This week I’ve done two more interviews and am about half way through collecting data. I’m starting to think about how to construct the film and what to do about the stories that have no image.

Yesterday I interviewed David, who worked in Salts Mill from 1968 – 1980, he is the youngest of my subjects so far. He worked for the company that managed the mill, and a number of others around the country, and was responsible for managing the changes in technology that were introduced in that period. He was what used to be called a ‘time and motion’ man, watching the work (and the workers) to see how it (and they) could be made more efficient. But towards the end of his time there, he could see the writing on the wall for the British textile industry and got out, moving into the financial sector.

On Thursday, I had my most successful interview so far. It was with Anthony who worked for 51 years as a plumber in Saltaire. He never worked at Salts Mill, but as he said, he worked ON Salts Mill for 3 days, fixing the flashing on a new connecting bridge between the old and new mill buildings. But he lived in Saltaire and had lots of connections with the Mill, neighbours, friends and colleagues who worked there. As he said, there were many things he didn’t take any notice of at the time, as they were just the background to everyday life. But he was also aware of the changes that were happening and was involved in some of them, for example, changing the lighting in the houses from gas to electricity and installing inside toilets. He collected items that were becoming obselete such as the butchers weights, and washboards, bakelite fuses housings, and kept the in his own ‘museum’.

Anthony also trained as a draftsman, so was very comfortable with drawing. When he arrived for the interview, he presented me with a watercolour painting of the famous Congregational Church in Saltaire that he had done in the week between receiving my letter and our interview. He knew the church intimately, having worked on it over many years, repairing the roof, recasting some of the lead decorations, clearing the gutters. As he said, much of the detail can’t be seen from ground level, but he knew exactly what it looked l like.

Anthony made some wonderful drawings, to accompany his stories, of life in the village and the characters he knew as a child and a young man. I am really looking forward to starting to work on the film and listening to the recordings again.


It has been over a month since I was able to work on the project with any real attention. A work trip, followed by a residency followed by a family bereavement have got in the way. But two weeks ago I went to the Saltaire Archive – housed in the library of the local college – and look at images of the mill and the work that went on there. The archivist was very busy, but sat me down with books and books of photographs to go through. The best set were from the 30s, a bit too early for my participants. But I pulled out quite a few that I think will be helpful in the project.

At that stage, I was still unsure whether my participants would be able to manage to use the iPad, so I wanted to have images, partly to help jog memories, but also as a fall-back if I was unable to get usable drawings.

So this week I’ve finally done my first two interviews, with Joyce, who worked as a burler and mender in the mill from 1944-1951, and Frank who started learning textile design, but moved into costing and worked at Salts from the mid 1930s for his whole working life, retiring in the 70s.

It is hard to say whether the technology is a barrier for them, because I didn’t see how they got on drawing on paper. Frank found it hard to get used to, and struggled to make a consistent line. and neither of them are used to drawing. I found their images really beautiful, and the stories are fascinating. But since the films will have to stand up alone – the sound will be accessed through headphones – is the image enough to attract people to stop and put on the headphones? It is hard to say at this stage.

My aim is to use this drawing technique to help my interviewees access new memories, but I’m not sure I have achieved that so far. I need to think more about my prompting. in these interviews I asked about locations, because I thought that would be the easiest thing to help them get started with the drawing. But I’m not sure it stimulates them in the right way. Maybe I need them to start by making a drawing on paper and then reproducing it on the iPad. Hmm, need to think.