Today I want to talk to you about an exciting Kickstarter campaign launched by the creators of Yarningham who are, from left to right in this picture, Venetia Headlam, Helen Winnicott, Sara Fowles and Lilith Winnicott.
Yarningham is the UK’s only Black-led fibre festival, and the team behind this event are raising funds to produce Yarn + Stitch. This will be a landmark publication to accompany their online event, and will bring Yarningham to life in a tangible and physical way. Featuring local maker spotlights, exclusive articles and thoughtful knitting and crochet patterns, it will be one of just a handful of independent, Black-led and BIPOC-centring craft publications. As someone who has self-published several books, I can vouch for how much it matters who is in charge of a publication, and who gets to prioritise and lead its focus and tone. I also know how expensive it is to actually make it happen, and the biggest chunk of funds for this project will go towards paying writers and designers fairly for their involvement. This is a chance for us to uplift a community publication & to uphold the ideal that creatives in our industry should be properly paid. I’ve invited Sara Fowles to the KNITSONIK blog today for a Q&A so she can tell us more about Yarn + Stitch in her own words. If you’re not able to pledge towards making Yarn + Stitch a reality, please share the campaign with your network. Thank you for joining us here today!
Felix: Yarn + Stitch feels totally connected to your festival – Yarningham – so could we start by talking a little bit about the festival and how the magazine is going to build on it? On your website you emphasise that from the start you wanted Yarningham “to be different from other festivals”. Could you say a bit about what sets Yarningham apart from other festivals?
Sara: Well the most obvious answer is us, the team that puts Yarningham together. Team Yarningham are 4 women from diverse backgrounds (2 Black, 2 white) with around a 25 year age gap between us all. This spread in ages and upbringings gives Yarningham a distinctive and unique viewpoint when putting together a yarn festival.
We made a conscious decision when setting up the festival that each edition should be different. We set rules at the beginning that help ensure this; we didn’t want to do the same thing over and over again each year.
Felix: As a live and sociable event in the woolly calendar, you must have been badly impacted by the global pandemic. Like other festivals, you’ve had to push to find innovative new ways to connect with your audience and bring new people into the special thing you have created over the last few years… could you say a little bit about what’s changed for you through the pandemic and some of the positive things – and also the challenges – that have come from moving your festival online?
Sara: We’ve had to move the festival online for this year. This has come with its own set of challenges but there are also great opportunities that you don’t get with an in-person event, and we have tried to exploit that. An example is commissioning Stephen West to be our Bingo Caller for our charity fundraiser, and also being able to have only exclusive products within our marketplace.
One of the other positives has been moving to a stand alone website for Yarningham. It was a job that had been outstanding for a while and the pandemic meant that it became much more of a priority. We wouldn’t be able to host our online festival without a stand alone website.
Felix: So true. I think many of us have had to look at our virtual infrastructure and online spaces in the last eighteen months. Like you say, though, these challenges have also produced extra opportunities, and new ways of connecting with people. I wonder if I could ask you how Yarn + Stitch will take the vision for Yarningham into the medium of print? How do you feel this magazine will connect your audience more closely with the ethos of your festival? Talk us through Midlands Makers; Boris and Donald; and the articles you’re hoping to commission.
Sara: Yarn + Stitch magazine will be the physical aspect of this year’s festival. We usually produce a show brochure that has useful information about the festival, and we commission exclusive patterns so that it then becomes something to keep, or a memento for the customers visiting the festival.
The magazine builds on this, and everything within it goes back to the aims and values we set out when creating Yarningham. We chose the theme of friendship and connections for the magazine, which is really the basis of Yarningham. Yarningham is about bringing people together where everyone is valued for their contribution. This is also true of the Midlands Makers features – we have always supported and championed local stitch-based businesses. We actively seek out new talent; we have to go and find it. There is a wealth of talent in the Midlands just waiting to be discovered.
Boris & Donald, the festival mascots, were created in 2016 when it was quite amusing to name 2 silly alpacas after divisive political figures. We don’t take ourselves too seriously: Yarningham needs to be fun as well.
Felix: As you’ll know, running a Kickstarter or any other Crowdfunder campaign is an awful lot of work! However the upside of doing things this way is that your audience are in all senses investing in what you are making. To me, it’s not just about funding the production of a new thing: it’s about making new things possible which – for whatever reason – might not happen if more conventional routes were followed. What are people making possible by investing in Yarn + Stitch?
Sara: Yes it’s not just about the production of a new thing. It’s also about creating our own opportunities on our own terms. We would be waiting a very long time for someone else to create an opportunity like this. If we want it we have to do it ourselves.
Nearly 2/3 of the money we raise will be used to pay our contributors and designers: Gurinder Hatchard, Gaye Glasspie, Sylvia Watts-Cherry, Imogen Morris, Jaya – Apoorva Designs, Deborette Clarke, Scott – Crystal Yarn, James Chandler, Noriko Ho, Jackie Cassidy, Sandra Gutierrez, Rachel – Flyydyed, Jeanette Sloan, Ruth Green and Carissa Dickerson.
Payment of fees, and that everyone gets paid fairly, are non-negotiable for us. The normalisation of these skills and talents being unpaid helps no-one. So those folks who invest by donating to Yarn + Stitch can support all these small independent artists and businesses directly.
Felix: In recent years there have been some long-overdue and vitally important conversations about cultural gatekeeping and which groups, demographically, retain the most power and influence over the production of culture. On their website, Gal-dem magazine state that “the current journalistic landscape is 94% white and 55% male” and that they are “actively trying to redress this imbalance in media… through both editorial and commercial work”. Meanwhile, in 2019, Craft Expertise – led by Dr Karen Patel of Birmingham City University, in collaboration with Crafts Council UK – was established “to raise awareness of inequalities in the contemporary UK craft economy. The project has highlighted the various challenges faced by women of colour in the sector including racism and microaggressions in craft spaces, the challenges presented by social media, and issues with gaining recognition as expert makers”. Do you see Yarn + Stitch speaking to these issues?
Sara: Yes, our existence as a yarn festival speaks to these issues. Everything Yarningham speaks to these issues. We don’t fit into the stereotypes that are perpetuated about the knitting/stitch world. We are actively redressing the imbalance by giving space to other voices not represented in mainstream media.
This is the only feasible way that we as Yarningham can produce a print magazine with the freedom to do what we want. It’s really important for our voice to be heard without having to fit into someone else’s mould or idea of what our festival is. It is also important that everything within the magazine links back to our original aims and values.
We will produce a beautifully curated magazine, not only with fantastic content, but beautifully designed and put together: a future heirloom to be treasured.
Felix: I can’t wait to see it, and wish you all the best of luck with your campaign. Thank you so much for taking some time to talk about your vision for Yarn + Stitch.
To help Yarningham reach their funding goal, please pledge to the campaign or share it on your blog, newsletter or social media. Here is the link:
Thanks for reading this and BEST OF LUCK TO YARNINGHAM ON REACHING YOUR FUNDING GOAL!
Yours in Publishing Power –