Like the intricate patterns in lace, a community’s shared history is complex and fascinating. Lace has had a huge influence in Erewash’s past and continues to play an important role, with leading names in the design and manufacture of lace (such as Cluny Lace in Ilkeston and Neil Thorpe Lace Designs in Long Eaton) keeping Erewash firmly on the global lace map! While neighbouring Nottingham’s involvement in the lace trade is more widely known, not everyone is aware of Erewash’s wonderful legacy of making Nottingham Lace but it’s something we really want to get people talking about – initiating conversations between generations before some of the personal stories behind the patterns are lost. Through art and creativity we can encourage people of all ages to explore and enjoy this captivating subject: lace may be delicate but it’s nonetheless a strong cornerstone of our local heritage.
After the shocking year we’ve all experienced with the pandemic, now seems an ideal time to breathe some life and positivity back into the Erewash area by joining together to explore and celebrate the ‘Legacy of Lace’.
Over 11 years ago, I ran a successful arts research project called ‘Losing Lace’ which generated a lot of interest and allowed me to discover a great deal about the history and importance of the lace industry in our area. Initially this was driven by my personal, family connections – starting with my Great Grandfather Thomas Stocks and finishing with my father who later became director of Birkins – but I soon
realised how much there was to learn about the lace trade in Erewash.There’s so much more to explore and, since then, a whole new generation to inspire!
Following on from the success of the initial project, we have already been lucky enough get ‘The Legacy of Lace’ off the ground. This has only been made possible thanks to public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, for which we are incredibly grateful. Additionally, the support of Erewash Museum, Long Eaton Art Room and Crafting Relationships has been vital to the progress we’ve already made with the project. We have 5 amazing resident artists lined up who are keen to inspire the community through their work – from painting expanded lace patterns to bobbin lace design, photography, illustration and abstract architectural paintings. But there’s a lot more we want to do! Through your support and funding, we are hoping to secure a sixth resident artist – a sculptor – who will, quite literally, add an extra dimension to the project! With your help we can take this further and touch even more lives through our work.
We’re keen to explore the many facets of the business, going beyond the obvious beauty of lace to the characters involved in the industry, the machinery that drove it and the buildings that housed it. Lace has had an impact in so many ways, from the practical to the frivolous: shaping the landscapes of the towns we live in and adorning the gowns of many a blushing bride!
Starting in February 2021, the project will comprise various parts including the artist residencies, virtual (video) lace workshops run by numerous artists, ‘hands-on’ lace workshops in the summer (Covid-19 guidelines permitting), and a ‘Lace Trail’ around the Erewash towns and villages which were involved in the lace business, including Ilkeston, Heanor, Sandiacre, Long Eaton and Draycott. The trail, which will run from mid-July, provides a perfect community talking point and will encourage people not only to admire and enjoy artists’ work but also to explore their own creativity and display their lace creations in front windows – a positive, cohesive community display of shared pride in the area’s rich and vast lace industry.
After this period of social isolation, the Legacy of Lace could weave its magic through the area, rebuilding bonds and making the community stronger. Arts and culture are proven to have a positive impact on lives and communities, and right now we all need some positivity. The project also has the potential to attract visitors from far beyond Erewash, which could bring a welcome boost to the local economy. With your help we can achieve this! Let’s make the ‘Legacy of Lace’ unforgettable: a talking point for years to come!
Perhaps your business is built upon the success of Erewash’s lace industry? Maybe you’re an artist who, like me, is heavily influenced by lace? Or, you may just have admiration or adoration for the wonder of lace … whatever your affinity may be, please help us to make this project a resounding success! Your support is much appreciated and all donations are gratefully received. If you would like to contribute to the project in a non-financial way, please contact me, I’d love to hear from you.