This nation was, literally, built with wool. From before the Norman Conquest raw wool exports were paying for churches, cathedrals and abbeys; castles and armies. The Speaker of the House of Lords still sits on a woolsack as a symbol of where the wealth of the Nation once came from.
Bradford Woolly Heritage wants to ensure that the history and culture of the wool industry in Bradford is remembered, celebrated and plays a central role in Bradfords bid to host City Of Culture in 2025. Holding events, talks, walks, listening to the people of Bradford, and building on the history of Bishop Blaise and the wool trade to create rich and vibrant contributions to 2025 and Bradford City of Culture. We have found that people respond very positively to what we are trying to do. The Bishop Blaise and wool story interests people; craft wool is a massive and growing hobby; and almost every who lives in Bradford has personal or family links to the wool trade and seem to be proud of the fact.
Take a look at our projects
During the 2020 Covid-19 lock-down we managed to run a safe live-streamed walk around the Bradford Wool Exchange (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77LsELZ7YZg), and the Annual Pie & Priestley celebration at Jacobs Well, which used livecasting and ventriloquism to allow safe performance and maximum safe audience.
We also became aware that the Arts Council were making funds available to creators adapting to Covid-19. We had no experience of large grant applications; but with the next Woolly Blaise Festival almost certain to be tangled with Covid. We decided to apply.
It has been a very complex process, but it has made us define our ideas very closely. The Blaise Festival has grown fairly organically so far. When the Industrial Museum agreed to run a Bring Back Blaise Wool Fair with Glyn and friends in 2017 nothing was fixed apart from the date (closest Sunday to St Blaise's Day on 3rd Feb.). Glyn got sponsorship which paid for Bradford Community Choir (which was suggested by a friend) and the Hall Royd Brass Band (suggested by a musician Glyn had previously worked with). Both groups have performed at every festival since. Both are based in Shipley; have a mixed gender membership and a broad range of ages.
The 3 Wool fairs we have cooperatively produced so far have drawn record crowds as diverse as Bradford's population. There will not be a Wool Fair for WoollyBlaise21 but we will be making a film there to explain the wool trade, and maintain a virtual relationship with the Bradford Industrial Museum.
Everything else depends on the state of Lock-down (and different kinds performers will have different Covid responses); but if performers can perform we will film them for YouTube release and use in future digital content. If an audience is allowed we have agreements with several, inner Bradford, venues and we will arrange concerts on a 'safe bubble distance' principle; something we learned to do for the Pie & Priestley Show.
Developing an interactive, 3D rendered, walk along the route of the the last big Bishop Blaise procession (1825) was a key aim for us from the beginning. We have now incorporated that into our plans for Woolly Blaise21. The venues are on the route of the full walk, and we intend making both the performances and a historical image of the previous buildings part of the experience.
We have arranged for The Hall Royd Brass Band and Bradford Voices Community Choir to perform when possible.
We will commission, subject to funding, a new piece for brass band from Paul Lovett-Cooper; and a professional brass quintet to premier it. Brass band music is deeply woven into Bradford's textile history and it's working culture.
We will engage musician Dave Hardcastle to not only perform with one of his bands, but also provide technical support for potentially unusual venues. The band will be either punk or heavy metal; of which Bradford has a good history; which clearly will appeal to an audience different to other offers.
We are in the process of creating a Woolly Delius event in cooperation with the Delius Centre of the Arts. This will be happening after what would have been the Festival dates of the first week in February; and involve an artistic exhibition as well as music. Delius' family came from Germany to work in the wool trade, and so this event has treads that go beyond the audience for classical music.
We are working with Bradford Council and the Bradford Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers to arrange a Woolly Heritage Window in an unoccupied shop window, with demonstrations of wool crafts, displays of artistic use of wool and the history of Bradford's wool trade; and possibly other performances. This potentially has the biggest audience, with some sites having over thirty thousand passers-by.
We are meeting regularly with the National Science+Media Museum to identify near and future cooperative ventures; with a view to weaving a broad set of events to cover 2025; with a much broader appeal than we could manage on our own.
We are activity cooperating on a 'Woolly Woggle' competition for Beaver Scouts in West Bradford; with a view to scan the results for digital display. Like everything else we want this to develop into something self sustaining and City wide.
We did want to engage with a much wider range of groups. Time was against us but we aim to build future Woolly Blaise Festival on the principle of the Edinburgh Fringe. Anyone can be in the Festival if they advertise the Festival. That means that it will not depend on a small number of individuals spinning out and weaving everything.
Wool is part of the warp and weft of our nation and especially our city. We want to capture this culture and explore ways of sharing it to celebrate Bradford 2025.
We also recognise and engage with all the communities who moved to Bradford to work in the mills and celebrate their contribution to multicultural life in Bradford.
We have some ideas about how to celebrate aspects of Bradford's history - and we are open to any other suggestions!
We are actively seeking to link with groups involved with wool whether it be, commercial, social, recreational or Bradford based to think about new ways to engage with the people of Bradford. We are always happy to support local events and can adapt and tailor our shows. Please get in touch to discuss if you would like us to come along to your event.
Glyn moved to Bradford many years ago and has become an honorary Yorkshireman with a passion for the history and people of Bradford and Yorkshire which he has turned to good use with writings and performances.
A former primary school teacher, poet and showman Glyn has added to the cultural warp and weft of Bradford. As well as creating The Bring Back Blaise’s Festival, and International Hat Throwing Competition Glyn has also created and run Curry and Kipling shows and The Little Britton Festival (celebrating Thomas Britton the Musical Coalman of Clerkenwell Green). He was a Company Director of both the Shipley Glen Tramway, and The Priestley Centre for the Arts. He blogs and since discovering instagram he posts about his life and travels around Bradford.
Daniel moved to Bradford from Leeds in 2013 and in 2018 took over at the Jacobs Well pub in the city centre. He has a keen interest in local history and wants to share the fascinating stories of Bradford's past with a wider audience.
Julia moved to Leeds in 2019 from London. She started out in the fine art world and in the 2000s retrained to become a careers adviser and educator. In recent years she has worked with her husband on his art and music projects Greyswood Art and Seven by Seven. Always fascinated by what shapes the world in which we live she is excited to be a part of Bradford Woolly Heritage and looking forward to finding ways to share what we uncover.