Textiles Transformed: Following the thread from Leek to Liberty via India.

In a celebration of the town’s rich textile heritage, Leek Textile Weekend will comprise a series of community-focused activities, talks and exhibitions that weave threads of the past into the present, spinning new connections with Indian artisans whose knowledge helped transform the local industry. Brought to you by League of Artisans, Leek Textile Weekend will run from 20th to 21st January 2024.

With a focus on the skills for which Leek became world-famous—silk, natural dyes, block prints and embroidery—we will pay homage to William Morris’ acclaimed collaboration with Sir Thomas Wardle, reveal the important role played by Indian artisans through their knowledge of plant dyes and wild silk, celebrate the magnificent work of the Leek Embroidery Society. But this is more than a historic legacy, visible only in crumbling mill buildings and a few blue plaques. Leek was once home to the UK textile workers’ union, and we will use Leek Textile Week to discuss how the knowledge that shaped fashion’s past can also transform its future.

On Saturday 20th January , we invite you to join us for an inspiring celebration of craftsmanship, sustainability, cultural intersections, and the evolving landscape of textiles. Speakers include Kate Turnbull , Deirdre McKay, Saima Kaur, and Carry Somers, alongside demonstrations and workshops.

Delve into the fascinating free talks and events that will be happening between 9.30am and 5pm (Schedule subject to alteration.) Come for one event or stay for the whole day.

Leek Textile Weekend is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England , UK Government , Staffordshire Moorlands District Council , OUTSIDE Arts and League of Artisans .

Foxlowe Arts Centre

20th January 2024 (9.30 am-5.00 pm)

9.30 am Carry Somers: Welcome and Introduction

9.35 am Kate Turnbull: The Importance of Historical Natural Dyeing in the Present Day

Uncover the legacy of Kate’s great-grandfather, John Tomkinson, a textile chemist and co-founder of The Premiere Dye Works in Leek. He trained with the world-famous Sir Thomas Wardle, known for his innovative silk dyeing and collaboration with William Morris. John Tomkinson achieved the challenging task of fixing the colour black for William Morris. Morris sought Leek for skilled craftsmen preserving old dyeing secrets, creating unique colours using red madder, indigo blue, weld yellow, and various natural materials. The old Leek phrase, “mystery of the dyer,” refers to the secret recipes used to produce distinctive factory colours.

About: Kate Turnbull is trained at Central St. Martins in fashion and textiles. She has been the Head of Textiles at Headington School of Oxford since 2015, and as an Eco Textiles Lead, she designed an A-level course to focus on natural dyeing. Kate collaborates on projects, including the Fashion Revolution dye garden at the Chelsea Flower Show 2022. She creates natural dye recipes for clients like the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the University of the Arts in London, the Centre for Sustainability at Oxford University, and the British Textile Biennial.

10 am Deirdre McKay: Restorying Riverscapes

Investigate with Deirdre the social and environmental impacts of the textile industry on rivers past and present. The River Churnet was once Europe’s most polluted river due to the textile industry. In 2022, the Fashion Revolution, Keele, and Loughborough University engaged with locals in the Restorying Riverscapes project to analyse water and sediment samples, explore archives at Nicholson Institute, and assess industrial heritage’s impact. Explore the social and environmental impact of Leek’s dye-works and textile mills, including the results of our microfibre sampling in the River Churnet and Rudyard Lake.

About: Deirdre McKay, with degrees in biology, environmental studies, and a PhD in geography, has a rich academic history. She has collaborated with organisations like CIDA and the International Development Research Centre in Canada and worked with the Australian Agency for International Development. Currently a Professor of Sustainable Development at Keele University, her diverse journey reflects a dedication to impactful research and collaboration on an international scale.

10:30 am -12 pm Becca Smith: Repeat pattern printing workshop (FREE)

Come along with printmaker Becca Smith for an immersive workshop where you will discover the secrets of creating a simple yet worthwhile design through relief printmaking. Explore the rich history of repeating pattern textile printing inspired by Indian Block printing, a tradition that spans 150 years and has influenced Thomas Wardle and William Morris. In this hands-on session, we will use ‘safe print’ polystyrene and biros, making it an inclusive workshop suitable for all ages and abilities.

About: Becca Smith masters painting, printmaking and mural art. As the director and teacher at New Macclesfield School of Art, she is not just an artist but a mentor for the new wave of artistic talent.

