WOVEN 2023 engages over 15,000 people across Kirklees in the history, heritage and future of Textiles

On 9 July, the WOVEN 2023 festival came to a close after a five-week celebration of the rich legacy and promising future of textiles in West Yorkshire’s Kirklees. This year's programme, centered around the theme of sustainability, engaged over 15,000 people with a diverse programme ensuring the continued growth of essential textile skills. Initiated and funded by Kirklees Council, WOVEN is owned by everyone, including community groups, textile businesses and educational organisations across the district. 

The festival worked with 27 schools, had over 118 events (72 were community led) including seven yarn bombs, five exhibitions, one makers’ market, and a range of industry tours and talks, together creating a truly unique programme, for Kirklees, by Kirklees.

The WOVEN website continues to provide free evergreen resources and activities to ensure the passion for sustainability and Kirklees’ textiles legacy lives on past the festival dates.

One part of this year’s programme Growing Colour Together even captured the attention of renowned gardener Alan Titchmarsh.

This ground-breaking initiative encouraged the people of Kirklees to plant flowers and plants to create natural dyes with the ambitious aim to become the UK’s largest dye garden over time. Collaborating with artists and communities, the project engaged participants in natural dyeing, creating a fusion of vibrant colours, fashion, and creativity.

Growing Colour together included seven artist commissions which led to three community exhibitions, 11 gardens, 133 metres of scarves dyed and over 1,000 people getting involved across the project. The talented artists involved have also created free resources that anyone can use to get started in growing and using natural dyes.

The project also received funding from Arts Council England as well as The Mayor’s Safer Community Fund to create safe spaces for women and girls. Artist Waheeda Kothdiwala and Jane Howroyd worked closely with mums from Pentland J&I school to develop a new dye garden for the community to turn their garden into natural dyes for the future. Along with Manchester based artist Natalie Linney the artists also worked with communities across Dewsbury to naturally dye 131 silk scarves which were exhibited as part of the festival. 

Speaking in support of Growing Colour Together, Alan Titchmarsh MBE, said: ”I am delighted to support WOVEN 2023’s Growing Colour Together which has launched Kirklees’ admirable ambition to become the UK’s largest ever dye garden. The inspiring project is a glowing example of the diverse ways gardening can be used to support a sustainable industry outside of food production and given Kirklees’ rich textiles heritage, there is no better place to learn these skills. 

The start of the summer is a great time to become involved in this latest gardening trend. And with the breadth of community engagement programmes from online resources to practical workshops for all, WOVEN enables everyone across the UK to learn, grow and dye together - even from your own home!’

“Being from Yorkshire and having a commitment to and great love of gardening, I want to encourage those from Kirklees and beyond to explore the art of gardening for natural dyeing and take sustainability into our own hands while enjoying the creative process.” 

Speaking about the festival, Cllr Naheed Mather, Cabinet Member for Culture and Greener Kirklees said: “It has been another fantastic WOVEN Festival with so many events and activities for the whole community to get involved in.  This year’s concentration on sustainability and nature fits in well with our commitment to tackling the climate emergency and doing what we can to reduce our impact on the planet. Beyond that WOVEN allows us to celebrate the unique culture and heritage impacts textiles has had, and continues to have, on Kirklees.”

Natalie Walton, Curator of WOVEN said “We are incredibly proud of the festival's inclusivity and its reflection of Kirklees' diverse community. With 115 workshops and activities in the lead up to the festival and over 100  events during WOVEN, we are proud to have brought  people from across Kirklees to celebrate textiles throughout the year. We are particularly delighted by the impressive number of community events part of the programme, truly allowing WOVEN to be owned by Kirklees. We are looking forward to continuing this legacy and encourage everyone to take advantage of the rich resources on our website to join in celebrating textiles and learning together.”

Other WOVEN highlights included:

This year’s festival launched with free, one-day event, STRUT which took place outside Dewsbury Town Hall and centred around a community catwalk, funded by Dewsbury Taking the Lead, part of the Dewsbury Town Investment Plan. In the lead up to the day, 445 young people and community groups attended 31 sessions where they could explore fashion and identity. The outcomes from these sessions culminated at STRUT, where people took to the catwalk in designs they created themselves. The day also featured live local bands playing on the Kirklees Year of Music Stage, plus workshops and activities for everyone and was attend by 3601 people.  

Textiles Futures, the festival’s two-day closing event immersed young people in the latest innovations and career opportunities in the textiles industry in and around Kirklees. This included a careers day for schools, with funding from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Kirklees Council and support from the University of Huddersfield, as well as a public day on Saturday 8 July, which was open to all. Both days included tours of the Barbra Hepworth building home of the University of Huddersfield’s School of Arts and Humanities. A beacon of innovation, the open studio environment empowers students through the co-location of disciplines with the same learning spaces. The days also included tours of the The Technical Textiles Research Centre, where the team are working hard to re-establish Huddersfield as a world leader in textiles by harnessing the newest technology and manufacturing techniques. Textile Futures also included Information points where industry partners Bower Roebuck, Savile Clifford, Wooltex UK, Gardeners Yarns, Fabworks and Camira could showcase their work. As well as this, the public day also featured workshops from staff and independent textile makers.

Mission to Mend travelled across local communities with five local roadshows inviting participants to learn sustainable garment repair techniques and fostering a mindset of "buying once, buying well" for future generations. Funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of Sing & Sew with Artichoke, and the Laura Ashley Foundation, the roadshows spread key skills across Kirklees, led by mending and upcycling expert Julia Roebuck.

A team of 13 artists were commissioned to develop and deliver workshops across the district offering everything from hands on spinning to visible repair, pattern cutting, rug tufting and more.

This project also initiated the Every Child Challenge, teaching essential sewing skills to children all across the district and beyond, distributing 1000 packs to local children. The challenge is ongoing, with for local families to try out their skills at libraries across Kirklees. Those based further afield are also encouraged to get involved by downloading free family-friendly instructions on the WOVEN website, skills here.

Among other festival highlights include the new exhibition, Quilted: Community, Creativity and Care, which explored the power of community quilt making and welcomed over 1000 visitors. The exhibition displayed remarkable works crafted as part of Threads of Survival, an initiative started during the COVID-19 pandemic, pieces from the local community, and artist pieces. The exhibition grew in size during the WOVEN festival with pieces created by local families added, as well as an all-new Threads of Survival quilt for Kirklees, made up of quilt squares stitched by local individuals and community groups.  The exhibition operated as a hub for the festival with talks, workshops and demonstrations hosted at Huddersfield Art Gallery, many of which were supported by the University of Huddersfield tutors and lecturers. 

WOVEN looks forward to continuing to spread textiles innovation, organisers are preparing outreach to find out what attendees would like WOVEN to become when the festival returns in 2025. 


Notes to editors


WOVEN is a biennial festival that began in 2019, with the 2023 programme running from 3rd June to 9th July 2023.

WOVEN was created and is funded by Kirklees Council, but owned by everyone, including community groups, textile businesses, cultural and educational organisations, artists and heritage sites across the district.

WOVEN’s theme focuses on generations of innovators, connecting West Yorkshire’s Kirklees’ strong heritage with today’s innovative developments in industry, university research, a strong arts and crafts scene and the creative expression of the district’s rich and diverse communities.

The main programme runs   in June every other year, there will also be long term projects and smaller events happening in between.

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