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Wirksworth Festival 2013

This is maquette #2 for Tape Measure, my installation for the Wirksworth Festival 2013.

After making it I left the flat and went to Wirksworth to do some field research and to see Airr, the clothes shop on the market place where Tape Measure will be shown in the window. I also went to the Heritage Centre and, armed with information, visited some but not all of the former Tape Mills in the town. Wirksworth was a major centre of tape weaving, including the famous red tape “synonymous with legality and bureaucracy in the complicated world of the British Empire.”(Wirksworth Heritage Centre).

The Mills (that I saw) are Haarlem Mill at Millers Green (established as a cotton mill by Richard Arkwright in 1777), Providence Mill at Gorsey Bank and Willow Bath Mill off Water Lane. At the Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock, a 1976 promotional brochure for Bowmer Bond Narrow Fabrics Ltd. (formed from a merger with John Bowmer and Sons of Wirksworth) contained a descriptive list of their tapes uses:

hospital clothing, surgical dressings and appliances, caps, aprons, bags, disposable clothing, electrical blankets, flags and banners, the car industry, ironing board covers, knitwear, hockey sticks, rosettes, mosquito nets, sleeping bags, legal documents, packaging, carpets, suitcases, parachutes, electrical coils, horse blankets, leather goods, tents, life jacket, toys, saddle bags, blinds, sportswear, flexible doors … and many other products.

Wirksworth also appears as the town Snowfield in George Eliot’s novel Adam Bede (1859). I saw several Adams on my walk around the town. Eliot based characters in her novel on real people in Wirksworth including her aunt and uncle, Elizabeth and Samuel Evans, who managed a silk and velvet mill, now home to the Heritage Centre’s museum.

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