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Weaving The Future Exhibition at Salts Mill

Weaving the Future is an exhibition of film, photography and artefacts that explores how Britain’s textile industry is being reinvented for the 21st century. Wool and cotton fuelled the world’s first industrial revolution. Now a vast array of fibres are driving a new revolution, with textiles being used to create a vast range of innovative products, from heart valves and new knee cartilage to high tech vehicles. 

Weaving the Future also demonstrates the link between our analogue and digital worlds, showing how the binary systems that once drove textile looms led to the development of computer programming. 

The exhibition was commissioned by the 2019 Saltaire Festival as the flagship arts event of the annual festival, now in its 17th year. Combining photography and film by Tim Smith and Chris Squire with performance by Balbir Singh Dance Company and Dance United Yorkshire it opens on 13th September at Salts Mill, itself an iconic textiles mill reinvented as home to a range of cutting edge digital industries. 

Weaving the Future shows how the innovative spirit that once powered the textile industry is alive and well by highlighting the skills of people who work with wool, cotton and other fibres, adapting traditional methods and machinery to make top quality, distinctive goods for specialist markets worldwide. Textiles also provide a unique knowledge base for cutting edge research, as traditional technologies are used in new and surprising ways to develop pioneering materials for diverse industries, from aerospace to biomedical textiles. 

Photographs by Tim Smith are printed on the latest generation of woven textiles, and the film he has produced with Chris Squire is projected onto layered fabrics. The film showcases both the Balbir Singh Dance and Gradient Companies performing movements inspired by textile workers and machinery, interwoven with footage of textile processes and a sound track of industrial recordings mixed with music made in response to the audio visual rhythms of textile machinery. 

Weaving the Future also explores how textiles were the catalyst for the birth of digital technologies. Patterns of holes punched in pattern cards were invented to enable looms to weave an infinite range of patterns from coloured threads. The creation of this binary system led to the development of early computers: the first step on a journey from woven cloth to the digital programming that drives our modern world.

The exhibition will be held at Salts Mill, staged in its astonishing Roof Space which was, when built, the longest weaving room in the world. The project has been supported by The Campaign for Wool and some of its supporters including Abraham Moon & Sons, AW Hainsworth, Pennine Weavers and Haworth Scouring, with innovative samples on display from Armadillo Merino – astronaut t-shirt, Dashing Tweeds – reflective yarn shirt, Glenbrae – seamless knit top, Solidwool – Herdwick wool and bio-resin chair, and newly launched wool plasters from Woolaid, to highlight where wool can create an important part across different market sectors, and how its natural fibre benefits adapt as required to the benefit of the user.

Peter Ackroyd, COO The Campaign for Wool said “The mills that are thriving in the UK, are mills that have innovated over time, either through a high level of design content, or the way they use yarns and fabric. To innovate was the only way to survive. To create different types of fabric for different end uses, particularly important is how design integrates with technology and how this is interpreted with garment manufacturers to look different, have a high level of performance attributes whilst being fashionable”.

The exhibition will be open every day of the Festival, September 13th – 22nd inclusive, 11.00am-4.00pm. It then remains open at weekends until the 20th October.

Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, and by Salts Mill, the Saltaire Festival, Kala Sangam and the Campaign for Wool. 

For further information and images contact:

Tim Smith. Tel: 07967 477239.  e-mail: 



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