Fast, Fast, Slow at British Textile Biennial, Blackburn and Bradford College - Review

Fast, Fast, Slow at British Textile Biennial, Blackburn and Bradford College - Review

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Posted 2023-10-29 by David Keyworthfollow

Thu 26 Oct 2023 - Sun 29 Oct 2023

A catwalk, a lighting rig, cool music on the turntable - simple enough, this was a fashion show. Well, it was and it wasn’t.

Proceedings started with young models in sunglasses and sparkling saris striking a pose. Then, a slightly older lady walked on with a small girl. She told us that an Asian wedding can ‘go on for a week and a half and you cannot wear the same thing twice’.

So began both a celebration and honest examination of our relationship with the clothes we wear and what happens to them when we donate or dispose of them.

Fast, Fast, Slow, was commissioned by the British Textile Biennial (BTB23). I saw it at Blackburn’s Cotton Exchange , amongst the decorative windows and exposed brickwork. The wooden catwalk was supported by intercepted bales, which would have gone to Ghana or Pakistan. It served as a resonant visual metaphor for a Lancashire town built on the nineteenth-century textile boom.

Common Wealth, Fast, Fast, Slow, BTB23. Image Credit Matthew Savage.


It was also a reminder of how, in many ways, things have not progressed since those days. In one section, a young woman told us about soul-destroying 12-hour shifts at a fast-factory warehouse.

The walks and talks by the non-professional, local models were complemented by sound and vision on the screen. We saw footage of the garment mountains which are exported to Africa. Kwamena Boison and Yayra Agbofa from The Revival project took us on a tour of Kantamanto Market in Accra, Ghana, where some of these throwaways are upcycled and crafted back to something worth reselling.

But in the perma-heat of Ghana, winter clothes are unwearable. The next catwalk sequence showed off hot garments that had been restyled for cold English days.

The show was about the personal as well as the political side of clothing. One of the most affecting sections involved a man in his middle years explaining how he started taking long walks during the psychological and financial pressures of the COVID-19 lockdowns. He explained that he looked like ‘the oldest Roadman’ young people had ever seen and how all-weather-wear enabled him to continue this hiking habit, striding out for twenty miles a day.

Common Wealth, Fast, Fast, Slow, BTB23. Image Credit Jack Bolton.


In a surreal and disorientating sequence, we heard the voices of young girls overlapping on the speakers, as they described the daily dance of negotiating what to wear at home and outside and what they saw in reflections and the reactions of family members, friends, colleagues and strangers.

One section about rediscovering what was at the back of the wardrobe went on slightly too long but this was the exception rather than the rule. Overall, the one-hour multi-media show, directed by Evie Manning, was both uptempo and thought-provoking. As the surprise visitor at the end said: ‘fashion is beautiful’. But we need to find imaginative alternatives to the current practice of wearing once and letting someone else tidy up the rotting piles we leave behind or send away.

**Fast, Fast, Slow at Blackburn Cotton Exchange British Textile Biennial| 26 - 29 October 2023, 7 pm and Bradford College as part of BD is Lit Festival | 3 - 4 November 2023, 8 pm.

Suitable for Ages: 12+**

For more information on BTB23 click here .

Evie Manning on BBC Radio 4 Front Row, 4 Oct 2023

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!date 26/10/2023 -- 29/10/2023
267367 - 2023-10-28 12:29:08

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