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Daniel Meadows. Decline in the Textile Industry, North-East Lancashire (1975-1980)

Daniel Meadows. Decline in the Textile Industry, North-East Lancashire (1975-1980)

One of Daniel Meadows' most important bodies of work, done when he was photographer-in-residence to the Borough of Pendle (1975-77), is devoted to decline in Lancashire's textile industry. The Hyman Collecton includes four framed exhibition prints from this series.

Daniel Meadows, as part of the cataloguing of his archive for the Library of Birmingham, wrote:

The privilege of being photographer-in-residence was that I was able to live by my imagination, that is to say I could imagine myself doing something and then go out and do it. What was special about this particular time and place was that I'd begun to meet other people who were also living life by their imagination, albeit in a slightly different way. These were people who knew that the work they were doing came from an old world that was rapidly dying, yet they imagined it alive. Their imaginings made them great storytellers. I felt an affinity with them.

Mostly these men (yes, they were all men) worked with their hands and, as I saw it, had a common ambition: as Robert M Pirsig put it in 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' (a book I cared about), they were living their lives in the "pursuit of excellence". People like Stanley Graham who ran the steam engine at the hopelessly out-of-date Bancroft Shed, a place which, in this time of Johnny Rotten and Concorde, looked like something told by Dickens. During the day, if the engine wasn't playing up (and mostly it didn't), he had time to sit at his desk and read and write. Indeed it was Stanley who, sitting under pictures of Shiloh Spinners pin-up girls, introduced me to Ivan Illich's 'Tools for Conviviality' a book that would subsequently influence me a good deal.

And Charlie Sutton the chimney sweep and boiler fluer who 'generally sat on the piano when listening to Chopin'. His meticulously surrealist conversation was a wonder and something I envied.

And Stan Iveson who clung religiously to the values of Keir Hardie's Independent Labour Party and organised day long conferences in the hiker's café out in the wilds on Dimpenley Fold. As a conchie during world war two, he'd been the only plumber in Walton Gaol.

And farmer Cyril Richardson who thought the flitches and rolls of bacon hanging in his kitchen better than any picture. Yet he loved the pictures I did for him, almost as much as he loved the pigs he so enthusiastically killed to make those flitches and rolls.

And Peter Tatham the steeplejack whose balletic performances with ladders high up factory chimneys across the county went, for the most part, unnoticed. He it was who, when my nerve began to falter 150 feet up a disused incinerator stack in Salford, held onto my hand and pulled me to the top.

All of these men held my fascination. None of them was particularly easy and I had to invest a lot time in them. Eventually, I think, they came to trust me.

In 1978 the important Half Moon Photography Workshop staged an exhibition of Meadows' textile industry pictures under the title Shuttles, Steam and Soot: A Cotton Mill in Lancashire. Meadows recalls of this exhibition:
In January 1978 this London photography co-operative, founded in 1972, was in the process of breaking free of its home in the Half Moon Theatre in Alie Street, Whitechapel (where my exhibition hung in the foyer, its gallery), and moving to Roman Road, Bethnal Green. The new name, 'Camerawork', was the same as its magazine (founded in 1976) where my pig-killing story ('Home Bacon') would be published ('Camerawork no. 9', March 1978) to coincide with the showing of 'Shuttles, Steam & Soot'. This exhibition, put together with much thought and a very great deal of care by Ed Barber and Jenny Matthews, showcased my pictures and stories about the textile industry in Lancashire. me, 'Shuttles, Steam and Soot' is my best piece of work. Sadly, when 'Camerawork' folded (in 2003), the show (which had toured extensively) could not be found. It is the biggest regret of my working life that I made no photographic record of its exhibition panels... a very big pity.

The Hyman Collection is grateful to Daniel Meadows for his assistance in cataloguing these pictures.

British Photography / The Hyman Collection

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