A Field of Flax is a community growing project based in Bootle, Liverpool.
Working alongside community growers, Taking Root, and artist, Raisa Kabir, we will work with local people to grow, harvest, process and weave a ‘field of flax’ from seed, to linen thread. Working with local organsiations and people, we will grow flax in public spaces, in gardens and on doorsteps in Bootle.
Together, we will transform Bootle into a collective garden across different sites, and contribute to our sense of place and understanding of our local histories.
Throughout each stage of the process, we will be tracing threads of history to investigate Bootle’s heritage and ties to the UK’s textiles trade, inviting artists, thinkers, and experts to talk to us about different themes, which the project unearths. They will contribute to our collective knowledge of local history, as well as how we produce textiles, what effect it has on the environment, and future possibilities for change.
Who is involved?
A Field of Flax is led by artist Raisa Kabir.
Raisa is a London-based artist and weaver, who uses woven text, textiles, sound, video and performance to translate and picture ideas concerning cultural politics of cloth, labour and embodied geographies. Kabir addresses cultural anxieties surrounding nationhood, textile identities and the cultivation of borders; as well as examining the encoded violence in histories of labour in textile production.
Raisa planted the seeds of thought for the project’s concept and will work with community growers and participants over a year to unpick Linacre’s ancestral threads, which tie it to textiles production in the UK. Raisa will lead participatory workshop sessions and help shape online content for you to learn from.
Before the imports of cotton for spinning and weaving began in the 18th Century, fuelling the growth of the industrial cotton textile mills that transformed Lancashire, the North West of England was home to much indigenous weaving of wool and linen. This included the growing of the flax plant, which can be spun and woven into linen cloth.
Historically, Bootle was known as Linace, which actually means ‘a field of growing flax’. Our project will weave deeper into our local histories and aim to present a foundation of the history of linen in the North West and how that connects to Linace in Bootle and our community.
Our project proposes to think about our local histories through three threads of thought.
The History of Flax
We will investigate growing and linen weaving in the area of Bootle cum Linacre, as well as within the wider North West coastal area. We will think about the shift from our heritage of linen trade in the North West and how it has shifted to global trading and cheaper textiles imports from far away countries.
Migration to Sefton
We will think about the migration of communities from Eastern Europe to the area, the histories of linen production in other countries, and how that links to our own local history. We will also connect and investigate historic Irish migration to the area of Merseyside and the human stories that came with them.
This thread of thought offers personal connections to the geographies of linen production, local histories, and opportunities for people to hear stories from communities all over the world in relation to growing spinning or weaving flax.
Our Connection to Global Stories
Finally, we will trace how linen production in the North West directly links to the production of Sailcloth and ropes, which was used in the construction of ships directly used in the Trans Atlantic Slave trade.
Thinking about the legacy of Liverpool’s connection to Britain as a colonial empire, we will connect local history to global stories, past and present. We will think deeper about the exploitative nature of textiles production and how this links to social injustices today, in garment factories across the world.
Our research and collective learning will sit alongside, and joined by our efforts to turn Bootle into a collective garden to grow our field of flax in different sites around the area. People will be invited to grow with us at home and follow our project through workshops, join in the conversation and small happenings both online and at home.
A Field Of Flax
A project by Raisa Kabir, Rule of Threes Arts and Taking Root