on the importance of independent trade in local communities.

A big thank you to our generous funders for this project who are Heritage Lottery Funding & Lancashire County Council



Project Pride Nelson’s aims are 

-to enable young people involved in the project to learn about how Nelson has developed through the growth of trade and industry to be the place it is today. 

-to uncover never before told stories, unsung heroes and secret histories of the town centre, the shops and markets

-to re-tell these stories in a way that is accessible to the public so that the local community can share them

-to give the local community and project participants good reasons to be proud of where they live and shop.

That’s the structure out of the way with! And so, the aims of this blog is to map the process of the project. Here goes…….

Nelson town centre is undergoing massive changes with the re routing of the main road through town. It is hoped that this will improve access and so bring more people into the centre of town to boost trade. Nelson is the first town to undergo this process and was the first town to be pedestrianised in the 1970s.

 The Lord Nelson pubAt our first session the group decided to walk around Nelson, look at buildings, shops and talk to local shopkeepers about their experiences of trade. Some of the members of the group liked the architecture of the town clock and the pillars to the entrance of the bank underneath it. Whilst we walked around both myself and the youth workers were able to share our experiences of Nelson from the 1970’s.  We remembered the upstairs of the Arndale centre having shops-especially the ‘Eyecatcher’ boutique and Ames Records and Tapes. The young women (the group is exclusively female) were surprised to hear about how busy Nelson used to be.

The shopkeepers who spoke to us welcomed the opening up of the road but were not convinced that it would bring enough economic renewal to the town.  When asked to consider what things would bring more shoppers into the town the project participants suggested known stores and bigger retailers.

The girls liked the architecture of the town centre clock, especially the pillars framing the doorway underneath.

Town Centre clock

The experience of walking around the town and talking to shopkeepers helped to stimulate discussion about how Nelson had changed and what had led to those changes.  It also helped me to get to know the group and ask how they and their families used the centre for shopping. Almost all of them went to Burnley or out of town retail centres.

Furthermore, it became apparent that the group needed support to develop their questioning and listening skills for when they would interview people again for local stories. I had to be vigilant that the questions asked of shopkeepers guided their answers to reflections of how trade was than to theories of the causes of the town’s demise in trade.

Manchester Research Visit

During the Easter Holiday the group visited Manchester Craft & Design Centre(MCDC) and Manchester City Art Gallery. I wanted them to go to MCDC to observe techniques and processes that could be replicated in our creative making sessions, to inspire them visually and for them to see individual artists making a living from art/craft.  A lot of the makers at MCDC are women and this was a conscious move to illustrate that women can run their own business. The visit was a success, many of the girls were inspired by the artefacts and techniques, especially the use of light, decoupage, applique, felting, cushions, jewellery. As we looked at the products we discussed how we could use some of the ideas for the final creative interpretation.

Initally, I had ideas of creating a textile installation whereby stories would be printed onto small pieces of organza which would then be sewn together to make a tall ghostly mill chimney.  This would then be hung from the ceiling in the Ace Centre in Nelson. The aim was also to make a book with paper & textiles.

Anish Kapoor’s exhibition at the City Art Gallery stimulated a lot of discussion, some of the group loved his sculptures, especially the ones made with pigment and the white round swelling that came out from the wall.  Some of the group are going to use him as the artist that they will research in their Arts Award. We also looked at the Grayson Perry exhibition. The trip was really successful in providing visual research and challenging participant’s ideas of what ‘art’ is.

Other ideas that came out of the visit was a possible community event where the group could engage with local people to collect ideas of what they felt proud of in Nelson. Secondly,  we informally met an organiser from the Manchester Mela who offered to show any video footage of the project on one of the big screens at the Mela. All exciting stuff, however, I am mindful of being realistic and ensuring that we deliver good quality outcomes, and time seems very short.  Our delivery date is July 1st, which doesn’t seem long enough!

The Birth of Nelson History Walk

Fiona MacIntyre from Nelson Library kindly took the group on a fascinating history walk around Nelson that outlined the beginnings of the town.  We began at the canal where a winching device had been restored.

Nelson originally was a couple of small settlements called Marsden and Ibsen- Thats where Hibson Road takes it’s name. The group then learnt how the establishment of the transport networks, the industrial revolution and how the actions of the people of Nelson formed the town.

I arrived early for the session and visited the Ace Centre in Nelson to survey the exhibition space. The ceiling from which I had anticipated the installation would hang was extremely high. I knew that I had to quickly re-think the outcome. I took a walk, tried to relax and allow ideas to come to me. One of the participants, Nina, had put forward an idea right at the beginning of the project about using historical photographs of Nelson and printing them onto garments.  I began with this and thought about how identity is shaped, what factors play a part in this & the fact that the group is made up of 15 young women. I also thought about how the identity of Nelson has been shaped, by events like the building of canals, establishment of roads and rail and also by the people in it, their experiences and stories.  Nelson, like any other town, does not have one story, it has many, layered upon each other to make a rich diverse culture that cannot be felt by just looking at buildings or considering ‘facts’. It cannot be expected that we tell the most accurate story of Nelson, the story will be one of many and have the young women’s story intertwined with it.

From these musings I decided to offer my idea of creating a dress that would be made of cotton, to reference the textile industry and the women who worked in weaving sheds. On the dress the group could sew images of what shaped the town. Perhaps the participants could make a handbag from jelly babies or shoes from Victoy V sweet wrappers (to reference the factory). Stories could be printed onto long ribbons of cotton and be suspended from the dress and floating off to represent spoken words that are left in the air.

When I took the concept of the dress to the group they responded with more ideas, for example, sewing different samples of fabric onto the dress, making models of terraced houses and placing them on the dress train, drawing a train track onto it, putting a light inside it, research head dress e.g did the women wear scarves?

Fired up with the vision of the final outcome, the group could see the relevance of collecting stories. They will now go into their own families and perform some initial interviews.  During the session we practised good interview technique and how to reflect answers to encourage interviewees to expand on their stories.  When we reconvene we will analyse the stories and identify the essential bits that will be printed/sewn onto the cotton ribbons.  Meanwhile I need to source a white cotton dress and a shop display mannequin. Hmmm…..

Next week the group is visiting the Lancashire Archives  in Preston to look at the contribution made by Selina Cooper, a local woman who worked hard to raise the working and living conditions of women & children.  We will also look at artefacts from the textile industry.

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