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I have been going to Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery since I was a child at primary school. I was often in there on Saturday afternoons after the Children’s Film Foundation screenings in the cinema across the road, (now the Cotton Exchange,) and I was always signed up to the free holiday activities that would break up the summer.
They would be at Witton Park in the old buildings and collections there, or at the Museum, usually in the Victorian Painting Gallery. It was a place to go, to be dropped off by working parents, or for a full day out; drawing, reading and stimulating my young creative mind –though I have to admit to occasionally, sliding around on my knees.
The museum is precious to me, and later The Harris would become equally as important as I became an art student, and eventually a lecturer. Everything you need to see is on the doorstep if you know where to look, from heritage collections unrivalled across the country to recent exhibitions by Martin Creed and Lubaina Himid; from the National Festival of Making to the Turner Prize and back. These galleries, collections and festivals have so much of what I need to inspire and inform the work I make. That’s why I am delighted to be working on the ‘Politics of Cloth commission for Lancashire Encounters and Super Slow Way. The opportunity to get behind the scenes and look at the works in the archives, to investigate the links between towns in Lancashire and to really think about what ‘the politics of cloth’ might mean, is a dream commission.
The first works I’m making are in response to a banner I saw in Blackburn Museum, a temperance banner, one that promoted abstinence from alcohol in ‘beer town’ Blackburn at the height of the industrial revolution. It’s hand painted and the text is finished in gold and it carries a proposition that tells us much about the communities of the time.
I arranged to go to the Harris to look at their banners and found equally unexpected outcomes. There are tales of Protestant martyrs, ancient guilds of crafts people (the craft long since disappeared or diminished,) and images of Christian charity that, like the temperance banner in Blackburn museum, tell us much of the communities who either marched behind these banners, or watched these processions pass. These banners in the collections, recorded the activities, interests and beliefs of the people who worked in and around the Mills of Lancashire, so my first work for this commission will be a new banner for a procession that will take place during Lancashire Encounter festival (Sept 21-23rd.) I have worked with traditional banner makers to produce a hand painted banner on silk that will be paraded over the weekend.
My banner will continue in the tradition of recording our communities and histories and the links we have to the Mills and industrial spaces associated with fabric, cloth and manufacturing across Lancashire. But also looks to our recent heritage and the thirtieth anniversary of Acid House – significant gatherings of people and community in empty mills and warehouses. For me, this chimes with the anniversary of the famous ‘Live the dream’ rave outside Blackburn on September 16th 1989. The theme of the procession for Lancashire Encounter festival is ‘dreams’, so my new banner sits comfortably within the festival, embracing an important part of our recent history and reflecting the dreams of the artist as a young man, one of many who found hope and joy in our dark satanic mills. It’s a history worth remembering and I want to celebrate it.
You can follow the story of Jamie’s residency on instagram @jamie_louis_holman