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The Yorkshire / Italy Textile Community Project

Release Date – Oct 9th 2006

Two Yorkshire-based artists are exploring the links, similarities and differences between textile communities in Yorkshire and Italy, and they want YOUR help!

Andy Abbott and Yvonne Carmichael, who live in the former mill-town of Saltaire, near Bradford, have been on a four-month residency in Biella, a mill-town in northern Italy.

They are exploring the shared history of towns that were integral to the textiles industry in Yorkshire (Leeds, Bradford and Saltaire) and their Italian counterparts, with particular reference to how communities respond to recession and the decline of the industry.

The Yorkshire textiles industry faced decline (due to competition from Italian exports) from as early as the 1930’s, and that decline came to a head in the 1980’s when many of the largest mills in Bradford were forced to close

Andy:

“Saltaire, Leeds and Bradford have responded to the decline of the trade in a positive fashion by embracing service industries, culture and heritage. Biella, and similar Italian towns, are on the cusp of this ‘looming recession’ with a similar economic threat, this time as a result of the cheaper production and labour costs in China.”

Yvonne and Andy intend to present information about this shared history to the people of both regions in the hope that it will benefit both Yorkshire and Biellese people to know more about one another.

Andy:

“For the people of Yorkshire a knowledge and interest in Biella operates as a form of living history that helps us to appreciate the roots of the towns and cities we live in. Saltaire, Leeds and Bradford have changed so dramatically that we are in danger of forgetting how and why they originated. 

More importantly the input that Yorkshire people can have in this project means that past bad experiences can be utilised to help others, and therefore help salvage something positive from the wreckage of recession. Embracing new opportunities could act as a guiding light or at least as comfort to the Biellese people worrying about an uncertain future.”

The project will try to collate information about:

  • the past trials and tribulations that affected Yorkshire textile workers,
  • the methods they used to deal with difficult times
  • resulting successes achieved through shrewd economic strategies

Please contact the artists if you can help.

Editors – if your newspaper is willing to include an article or carry the questionnaire, please get in touch.

Contact UK
Andy Abbott
T: 07834696724
E: andyabbott@black-dogs.org

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

Andy Abbott and Yvonne Carmichael are artists that have been active in Leeds for the last few years. Andy is a founding member of the art exhibition, events and publication collective Black Dogs and Yvonne was responsible for the formation of the site-responsive social intervention project ResourceCITE which has toured all over the UK and played an important role in this years British Art Show. The artists follow their own practice outside of this group activity, recent examples of which include Andy’s interactive vending machines installed in Leeds bars and research about the Electric Press Chimney published in Yorkshire Post, and Yvonne’s successful and life affirming ‘Strawberry Tart Trail’ guided public performance.

In July 2006 Yvonne and Andy were accepted as residents on the world-renowned Unidee programme at Cittadellarte Fondazione Pistoletto, an art centre founded by Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto to develop and spread a ‘socially responsible’ art practice internationally. The project Yvonne and Andy presented played on their position as the only Yorkshire (and UK) residents on the programmes this year. They proposed to work on a project over the course of the 4-month residency that explored the links between Yorkshire towns that were affected by the textiles industry (Leeds, Bradford and Saltaire in particular) and the Italian town of Biella where Cittadellarte is based.

In the beginning of October the main newspaper in Biella, ‘Eco di Biella’ will run two articles on the project, accompanied by a questionnaire written by Andy and Yvonne.

The questionnaire has been written as an attempt to gather information about the public’s attitudes and activity in work and play.

It is the artists’ intention to have the questionnaire completed by an equivalent number of people and a similar demographic in Yorkshire. This can be achieved through completed hard copies or through an online version. The results of the questionnaire will then be presented in Biella at the closing exhibition in Cittadellarte.

Later in the year the results of the questionnaires from Biella and Yorkshire will be presented alongside each other in Leeds and potentially as a publication. This will help develop the relationship between Yorkshire and Biellese people, as it will act as a reference to the similarities in situation that unite them and the attitudes and experiences that help individualise and characterise the people of the region.

Abbott and Carmichael are therefore currently looking for support from local newspapers and publications to help realise the Yorkshire side of the project. Ideally this support will be in the form of articles or features about the project and a willingness to carry the questionnaire by some method. The solution in ‘Eco di Biella’ was to have the questionnaire printed as a half page segment that can be cut out and returned by post to Cittadellarte. This method means that the survey will appear in every issue of the journal’s 10,000 circulation and is planned for publication on 9th of October.

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