‘Made In Huddersfield’ is now available to watch in our Resources section. The film is part of a wider collaboration between Chol and Ignite Yorkshire, in which eleven young people took part in a challenge to write, produce and star in a drama piece inspired by the rich textiles heritage of the region.
A Global Textiles History
‘Made In Huddersfield’ began life as a brief for a group of young people to create a live drama piece with Chol. Chol is a theatre and arts company based in Yorkshire. They are national leaders in live story-making and using co-creation to develop their projects.
“We believe that by using a youth-led process, it ensures that the young people can drive the project in the way that they want it to go, which will, in turn, create a rich learning, meaningful and enjoyable experience.” Jess Woodhead, Chol
The youth-led development of the piece brought new, unexpected dimensions to the topic of textiles heritage. Social and political movements happening across the world at the time of development informed the way participants engaged with the subject of textiles. Fast fashion emerged as particularly important to young people, and became a central theme of the piece. Alongside the environmental impact of fast fashion, participants also explored the legacy of colonialism and economic exploitation the fast fashion industry is reliant upon.
Feedback during reflections from the young people showed that they felt, in order to understand the context of current social and political movements, pandemics and the textiles industry, it was fundamental to understand the industrial history of not just Huddersfield and the UK, but also the world.
“…it feels so much more like relevant and so interwoven with what’s actually going on now, the fact that we can explore things like…Black Lives Matter and migrant workers or…fast fashion and how that relates to changes in the fashion industry back in the day…it’s so weird almost because it’s just so relevant that it really feels necessary.” Young Participant
A Youth-Led Process
Chol and Ignite Yorkshire’s commitment to youth voice created the space for young people to engage with these topics in their work, finding connections to the heritage of their local area. Each session was planned in response to young people’s interests.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. I feel like everyone has had their own creative control.” Young Participant
The performers incorporated the textiles history of Kirklees to the development of their own characters: ranging from eighteenth century garment factory workers through to modern social media influencers and sweat shop workers.
“I really liked how it wasn’t…’you have to talk about this and this is what your monologue should be based on’. We kind of, we got to use our voices and say what we wanted to say through our monologues.” Young Participant
Drama During Covid
‘Made in Huddersfield’ was inspired by a previous collaboration between Chol and Ignite Yorkshire: ‘Run of the Mill’. Young actors starred in a site-specific performance in Colne Valley Museum as part of WOVEN Festival 2019.
The Covid-19 pandemic meant a drastic rethink for ‘Made In Huddersfield’. The project was originally planned as a live performance developed at Chol’s performance space. Rather than postpone, ‘Made In Huddersfield’ was adapted to meet Covid-19 restrictions as a way to continue to engage young people through a difficult period of isolation and stress.
Young people were recruited to the project through social media, and the piece was developed largely online via Zoom. The final performance was planned to be live in a performance space. However, days before the scheduled live performance, Kirklees entered a local lockdown.
“It’s uplifting to know that we can still do this when we’re all cut off from each other. It’s kind of reassuring.” Young Participant
Performers adapted quickly. Costumes, technical equipment and green screens were delivered to young people at their homes. The final performance was broadcast live on Zoom, with a mixture of live performance and pre-recorded footage. Over seventy devices tuned in to the live performance. The full performance has been viewed 150 times on Youtube.
‘Made In Huddersfield’ was performed live in August 2020.