Weaving the Town’s playwright, Caroline Jester, describes the experiences and discoveries that inspired her work on the audio dramas that you can hear in our galleries…
Weaving the Town has a life of its own, reflecting the many voices that can be found in the museum. The voices weren’t only to be found in the people populating the old carpet factory but the voices that were in the objects and the very walls of the building. Stories jump out at you from every corner connecting the past with the present and the town with the nation and its international story.
It is an inspiring space that not only weaved its magic in my imagination but also on the many people who helped create the audio dramas. I wanted the development process to reflect the town, a town that through collaborating achieved international acclaim. The museum itself has been able to open its doors only by an incredible collaborative effort spanning more than thirty years and many people who have given their time, sweat and tears (of joy) along the way to make sure this town’s story never dies.
I had the privilege of talking to many people including ex-carpet workers who came in to tell their tales of Christmases in the factories and one found its way into the first drama.
Bernie and Mark, the museum’s weavers inspire people with their craft and take a central part in the narrative by urging others to make sure their looms keep weaving carpet. Janet has a personal connection with the handlooms, naming them Victoria and Albert. These anachronistic names only highlight the merging between times of all the looms that connect everything.
Julie inspires the children who visit the museum in the handloom shed by getting them to dress up and becoming the children of the past, developing empathy and an understanding of how education is a gift that wasn’t always there. Paula’s passion for the archives excites and unnerves as the tales of the past can still affect the present as gloves need to be worn in case anything dangerous from previous times jumps out.
Melvyn connects everything together as he’s responsible for saving many of the artefacts that now live in the museum and Jean’s attention to detail, knowledge of the town and the history the museum embraces is inspiring. Charles never gives up and raises the museum from an idea into a reality and has created one of the ‘three legs of Kidderminster’. John, Colin and Eric fill in the details of the industry from the physics of carpets to the sexual politics on the shop floor.
Pupils from St Bartholomew’s creative energy took over the museum in workshops to write their own stories and their own words are acted by them in the second drama. Students from Baxter College star in drama three with their idea of how the bombing of their school during the Second World War created a stir in the town.
All of these tales wouldn’t have threaded together without the talent of Peter Leslie Wild, director and producer whose attention to every detail led him to listening to the music that reflected the rhythm of the looms and leading the actors through 300 years in one day of recording.
Listeners to the dramas may recognise a few of the actors’ voices, especially Wilton who is played by Dan Hagley, Darrell Makepeace in the Archers. Sean Connolly is also a regular to Ambridge and Lynn Cawley brings Spool Axminster beautifully to life. Local young musicians ‘Granny’s Attic’ add their folk energy to the museum with the music that connects the dramas.
I hope Wilton and Spool Axminster are happy with these tales and they make room for the new looms to keep carpets in Kidderminster for the delight of the world.
None of this would have been possible without the grants and support given to us by the Kidderminster Education Foundation Working Group, Arts Council England, Worcestershire County Council and the Sir Barry Jackson Trust.