11am Kate Turnbull: Natural Dye Demonstration

Discover with Kate as she showcases her expertise in extracting colours from organic sources, experience the mesmerising process of eco-friendly fabric dyeing and gain insights into sustainable arts.

12 pm Saima Kaur: A Journey into Phulkari Embroideries from Punjab, India

Join artist Saima Kaur for a fascinating talk on Phulkari embroidery from Punjab, India. Saima will use contemporary and antique textiles from her collection to explore how, where, when, and why these embroidery designs were created and by whom. The talk promises to be interactive and full of historical and personal stories.

About: Saima Kaur is a Yorkshire-based textile artist with a specialism in hand embroidery. Her work references Indian folk art, and her creations have a strong illustrative quality married with an intuitive understanding of colour and pattern. Among others, she has created hand-embroidered collections for The Shop Floor Project, run a workshop for Selvedge Magazine, and public a commission for The Festival of Making. Her work was featured in the 2023 summer edition of Embroidery Magazine.

1 pm Carry Somers: My Journey from Artisan Craft to Global Activism

Fashion designer and campaigner Carry Somers will speak about her journey in fashion, from establishing the Leek-based brand Pachacuti in 1992 to founding Fashion Revolution, the world’s largest fashion activism movement. Find out about her Churchill Fellowship research investigating plant fibres and dyes in Latin America and her thoughts on how we can create more regenerative fashion and textiles in the future.

About: Carry Somers is a globally recognised activist, speaker, entrepreneur and writer. As founder of Fashion Revolution, she has been instrumental in pressuring the industry to take responsibility for its social and environmental impacts. In 2022, she set up the League of Artisans with Dr Ritu Sethi and Sol Marinucci to promote artisanal skills as a vital response to global challenges. Along the way, she founded Pachacuti, the world’s first Fair Trade Certified company, sailed from the Galapagos to Easter Island investigating microplastic pollution, and collaborated on a textile garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. In 2022, Business of Fashion named her one of the key people shaping the global fashion industry. Carry holds an MA in Native American Studies, an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Keele University and is a 2023 Churchill Fellow.

1.30 pm Cathryn Walton: Leek’s silk and textile heritage

Noted local historian Cathryn Walton has written many local history books and newspaper articles, contributed to numerous magazines and other publications, and presents many talks on the history of Leek and the Moorlands. She is secretary of Leek and District Historical Society, a trustee of Leek and Moorlands Historic Buildings Trust, and a volunteer at both Leek Public Library and The Nicholson Museum, where she helps with history queries. Cathryn also helps people discover their family histories. She has curated several successful exhibitions which have attracted thousands of visitors to the local area.

1.30 pm Saima Kaur: Introduction to Indian Hand Embroidery Workshop

A separate booking is required.

1.30 pm Kate Turnbull: Natural Dye Workshop

A separate booking is required.

The Nicholson Museum and Art Gallery, Leek

20th and 21st January 2024

Kinetika – Silk and natural dye flag-making workshop:

The Nicholson Museum and Art Gallery will host five Leek community groups for silk and natural dye flag-making workshops run by Kinetika on January 20-21, 2024. Kinetika is an internationally renowned female-led company with a 25-year track record of combining world-class bespoke designs on large-scale hand-painted silks with community projects to produce spectacular outdoor events that engage diverse audiences wherever we work. Five groups from across the Moorlands will spend the weekend working with artists to design and dye custom flags that represent their work and ambition.

The community groups will join Kinetika’s artists as they continue their Natural Dye Experiment at the Nicholson Museum and Gallery, taking part in designing, waxing and dyeing their flag over the weekend. Artists Sarah Doyle and Lesley Robinson will lead participants through the process, and reveal the surprising array of colours available using natural dyes reflecting the colours of Leek. The flags will be used by the community groups at Leek Textile Week running from 23-29 September 2024.

* Please note, participation in the Kinetika weekend workshop is only open to members of the five community groups who will be creating their flags.

We can’t wait for you to join us for a weekend full of inspiration, knowledge, and community spirit! Free entry to most events. Please book separately for Introduction to Indian Hand Embroidery with Saima Kaur and Natural Dye Workshop with Kate Turnbull.


Jan 20 2024


9:30 am - 5:00 pm

More Info