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Manchester’s relationship to industrial textile production is often framed in the far past, however, this nostalgic framing ignores the active presence and growth of South Asian knitwear businesses in Manchester since the 70 s, and their role in maintaining the historic architecture and industrial heritage of the city. Crusader Works in Manchester was home to a long-standing community of South Asian textile businesses, who had been present since the 1980s, as well as Rogue Artists’ Studios, of which I was a member. When the building was sold to developers Capital & Centric in November 2015, both communities were faced with eviction. I worked with two knitting factories (Unique Knitwear and Imperial Knitwear), developing a series of projects that sought to mark the long-standing presence of the textile workers. The historical narrative has been increasingly articulated by the developers Capital & Centric, through frequent press releases, authored local news articles, relentless social media, and even a BBC documentary “Manctopia” (2020) all whilst omitting any reference (present or historical) to the South Asian knitwear community. This article reexamines the artworks as a means to pull together the threads of recent history at Crusader Mill in order to form a cohesive counter-narrative.
"The idea of textile production in
Manchester is fetishized and valued,
much more than the reality."