Standing In This Place
Standing In This Place is an art and heritage initiative conceived by sculptor Rachel Carter in collaboration with the Legacy Makers group, established in 2014 by Bright Ideas Nottingham, and the collaborative community-academic Global Cotton Connections project. The project aims to bring attention to the intertwined narratives of white mill workers and black enslaved women displaced to the Americas, showcasing the interconnectedness of their stories and histories through the common threads of cotton, sorrow, strength, and resilience. By working closely with the Legacy Makers, a black-led community group, the project explores questions about who should be remembered, acknowledging the stark underrepresentation of non-royal women in the UK’s statue landscape, with less than 5% depicting such figures.
In 2020, Bright Ideas Nottingham and the Legacy Makers collaborated on a community history project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This initiative invited local residents to participate in exploring the nineteenth-century life of Darley Abbey and its surroundings, with a focus on uncovering the village’s connections to slavery. Rachel volunteered to contribute to the project by researching the burial slabs of cotton mill workers discovered in the churchyard of Darley Abbey. Motivated by the discovery of her own ancestors employed in Darley Abbey Mill, she sought a deeper understanding of their lives, particularly delving into the roles of women and girls in the cotton mills.
Phase One comprised the collection of feedback and endorsement from the Legacy Makers, with Rachel securing funding from Arts Council England for the project’s initial stage. Executed in 2022, this phase involved engaging over 200 women in various creative sessions, such as dance, braiding, poetry, a podcast, and stitching.
The project’s second phase has been allocated to facilitate the realisation of two significant exhibitions. “Standing In This Place: Global Cotton Connections” at the Museum of Making, Derby, and “Standing In This Place: Speak Her Name” at Artcore Gallery, Derby to showcase the remarkable participatory efforts involved in this collaboratively developed arts and heritage initiative.
Due to the support of Art Fund, the public, philanthropic individuals, and organisations, the concluding stage of the project will involve the installation of a life-size bronze statue in the heart of the new Broad Marsh Green Heart public park in Nottingham City Centre. This statue will symbolise a white mill worker/lace maker and a black enslaved woman displaced to the Americas.
While the sculpture aims to provide representation for the underrepresented, offering a voice and acknowledgment to the countless unnamed women linked by cotton, the “Speak Her Name” initiative spotlights historically recognized women. For this, Rachel has collaborated with artists Anisha Parmar and Ismail Khokon to conduct a series of creative workshops that reflect the global cotton narrative, the Swadeshi movement spanning South Asia, and the challenges, hardships, and triumphs of women in shaping our collective histories.
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