I spent today in Saltaire at the World Heritage Weekender – a celebration of Saltaire’s UNESCO World Heritage status. I saw my first Steam Punks – who were out in force! But more importantly, it was a chance to meet Maggie who has been researching the experiences of Polish immigrant workers in the North West textile industry. Most came after the war when it became clear that they couldn’t return to their homes after being caught in the political manoeverings between Germany and the Soviet Union. Maggie is going to try and link me up with some of the people she met through the Bradford Polish club. Her research focused on their journey to the UK, and some were unwilling to recall those difficult days, particularly the women. She thinks they may find it easier to talk about their time in the mill

I also got a chance to meet Sandy from the Saltaire Archive, and she gave me some names of people she knows who worked at Salts Mill. Shipley College host the archive so I asked Sandy whether I could get access to electronic whiteboards for doing group interviews. She will find out who I should talk to.

I also visited the United Reform Church. The building is a real landmark in Saltaire, but it seems that their congragation were mainly from Bailsden on the other side of the valley, which was where the Salts had their big houses. Their connection with the mill workers was less strong. But I did see a copy of F’s 1945 wedding photo in their archive. He looked exactly the same as he does today!

Another tiring day, but really useful contacts. It’s a bit frustrating that I can’t do anything more for a while, a work trip and a residency will keep me busy for the next three weeks. That’s what it is always like, juggling work and art projects. I wish I could focus on this project full time for even a week – I could get so much done!


I just got an email from Germany, from a man who used to live in Saltaire, whose parents worked at Salts Mill, and who saw a poster I put up at the mill when he was visiting at Easter. I was assuming that all my interviews would be done in person, but maybe we could do this one remotely! What an opportunity to try something really different. i’ve emailed him back and will wait to hear what he thinks.

It’s funny. I made the posters and went to Saltiare specially to put them up, but I didn’t really believe that they would generate any interest. Now I’ve had two responses. I’m amazed and delighted!


Yesterday I headed out to Saltaire for my first meeting with a potential participant. J’s daughter had seen one of my posters and suggested to J that she might be interested. I felt quite nervous but Dave from the History Club met me at the station and we drove up to J’s house, discussing how to approach the meeting. J lives in a village above Saltaire, and came to the door with her huge German Shepard, who was put into the kitchen where he couldn’t disturb us.

J had looked out some family photos and as she showed them, told us about her connection with Salts Mill. He grandmother had moved there from Lincolnshire with her five daughters, following a conversation with a truck driver who said that Titus Salt was looking for workers. J wasn’t sure how the arrangements were made, but Titus must have been pleased to take on six workers in a single family, because he paid for their move and they settled in Whitlam Street around the time of the first world war.

The move brought it’s own troubles, as in the space of a year, between 1923-24, three of the daughters and three grandchildren died. J wasn’t sure what happened, but it may have been TB.

J worked at Salts Mill from 1944-51, when she left to have her first child. She repaired faults in the fabric, such as knots and missing warps or wefts. It was skilled work. She worked in a team of women on the top floor of one of the mill buildings. The women all got on very well, and J is still in touch with some of them. I asked if any of them might be interested in the project and she will ask them.

We left J with an arrangement to come and visit again in May to do some recording. We headed for a cafe, and Dave phoned F, a local gentleman who has had lots of contact with the Saltaire History Club and who lives just up the road in Shipley.

F is 93, but his memory is extraordinary, and he has wonderful stories. He was at Salts Mill his whole working life, apart from a period in the army during the second world war and was responsible for costing the goods that were being produced in the factory. He and Dave spent a bit of time catching up, and once I’d told him about the project, he was very happy to take part. We arranged to be in touch again in May.

So a good first meeting with them both, it was great to have Dave there. He was particularly excited about meeting J who has had no previous contact with the History Club and has lots of interesting information about the Mill and it’s working practices.

I still think that the technology will be a sticking point. I need to think of a better way to introduce people to working with the ipad. Both J and F had a little go, but were a bit tentative. I hope it will be easier when they have thought of something specific to talk about. I wonder if we should start by doing drawings on paper? Maybe I could set them a little drawing project to get them started. I need to find a way to make it more accessible.

Next Saturday I’ll be going over again for the Saltaire Heritage weekend, and will get a chance to meet the Saltaire Archivist from Shipley college who may be able to help with access to digital whiteboards, which would make it easier to work with a group. Dave is going to send me a disc of History Club photos, but I’ll also be able to see what they have at the archive. I’d like to look at some plans of the Mill if they have them. I feel more confident now I’ve met some people, and I’m excited about finding more participants and hearing more stories.


I proposed this project with very little thought about the reality of how I was going to achieve the outcomes I had set myself. Now I am in the middle of the preparation and it has grown into an enormous, mountainous challenge. I hope that writing this blog will help me keep it all in proportion!

I’ve been very lucky so far in finding people who are interested in the project. Firstly I met a local artist who gave me a some contacts, one of whom, Dave, has taken on the task of finding participants for me. I also spent a day in Saltaire last week putting up posters and someone phoned me over the weekend saying she was interested. I’m visiting her with Dave on Friday.

My big concern is how the potential participants will cope with the technology that I want to work with. I don’t know whether 80 and 90 year olds will be able to manage it. I guess I’ll find out on Friday!