Get your tweed out in Orkney


Wednesday 06 November 2019

Orkney Tweed
Orcadians are being urged to rifle through their wardrobes and attics to find garments made of Orkney tweed, which will be the focus of an exhibition on the island next week.

The most northerly Being Human Festival event, ‘Get your tweed out in Orkney’ will showcase Orkney tweed’s rich history, the people who made it and the fashion media that celebrated it. The organisers, Professor Sarah Pedersen, from Robert Gordon University’s School of Creative and Cultural Business, and Professor Andrea Peach of Konstfack University in Stockholm, are hoping local people will join in the event by bringing along any garments they have made from tweed during the 20th century.

Professor Pedersen said she hopes there are still plenty of examples of Orkney tweed to be found on the islands today and they are aiming to construct a picture of the wardrobe of Orcadians in the decades before the arrival of synthetic, ready-to-wear garments as part of their exhibition.  

She said: “During the 20th century, Orkney tweed was acclaimed globally for its lightness and softness and marketed as a legacy of the Vikings. While the production of tweed had almost completely died out in Orkney by the end of the First World War, two enterprising businesses had revived the industry by the middle of the century. In 1932 R. Garden’s, a department store in Kirkwall, opened a weaving mill called Argarden’s. This was followed after the Second World War by the establishment of the Sclater’s mill, owned by a successful drapery store in the town.

“By the mid-1970s both Sclaters and Argarden mills had closed on Orkney. The advent of ready-to-wear garments made of cheap synthetic fabrics and the decline of traditional tailoring meant that sales were insufficient to sustain the Orkney tweed industry.

“In recent years, there has been an attempt to re-establish Orkney tweed as an internationally recognised brand. Huge cruise ships now arrive in Orkney throughout the summer, bringing over 130,000 tourists - six times the population of the entire Orkney archipelago – all potential purchasers of tweed souvenirs. A2 p trademark for Orkney tweed was registered for the first time in 2015.

“As part of the exhibition about our research into Orkney Tweed’s history, we want to give local people a chance to display their own garments and share their own stories, which will be recorded. We are excited to hear from local people and discover the history behind any tweed they may have had in their families for decades and unearth the stories around who wore it and where it was made.”

Get your tweed out in Orkney will be held on Saturday, November 16 and Professor Pedersen and Professor Peach will be in the Kirkwall Library and Archives from 2pm on Friday, November 15 if you would like to discuss your tweed garments or showcase them in the exhibition the following day – all garments will be returned safely to their owners after the exhibition.

The exhibition will be open throughout the day on Saturday, November 16, and there will be two short talks about the history of Orkney tweed at 11am and 2pm.

The event is part of Being Human 2019, the UK’s only national festival of the humanities. The event was selected to be part of Being Human by the festival organisers, the School of Advanced Study, University of London, the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and the British Academy (BA).

As part of a 10-day national programme of big ideas, big debates and engaging activities for all ages, the event aims to champion the excellence of humanities research, help to demonstrate the vitality and relevance of this today and showcase how the humanities helps us understand ourselves, our relationships with others and the challenges we face in a changing world.

For more information, please visit: https://beinghumanfestival.org/event/get-your-tweed-out/

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