PHASE TWO – PRODUCTION OF SAMPLE TWEEDS
This followed three routes
We were able to obtain the services of Ellen Hayward, a young designer/weaver working in Whitstable, who based her designs and palette on a visit to the Romney Marsh, and in particular on the interiors of some of the historic Marsh Churches. She worked tirelessly for over a year to produce designs which we felt were relevant to the Romney Marsh and appealing to the general public.
CENTRAL ST MARTIN’S
During Phase Two we were fortunate to have the involvement of Central St. Martin’s University of the Arts. Philippa Brock, the Woven Textiles Pathway Leader, gave her second-year textile students the task of designing Romney Tweed for menswear as their annual project for 2014. This resulted in an enjoyable and stimulating collaboration which not only moved our project forward but also extended our own knowledge of the creativity and disciplines that go into producing a woven piece of cloth. The 23 students came down to the Marsh (luckily, in view of the weather, in a luxurious coach usually reserved for Watford Football Club equipped with oven, kitchen, coffee machine, loo and Casino!). We met them at the Kent Wool Growers in Ashford, where the fleeces are graded according to their quality before being sent off to the British Wool Marketing Board in Bradford.
From there we drove to a local Marsh farm, whose fleeces have won many top prizes in competitions, and on to lunch in a pub on Dungeness. Sadly, time precluded us from visiting any of the Marsh historic Churches but we were able to visit Romney Marsh Wools to see what was already being produced.
It was one of the wettest, windiest, dark days possible on the Marsh. We had feared that all their designs would be equally dark and drab but when the critique was held a month later it was clear that they had managed to find colour everywhere: from a tiny shell picked off the beach, to the window frames in Derek Jarman’s cottage, to seakale growing on the beach, to string in the farmyard, and packaging at the Wool Growers.
The designs were many and marvellous, each student had designed and woven six samples. Their presentations accompanied by their story books, photos, and paintings were inspirational and the panel, comprising luminaries and young designers from the fashion and textile worlds, as well as less experienced people from the Romney Marsh, were all very much impressed. Romney Tweed gave cash prizes for three separate categories: Commercial, Innovation, and Romney Tweed (Panel Choice) and choose one design by each of the three winners.
Thirdly, Steven Hirst, a highly experienced designer from Huddersfield, who liked our story and what we were trying to achieve here on the Marsh, offered to weave a "blanket" for us. This he did, with 74 designs for menswear contained in one ten-metre length. This used up the remaining yarn from our original order of 20 kg "top" and provided a distinctive "skirt" to show off the qualities of Romney tweed.
By the time the three sets of samples were ready we were up to May 2014, having started our journey at the beginning of 2012. During that period, apart from a grant from the Colyer Fergusson Trust to set up our Community Interest Company and help with the Business Plan, support in the form of cash and kind had come principally from Yorkshire, Faith and me, with additional advice from local sources in Kent and the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants. A table produced for a meeting at Canterbury Christ Church University Business School in February 2014 calculated that in all the value of these contributions amounted to the equivalent of £90,000.