The story of Common threads, written by Leonora Nicholson.
Common Threads is a project created by Emma-Jane Weeks (E-J) and Leonora Nicholson (Leo) . Longtime collaborators we where discussing the skills we had, and how we could put poetry in unexpected places. And we struck on an idea, what if we turned poetry into a coat? I've facilitated many writing workshops and E-J is a costume maker and designer, we thought we had could make this idea come to life.
"We wanted the project to explore ideas and relationships with clothing, how does a coat change how we feel and how we walk? Where does our clothing come from and what stories does it hold? - Leo
We then involved Jasmine Williams (Jas), who supported as a creative producer, bringing her creative ideas and passion to the project. Together we all started shaping and planning the project. Next we had to think about money.
A Crowdfunder was set-up and with the support of our community we where able to raise enough money to facilitate the project.
However, we did't have enough to pay each of the producers for there time, we decided to work a volunteer basis. This is a difficult thing to come to terms with as we believe our work should be paid for, but it was a compromise we had to make. We understand this is not a choice open to all, moving forward paying the team properly is a big priority for us.
E-J (Left) Leo (Middle) Jas (Right) at the London Common Threads workshop.
"We created a workshop format that we thought would be accessible to everyone and inviting to those who hadn't written poetry before - based around ideas of clothing"
We then got in touch with various venues to ask if they would be able to host our workshops, we decided to go back to our roots. Unheard was founded in Wales, Leo and Jas grew up near Bristol and are now based in London. And so we decided to tour our workshops to Bristol, Cardiff, Barry and London.
Once we had the money we where able to run the workshop. Starting in London...
Next Stop was Cardiff...
And then Bristol...
This video was made by Jasmine about our visit to Cardiff...
And finally Barry...
It was a really special experience to meet all of our participants and see how they engaged with the themes and to hear the poems that they wrote. In each location similar themes of generational relationships, change and growth came to the for-front of the poetry created.
"the workshop had such a lovely community feel and it was really exciting seeing new groups of people connecting creatively and being able to share in such a supportive and friendly space" - E-J
As part of the workshops we have a clothing 'Mural' which we took to each location, this was created by E-J and was the first writing the participants would do, we hoped this would create a relaxed way to engage in writing.
A short video of our "Mural"
We wrote questions around the clothing and asked our participants to answer the questions around the images of clothing.
We hoped this would this would introduce ideas of clothing, and reduce the stress around writing in front of other people. It also meant we immediately had something in common and could open up conversations between participants.
Once all of the poems had been collected, submission where also opened up online, to ensure that anyone who wanted to be involved in the project could be. If you want to take a look at the workshop, or have a go for fun, please click here.
The project has been a lovely collaboration that pulled together the existing skills of Leo and I, but that also pushed us to problem solve and use our skills in new ways.- E-J
In total 38 poems where collected. Now we had to make and design a coat. This piece of incredible creativity and hard work was down to E-J.
She scanned in the poems, they where then printed onto material that was sewed into a coat, with a hood and lining.
"We love the way that people's writing, doodles and mistakes are part of the coat" - Leo
At the end of the workshop, the poems would be switched between participants. Each person would choose their favourite 3 words from the poem, and these three words where underlined in specific colours for each locations. When making the coat E-J hand embroidered 3 word in every poem, that a total of 114 hand stitched words! We hope this adds an extra element of personality and geography to the coat.
The process of making the coat was a challenging process that came together when I changed how I was looking at the final piece. The texture of the fabric was unconventional due to the printing, and so the coat came together best when viewed as a piece of sculpture rather than a functional wearable coat. Of course it does function as a coat too, but I think changing my approach to this part of the project helped massively in producing the final piece. - E-J
The final product was this beautiful piece of wearable poetry...
Photos taken by Jos Felton.
And we created the official Common Threads Logo
Seeing new friendships form and people who had never written find a new outlet for self expression was a great outcome to this project and really sums up the great work Unheard does as an organisation. Hopefully more projects like this that reach communities and form real life connections...I think this project has shown how valuable this kind of work can be - E-J
This short video shows the process from having many meetings on zoom, to collecting the poems to creating the coat...
Next step was bringing the coat to life.
"We had always intended to make a film to showcase the story and share further the creative capabilities of the coat" - Leo
Working with two wonderful choreographers and dancers Ayesha and Nandita the team created a dance showcasing the themes of the project. We discussed the project and then had a few rehearsals before heading into filming.
We did't have the coat until a few days before the filming was meant to start. So we worked with the dancers and where in conversation with E-J about how the coat moved to ensure none of the movement would damage the coat.
The filming took place in Luna, where Unheard host there monthly poetry events, this felt like the perfect space to tell the story of the 38 poems. Unheard also collaborated with Little Windmill Productions to make the film together.
Currently the team are in the process of planning the release of the film to make sure that everyone involved in the project - at all stages - can celebrate with us!
"To have everyone who was involved in the creation of the coat together, along with the film will be really special. We want to give this moment appropriate time and attention"
We would love to share this story, the coat and the film with as many people as possible. If you would like us to bring this work to you, we would love to discuss this with you. Please send us your details and we will get in touch with you.
To support this project in a small way please visit our Ko-fi page
To support this project please email firstname.lastname@example.org