Collaborative artists Jacob Cartwright and Nick Jordan have been commissioned by British Textile Biennial and English Heritage to create new work in relation to Goodshaw Chapel in Rossendale, a nonconformist Baptist chapel established by local textile workers and farm labourers in 1760. Working closely with community members, historians and creative practitioners in the region, the artists’ work explores the rich legacy and layered histories of the chapel and its location within the cloughs and moorlands of the valley; weaving together social, industrial and ecological themes and interconnections. During the Biennial, the artists will be presenting ‘Larksong’, a film installation in the chapel, alongside drawings, found objects, printed textiles, live performance and spoken word poetry.
Our collaborative film work often combines original cinematography with voice-over interviews or spoken-word narratives, alongside atmospheric soundscapes and archival material. First- hand accounts and personal insights are central to our practice and we often combine these with historic texts to form a loose guiding structure or narrative to the film. We use the subsequent editing process to layer or weave together these audio and visual connections and contrasts. Such an approach allows us to explore the characteristics of place and people; to create links and allusions between the past and present, especially within the context of social and natural history.
For the British Textile Biennial and English Heritage, we are making a film, Larksong, which features footage of the landscape filmed within a two mile radius of the Chapel - a loosely defined parish boundary, delineated by close walking distance. Filmed in late spring and early summer, Larksong captures a unique terrain of cloughs, hedgerows, woodlands, streams and moorland, laced with the remnants and imprints of the textiles workers and industries that shaped the environment, including the ruins of woollen mills, handloom weavers’ cottages, packhorse routes, coal mines, stone quarries, baptism ponds, reservoir outlets and remote farmsteads.
Image and image above: Larksong. Image courtesy of Jacob Cartwright and Nick Jordan.
Larksong is titled after a song by the Larks of Dean, the legendary group of composers, singers and instrumentalists established by handloom weaver and Baptist preacher John Nuttall in the early 18th century. Known in the local dialect as “Th' Deighn Layrocks”, the choir carried their homemade instruments over the moors every Sunday to perform in Goodshaw Chapel. Inspired by the choir and recorded in the chapel, Larksong includes experimental music and performances by artists David Chatton Barker, Mary Stark, Sam McLoughlin and Bridget Hayden, re-imagining the Larks’ wanderings, instruments and hymns. Set to the film’s
soundtrack is a poem written and read by Emily Oldfield, a poet who has deep family roots in Goodshaw and whose work explores our relationship to nature, history and place. Emily and the artists regularly feature as part of the Rossendale and Calder Valley-based Folklore Tapes: David Chatton Barker’s ongoing research and musical heritage project exploring the folklore, mythology, nature and topography of the British Isles.
With a research-led approach, we are also working with local historian Stephen Oldfield, author of The Forgotten Forest: A Historical Fieldguide to the Rossendale Valley, East Lancashire. The father of poet Emily Oldfield, Stephen also has extensive family connections to Goodshaw and the surrounding areas, with insightful and extensive knowledge of the people, places, and stories that give the valley its unique character.
Completing the film installation in the chapel will be objects and printed textiles, featuring drawings of native wild plants growing in the area that have historic links to textile production, including fibrous plants such as nettle, flax and milkweed, and those used in natural dyes, such as woad, hawthorn, Saint John's wort and purple loosestrife.
Find out more:
The British Textile Biennial will take place on 29 September - 29 October 2023. To find out more visit: britishtextilebiennial.co.uk
Read more about the legacy of the textile industry in Lancashire and its roots that spread across the globe in Selvedge issue 114: Regeneration.