The Big Rainbow Knit was the largest community project of the WOVEN 2021 programme. It brought together knitters from across Kirklees and beyond, as well as reaching out to ex-Kirklees residents across the seas, as far away as New Zealand! They all had the common goal of creating yarn bomb installations across Kirklees including, most notably, St. Georges Square in Huddersfield Town Centre.
The project spawned a network of knitters made up of already-established textiles/craft groups, textiles artists/practitioners, schools, care homes and local residents, as well as individuals who had never knitted a stitch but wanted to be part of something bigger than themselves.
The Big Rainbow Knit continued to grow in strength and numbers during the Covid 19 pandemic. At a time when people were isolated in their homes, the Big Rainbow Knit provided an opportunity to be part of something bigger, part of something positive.
‘In a time of isolation it felt good to be part of a community’
With lockdown in full force, the Big Rainbow Knitters Facebook group became a vital mechanism in maintaining and growing the network, facilitating regular dialogue between members and keeping them up to date with key developments related to the project and the wider festival. By the end of the festival period, almost a thousand people were members!
The impact of the Big Knit project on individuals during this challenging time was immense. There was the obvious skill development…
‘I haven’t knitted since I was a child so it felt good to redevelop a skill.’
‘ Very proud to have learnt to knit finally.’
But the feedback from participants tells us that the biggest impact by far was on their wellbeing and in particular their mental health. The Big Rainbow Knit provided a clear focus and emotional support through an extended social network of like-minded people. It helped people learn and develop skills, reinvigorated their passion for crafts/textiles, and instilled a deep sense of pride.
‘This has helped my mental health during uncertain times as I had something to concentrate on …’
‘ Therapeutic during winter lockdown evenings …’
‘ It made me feel useful and valued …’
‘ It gave me a purpose, which is something I haven’t had for a long time’
People did not have to leave their homes to still be part of this collaborative project, but ultimately it was work to be displayed outside. It was never known for certain if restrictions would lift in time for the project to realise its potential, but they did, and on June 4th the Big Rainbow Knit was revealed to the public.
‘I watched the pillar blankets and swags being installed, and that made me feel quite emotional, knowing the amount of love and care that has gone into this collaboration’
‘Everybody was commenting on it as they were walking past and telling you stories about their own parents working in the mills, particularly those from the West Indies, they were really interested in it’
‘We had a ride to Huddersfield this afternoon to have a look at the installation and as soon as we turned the corner, it brought a smile to our faces. Some heroic work had been undertaken just to mount the work and clever thinking about how to mount each piece. A mammoth task but the result is gorgeous’
As well as the centre piece at St. George’s Square, satellite projects sprang up along the Pennistone Train line , including Batley Train Station. This part of the Big Rainbow Knit reached out to even more communities in North Kirklees, including local schools.
In at least 21 other places across Kirklees, communities came together to yarn bomb their towns and villages, creating a celebratory trail across the region
The de-rigging of the installations was not the end of the project. It was important that the knitting was sustainable, so through to October volunteers continued with a legacy project. 104 blankets were constructed, and given out to a wide range of local charities including those supporting asylum seekers, care leavers, hospices and care homes. Six local schools were also gifted packs of squares to create their own legacy projects, carrying on with the community impact at the heart of this monumental project.
Sustainability is very important to WOVEN, and we are proud that the blue and green sections of the Big Rainbow Knit will form part of an installation in Glasgow for COP26. We are committed to further develop sustainability as an under pinning theme for WOVEN in 2023.
It is community that created this unforgettable project. At a time of international and local uncertainty and challenge, people came together, working alone in their homes, but feeling part of something that had huge impact on their lives and the lives of others.
‘It was a triumph for everyone involved and provided some very important mental and social stimulus at the difficult time.’