The Fabric of Oxford

The Fabric of Oxford | Sonic Wardrobe from OCM on Vimeo.

This has been crafted with enormous amounts of research, curiosity, care, love and attention to details by Felicity Ford and her OCM helpers Victoria Bosher and Chloe Arnett. Weaving personal stories, oral histories and field recordings together, The Fabric of Oxford celebrates history in a sonic tapestry of memories and textures. The project culminated in a Sonic Wardrobe installation and brilliantly entertaining public lecture performance.

– Jo Ross, Oxford Contemporary Music

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From April 2015 – February 2015 I worked on a project commissioned by The Museum of Oxford and produced by Oxford Contemporary Music. The project was called The Fabric of Oxford . Like many of my projects – and my podcasts – The Fabric of Oxford celebrates the links between sounds, textiles and a sense of place. The commission formed part of a celebration of 40 years of The Museum of Oxford.

Some of the stories collected include memories of Textra – a textile-design company that produces fabric for many of the city’s hotels and hospitals; discussions of outfits worn by the Ashnah Bellydancers and the Oxford Roller Derby; interviews from members of the Oxford Barn Weavers; a description of Subfusc (the academic uniform worn by students attending the University of Oxford) and recollections of Miss Doering who roamed Portmeadow tending to the horses in a most memorable outfit…

Interviews from a collection day at the Museum

Rough edit of interviews and field recordings relating to Paraffin Liz/Ann

The Museum of Oxford and Darn It And Stitch also kindly supported public KNITSONIK collection events which took place on Saturday 29th August and Thursday 3rd September. Additionally this project received help from James Ottley of East Oxford Hub, Early Intervention Service and Jordon Maynard-Daley of OCM – both of whom helped me to deliver recording workshops with young people during their Summer Arts Award programme. Many more thanks will be appearing here in coming days but Helen Fountain who runs the Memory Lane Reminiscence Group at the Museum of Oxford has also provided invaluable support to this project. Thank you, Helen!

Your textile stories are amazing

In the course of this project a few very modest souls said “I’d love to speak to you but I have nothing interesting to say”. Folk who preface their words in this way invariably went on to say something fascinating and I have honestly not yet heard a boring story in my quest to explore Oxford’s history through its textiles.

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No story is too mundane or trivial for this was a project precisely about the little things and how individual decisions and actions collectively shape a city and contribute to its atmosphere. History projects can sometimes be quite generalised and epic in their scope, but The Fabric of Oxford celebrated a regional history both specific and quotidian. In forgotten hat boxes, old dancing shoes, hand-knitted acrylic jumpers for school, treasured ensembles worn for best, how sewing used to be taught, first sewing projects, spare buttons kept in a tin…

The Fabric of Oxford is made of many slender threads.

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You can watch the public lecture performance in which this project culminated here, and the video at the top of this post shows the Sonic Wardrobe installation that was in the Museum of Oxford 40 years, 40 objects from mid-January to 20th February 2016.

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