Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Yarnbombing Threshold: A History of Brilliance.

Twas on a cold, cold February morning in 2012 that Andy Minnis asked me to adorn Greenland Street and Camp & Furnace with Threshold’s yarnbombing donations.  At that time I have to admit I had only a very naïve insight into the world of the yarnbomber. Little did I know where it would lead!

With the invaluable help of the lovely Threshold volunteer Erin Cullen, we hit the streets and wrapped parking posts and lamp posts in pieces donated by Lyndsey Yates, Purlesque, and by fellow Thresholders: Julita, Marie-Lou, Kaya, Emilia, Rachel, Amy, Erin, myself.  Putting the pieces up was cold work but whenever anyone passed by and asked what we were doing, the warmth we got from their interest and admiration made up for it.

Hot on the heels of Threshold, Liverpool Light Night followed.  Arena’s director Pamela Sullivan and Threshold directors Chris and Kaya Herstad Carney asked as part of their Light Night plans, if we could create a trail from Liverpool 1 up Park Lane and Jamaica Street.  At this point, I was introduced by Becky Pope of Really Now, to The Happy Hookers, crochet enthusiasts with a thirst for invention.  Championed by Joanne Finch and Gemma Darracott, The Happy Hookers mustered forces and we attacked various structures along the length of the streets, not making a massive impact but lending colour and a feeling of care about the up and coming area that is the Baltic Triangle.  A number of the pieces were sadly attacked not long after being installed, and some were stolen, which though negative was also highly complementary of the quality of the yarn art.

We found that these first yarnbombs, taught us a lot. We wanted to go bigger and make a better impact… and opportunity presented itself in the guise of Brazilica Fringe Festival.  Ken (aka Carnivalesque Liverpool) engaged  Becky Christian of Craft Creative and met myself and Becky Pope at Elevator Bar to discuss what we could do that would help promote the Yarnstormer's work, the Fringe events and the main festival weekend.  

Becky Christian measured the structures up and down Bold Street and outside FACT, and with the Happy Hookers we organised a massive effort, 12 weeks in the making, of serious yarnbombing installations. One of the pieces, (with the bumble bees) came from as far afield as London, from Annette Murphy who runs a group called Neti’s Knit and Natter.

The reaction of members of the public that day was amazing.  People were taking photographs everywhere and the most poignant memory I have is of a little girl running up to a wool covered tree and hugging it. 

After Brazilica, we discovered we were elated but pooped.  A respite of yarnbombing inactivity was required so people could get back to their abandoned projects.  There had been several requests from various organisers for a repeat yarnbomb, however, timing was against us on these occasions.  In all honesty, you need a good 2 to 3 months of planning, recruitment, and design to ensure success.

Our final yarnbomb of the year was at the Threshold New Bird Ticket Launch for our 2013 festival, moved from The Picket, to Studio 2.  Masses of spiders were created by Catherine Sawyer, Amy Freeman, and Ellie Major  some very personable bats were crafted by Kate Cee and from myself , with help from Joanne Finch, there was a two dimensional 5 foot emulation of the Tell Tale Hound who appears in Louis Barabbas and the Bedlam Six’s video for the song of the same name.  This hound was a surprise for everyone, particularly for the band themselves, who were headlining the event.

So what does the future hold for yarnbombing in Merseyside?

2012 resulted in me creating a Facebook page Merseyside Yarnstormers and already we have engaged several groups that are actively yarnbombing in our city, so look out for Mothership who have yarnbombed in Sefton Park and Liverpool, Graffiti Grannies of Wirral, who have yarnbombed at Arrowe Park hospital and lately Frank Spinello and Kaety Moon artists who have organised a yarnbomb of Frodsham as part of the Biennial Independents’ events.

    Most recently, Liverpool City Council engaged The Happy Hookers in a commission to yarnbomb Bold Street for Chinese New Year 2013.  This resulted in a great variety of designs of around forty snakes that were installed in the cold on Sunday 10th February.  Consternation hit us all on Monday the 11th when all but one of the snakes had mysteriously disappeared, and a news appeal on BBC Northwest, Liverpool Echo Liverpool Community Radio, Facebook, and Twitter for information and pictures of the snakes in their new homes was launched. 

The Threshold Festival’s three themes of Escapism, Transformation and Collaboration has inspired yarnbombers to unite in creation of yarn art for March, no information can be given here so come to the Festival to find out more.

The Chinese New Year, and Threshold projects have led to recruitment of new people.  The Iron Maidens WI led by Sami Score are lending their talents following a talk on yarnbombing given by myself  recently, they have set up their own group ‘Twisted Stitchers’ and are on a secret mission to create something unique of their own for the festival.   Joanne Finch and Gemma Darracott of the Happy Hookers have bolstered their numbers considerably, and a young yarnbomber from Milton Keynes, Claire Walliker, keen to establish local yarnbombing activity in her own town, is also collaborating with us.

So with yarnbombing growing in inventiveness and popularity, watch this space!!!

Words by Karen Macfarlane. Images courtesy of Karen Macfarlane, Happy Hookers,  Craft Creative and Andrew AB. 

Threshold Festival Past...