Cecil Sharp House announced a new exhibition by Caitlin Hinshelwood, featuring an ambitious series of large-scale textile banners created in response to research from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, London, the Working Class Movement Library, Salford, and the People’s History Museum, Manchester. “Kissing the Shuttle” ran 26 September 2017 to 28 January 2018.
The work explores the particular traits of protest and resistance inherent in industrial song, and union banners. The exhibition draws furthermore on the folk practices, forms of communication and community identity that were intrinsically tied to work and the workplace, taking into account the creative role of women in song and folklore practices. Hinshelwood’s banners are intricately screen-printed on silk using embellishments of rosettes, ribbons, ruffles and fringing to adopt the visual language and craftsmanship of historic banners and folk costumes. Imagery touches upon the use of gestures, signs, symbolism, speech and customs performed primarily in the textile trades of the North West of England and Northern Ireland, alongside folk traditions that were closely connected to those communities.
The title, “Kissing the Shuttle”, is the term for a process by which weavers used their mouths to pull thread through the eye of a shuttle – but the practice was widely opposed. Weavers believed it led to the lung disease byssinosis and, as the same shuttles were shared by many weavers, it was also blamed for the widespread transmission of tuberculosis. Even so, in many places it continued even after it had been outlawed in 1952.