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Artificial Silk is a collection of Northwest of England people who create, curate, publish and run mixed media projects.

The collected energy of people in the region making things, imaginative and concrete things, is combined in the name of Artificial Silk. Here’s a flavour of what we do:

– Writing and performance  fiction, blogs, movement to texts
– Community projects  exhibition, audio recordings, drama, craft
– Publishing  books and eBooks

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(left to right) Writer – A.T. Boyle, protester – Clare Chandler, equality campaigner Esther Roper – Cathy Butterworth, Women in Comedy Festival – Andrew, protester – Julie Burrows

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Artificial Silk is a textile too. It was produced in the Northwest for many years. This transformative textile started out with workers breaking up wood pieces and soaking them. Vats of liquid were then turned back in to a hard substance, a silky thread that could be coloured and woven for war parachutes and clothes. M&S used it for nightwear: you may have worn some. Artificial silk filaments were exported all over the world.

Writing and performance
Our latest devised performance and perambulation in the Northwest was a political theatre comedy, Ban the Ban on Barmaids!

Part of the Women in Comedy festival.

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back-to-the-kitchenSunday 23rd October 2016 saw us challenging Winston Churchill’s attempt to ban women from working in bars because they tempted men in to drink.

On the original protest day in 1908 and on the pseudo protest day in 2016, on exactly the same spot in Manchester, women were told to get back to the kitchen.

 

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This new political theatre comedy re-revisited a protest in Stevenson Square in the Northern Quarter of Manchester over 100 years ago. We asked what has changed on women’s equality and their rights to be heard.

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Willing members of the audience carried banners round the Northern Quarter including Gul Turner (foreground), Kate Fox and Anne Beswick.

jess-frog-and-bucketJess, manager of the family’s venue Frog and Bucket in the Northern Quarter, comes from a long line of barmaids.

jenny-ban-tweetWinston Churchill and the cause
In 1908, a young local MP Winston Churchill was trying to get a ban through Parliament which would have stopped women from working in bars and taken bread from their tables. This ban was apparently to protect women from inebriated customers and to stop men from being lured to drink by attractive servers.

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Social activists Esther Roper (a Northerner), Eva Gore-Booth and her sister Constance Markievicz rode to Stevenson Square in a carriage driven by four white horses to oppose the ban – and they won.

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Esther Roper mask in Manchester Town Hall crocheted by Helen Davies @warpandweft, with inspiration from Jenny White

What did people say in the Northern Quarter on 23rd October 2016?
“I like to sit back and relax on a Sunday. When I was asked on the spot to take a side in opposing the ban, like Churchill did, I probably had the loudest, most obnoxious voice. That felt good. Surprised me, actually.”

“So much energy.”

“We wouldn’t have come if it had been stand-up. Historical and political with the comedy – that’s what attracted us to come along.”

“Congratulations on a great show, well done on bringing the story alive :-)”

“Being given chance to carry a banner and walk to the venue.”

“Curiosity from lots of people, what we were doing standing there outside.”

“I’ve been a barmaid all my life. Sounds interesting, this. We don’t go to arty things.” (Two women who’d walked from Piccadilly train station with big suitcases They stood for five minutes listening to the protest and hearing about the carriage driven by four white horses and Suffragettes before asking:) “Where’s the Northern Quarter?”

“I stood with the others in Stevenson Square. I didn’t shout or anything or hold a banner.”

“It was inspiring – well done!”

“People rushing past with suitcases or eyeing us from outdoor cafes.”

“A few people ran after us and asked what the protest was about. I gave them a leaflet.”

“My friend thought it was really different.”

“I’ve never felt so valued.” (A barmaid working at the event)

“Are you doing it again?” “If you revive it please do let me know.” (x 6)

cathy-at-frog-and-bucket-performing-cropCathy Butterworth playing Esther Roper (image: photo_Jenn)

We were snarled at by two drunk men from across the road as we walked with our banners, unable to make out their words.

Thanks to local businesses for support, to Jess, soundman Colin and co. at the Frog and Bucket, and Hazel who so ably directs the Women in Comedy Festival.

Read about the political context here. (History Ireland on the Barmaids’ Defence League). And here (Sonja Tiernan of Liverpool University on the political writings of Eva Gore-Booth). And here (Facebook).

Previous Artificial Silk performances…

Typing Man projection perf med

The Typing Man narrative was adapted for an experience with graphics and composed sound at The Bluecoat in Liverpool. The original story was shortlisted in the Mslexia awards from over 2,000 entries. An experimental multimedia performance was shortlisted in Waterside Arts Centre Trafford’s To The Stage commission 2016.

Community projects

Photo of 2 girls and Mum
22,571 visitors of all ages took part in Colours, Community & Chemistry at the People’s History Museum in Northwest England.

Fish marketMela came to the Fish Market in Preston. The novel from Pakistan to Preston features the town in 1972 Guild year.

Publishing

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Published writing for children includes Whose Hat is That?

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Children at the Juliet Johnstone school, Tafo, Ghana.

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World Book Day in Blackley, Greater Manchester, with Wishing Bird published by Puffin.

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Social media on Authors Electric an independent e-publishers’ network.

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Click here to access Writing Conventions – What’s new? The investigation into the use of online social networks for commentary on teen fiction was awarded an MSc Distinction from the University of Bristol.

Find out more about inspirations for the story from Pakistan to Preston

Hear how we dramatised the story of The Typing Man

Read our topical thoughts @papercroissant

See our professional connections

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