Threads came to life at hcmf// 2018. A project presented in partnership with South Asian Arts UK (SAA-uk), it explored the rich history of the textiles industry within Kirklees – along with the community stories that belong to it.
Working with Batley Grammar School, Threads followed the histories of Kirklees factory workers from the UK and India. Co-ordinated by hcmf//’s Learning & Participation Officer, Alexandra Richardson, the project came to life in a series of workshops, in which students learned from sound artist Alex de Little, Kathak dancer Jyoti Manral, carnatic violinist and bansuri flautist Vijay Venkat, and SAA-uk’s artistic director, Keranjeet Kaur Virdee. They discovered not only the types of fabric found in old factory mills, but the processes and people behind them. As an ensemble, they created an immersive and involving performance that considered these mingled histories, weaving together music and dance to interpret the experiences of factory workers – and to mimic the sounds of the industrial environment they found themselves within.
Threads was performed as part of hcmf// shorts 2018 to a packed audience. The project’s success led to a commission from Woven festival, who programmed a ‘sequel’. An expanded performance, Threads II engaged students from Batley Grammar, Upper Batley High School and Batley Girls High School in another series of workshops, culminating in a performance at Batley Community Centre on 15 June 2019. Working together in a new venue, they devised an ensemble version of Threads, full of ambition and collaboration.
Seeing Threads II live, it was clear how closely the students had come with local history. As a group, they brought to life its sounds and scenes, invoking its memory through a miniature orchestra of instruments, two choirs, and Kathak dancers with their own fabrics. Implementing Indian classical music, the students interacted with their audience by singing the musical scale with them, once again bringing about an enduring sense of community involvement. Utilising whirring, experimental electronics, they recalled the mechanical bustle of industry labor, and through music and dance, they brought about the hidden traditions of those who worked there, suggesting also how they lived. With Threads II, these students crafted the perfect performance, weaving their way through time.