On Friday 20th May we met with Emma Harrabin from Coventry 2021, Coventry 2021 is the campaign for Coventry to be the City of Culture in 2021. Emma was organising the public launch which was taking place at Godiva Festival on the first weekend of July – only 6 weeks away. Emma had her self one very large tent and she needed it filling!
Sarah and I have been really wanting to make something large and very interactive. As a development from Intermission we wanted to use the same technique on a bigger scale that people could actually get into to. Our plan was to make large knitted sections which would span between the polls in the tent at different levels and then have knitted tubes within it that children could get into and play within. Emma loved the idea and sent us off to work out the possibilities.
We loved the rope we’d used for Intermission but couldn’t afford it on such a big scale and we got thinking about what comes on rolls and isn’t too expensive. We came up with plastic dust sheets on a roll. We treated our self to one roll that Sarah knitted very quickly and we liked the texture it produced. We costed the project, Coventry 2021 agreed. We now had 5 weeks to make giant knitting wheels and then knit 6,000 meters of plastic, not a small task.
I am married to a very handy man, Chris and he made the big knitting wheels for us. During the Euro’s Leon (Sarah’s boyfriend) slept, Chris created more knitting structures and Sarah and I knitted round, and round and round. It was good fun driving underneath it all to get to the kitchen, toilet or to a cup of tea and seeing how long our pieces where when finished. My lounge stayed this way for a few weeks!
We did our first test and for some reason we’d not thought our tubes through, they sagged in when hung. Of course they did, we all ready knew this from Intermission and this is why it has balls in it! We decided to put hoops in and this worked, but not an easy task. We used plumping line but didn’t want to use push and fit ends to join them together as this would be lumpy. We thought to use dowel inside it to join the ends, like when you have glow sticks but they weren’t available pre made in the right size so instead we hand cut the dowel from long lengths and sanded it to fit!
The first site visit was in bright sunshine to a trent that wasn’t up yet and it didn’t seem so big. The second was a bit more daunting, the rain had fallen, the grown was wet and the tent was up. It was big, had Sarah and I really knitted enough to cover our promised 7m x 10m triangle? We weren’t going to know till early Sunday morning.
Saturday night the van was packed, we went for a dance on the festival site feeling a little nerves about Sunday. Alarms on for 5am and on site for 6:30am we were about to find out. We laid our sections out, placed our tubes within them and stitched it all together. As a team Chris, Sarah and I hung them at two different levels in the tent. It looked amazing! We’d finished installing just in time for brunch and the opening at 12am.
We’d imagined people would like our installation at previous festivals we’d seen people admiring our work. We hadn’t expected it to be as popular as it was, through the day there was lots of performances taking place and we thought Sarah can go to one while I watched the work and visa versa. We were very wrong, Sarah made it to Motion House and that was it for the day. Kids and adults played their hearts out all day long running through, twisting and dancing in our tubes. It was an absolute joy, they were having such a brilliant time, we really couldn’t have imagined how much it was loved. The best thing was seeing how different people interacted with, some children needed to know why and were really interested in how it was made, what it was made from and how long it had taken. We had a knitting wheel with us and showed children and adults what to do, lots of them wanted to take the knitting home which we also hadn’t expected.
Through the process we learnt a lot, Sarah and I thought it would look great to have really long tubes, they did look brilliant first thing. The tubes stretched as they were played with, we had to pull them up half way through the day. We will now make them shorter for future exhibitions. We used ladders to install, it would of been quicker with a scaffold tower or cherry picker but we don’t have licenses to use them, we have decided that one of use should get one. A difficulty we had was we didn’t know exactly where the polls were in the tent or how frequent they are, we may buy some trussing to avoid this issue. We’d been so rushed making the work up until the festival date that we’d not had time for marketing, while we’re not at festivals we’re going to get lots of business cards made and a board which we can put up with our website, twitter and Instagram on. We will also make parental consent forms so we can take pictures of the children playing. We’d waited to count the amount of people in the installation on the day but it wasn’t possible, there was far too many! 10,000 came through the hole tent, I wouldn’t be surprised if they all came through the knitting. We need to have a think how we can count them, I’m not sure we can, we will have to make less popular work!
Since Godiva festival the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum have taken some of Big Knitting without the tubes in for their summer family exhibition, Wild Wanders. We have met with Loz Samuels from Wyre Forest District Council who would like to take it for Kidderminster Arts Festival 2017 and we are speaking to Art In The Park about taking it for their 2017 festival. We are going to get a touring pack together and hope to organise a full tour for next summer.
It has been an absolute brilliant experience. If anyone has an empty garage let us know because my lounge is still very full!