Bringing mill memories to life

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An exhibition of photographs bringing to life memories of Firth’s Carpets and the old Clifton Mill will be launched at the Bailiff Bridge Library.

The Landscapes of Loss exhibition is the result of a study by Dr Lisa Taylor, principal lecturer in cultural studies and humanities at Leeds Beckett, University, who has spent the last seven months gathering the memories and experiences of Bailiff Bridge residents and former workers of Firth’s Carpets.

It will open for a private viewing for participants on Thursday, July 14 before opening to the public on July 15, running until the end of October.

A website to accompany the exhibition is also in the process of being built, using images and stories from the project. Lisa explained: “From my own experience of growing up in Bailiff Bridge in the 1970s, there was a great sense of community through the shared experience of setting up life in the mill village and of making carpets.

“The mill was a central physical object for the people and my parents worked there for most of their working lives; its presence in the village crossroads made the possibility of life for the village.

“Clifton Mill was demolished in 2002, leaving an empty space in the heart of Bailiff Bridge. To this day there remains a piece of spare land containing rubble and overgrown weeds.”

Lisa’s research aimed to understand the effect of the demolition of the iconic Mill on the village and community. She invited participants – those who live in Bailiff Bridge, in villages nearby or even who used to live there - to a focus group in Bailiff Bridge, followed by individual ‘walk and talk’ interviews around the village.

During the interviews, the participants shared their memories and discussed their ideas about how they see the town post-demolition.

Lisa added: “People have very fond memories of Firth’s as a paternalistic, generous employer, a company which ‘looked after’ people. Ex-workers say the company was a community - people pulled together to do a good job.”