Cotton Culture - heritage unpicked.

Posted on: 16th June 2020

Cotton Culture is our exciting new Heritage Lottery funded project, which as part of our capital refurbishment, will ensure that local heritage is maintained and enjoyed for everyone. The funding will allow the community to explore and celebrate the built and cultural heritage of Vale Mill and the wider area and bring new opportunities in this thriving community. Over the next few months we’ll excavate stories, capture memories and deepen our connections through research, creativity and joyful celebration. Read on for more info…


When Global Grooves moved into Vale Mill a few years ago the building showed signs of wear and tear and revealed some of its history to us. We were amused at the rumours of orders for Royal bloomers and stories of  local royalty, i.e.Tameside’s Cotton Queens, spoke of a time in living memory – just about. Vale mill, its workers and and the changing fortunes of the global textile trade continue to shape life here today. So, as we refurb the Mill to provide a fantastic arts space for the borough, we want to look over our shoulders and find out a little more about this past. 

From Cotton to Carnival  

As carnival artists, we have more in common with our predecessors in Vale Mill than we initially realised. Our work connects us to the thousands of mill workers who liked nothing better than a street celebration, be it a parade, a festival, a procession or a carnival, decked out in their best clothes. So it’s time to unpick some of the threads that connects our work to the local heritage and celebrate the learning in the best way we can – in a Carnival! 

 Welcome to Cotton Culture

Cotton Culture is a Lottery Heritage Fund programme that seeks to explore and celebrate how mills, cotton and people combined to create a proud and distinctive heritage within Tameside.

To help us with this, we’re seeking volunteer researchers whose investigative work will provide the fascinating material to

  • Inspire and excite children about heritage –  in school workshops
  • Tell stories and share memories in an exhibition at The Vale 
  • Deliver a joyous carnival in early 2021. The community will be so ready for this! 

We know this is a huge subject and we don’t want to limit your enthusiasm or define your research but we’re particularly interested in three broad areas:

  • Vale Mill – e.g. its history and its people. 
  • Cotton –  e.g. how did it shape work and leisure in Tameside? Did it connect people from different backgrounds? 
  • Celebratory processions – what forms did they take? (parades, festivals, carnival, processions) Who was involved? What did they mean across the communities? 

Research – phase 1

Because of current restrictions research will be conducted independently. We’re thinking online archives, web searches, raiding the family photo albums and bookshelves, and trawling social media ‘in the past’ pages for relevant anecdotes, images etc. We appreciate this is a huge and fascinating topic, and perhaps you already have a wealth of information in your family’s collective memories! 

If you’d like some ideas about where to look, we’ll do our best to help you – just let us know!

Research – phase 2

We’ll build skills in oral history type methods and engage with community groups/individuals who want to share their Cotton Culture stories, magic moments or treasured memories. (1- 2 days of your time)

Research – phase 3

Sharing your research with our artist team to inspire them for the workshops, exhibition and carnival. (1 day of your time) 

You’ll be invited to be as involved as much as you like as the project progresses, helping to shape ideas for the creative elements and a chance to be hands on if you wish. There’s always so much to do!

All potential researchers will be invited to attend an on-line get together, to share meet each other, share ideas and agree an area to research. We hope to have a guest speaker too, to get us all fired up. If you don’t want to attend the online session, we’ll have a telephone call and take it from there.

If you just want to share a memory, images or anecdotes we’d love to hear from you too! 

Teach in a local primary?  If you’re interested in being involved with this project we’d we’d love to hear from you also!

To sign up, find out more, or just to say you’re interested we’d love to hear from you. Please email [email protected] with Cotton Culture in the subject heading.

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