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.
At 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.
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.