I’m delighted to be part of this exciting project as a commissioned poet.
Sole2Soul is an Arts Council-funded project commissioned by Leicester City Council to create digital assets for the Falkner Boot and Shoe exhibit at the recently refurbished Harborough Museum in a bid to increase museum visitor numbers and online traffic to the website.
This permanent exhibit is a reconstruction of the workroom at the rear of William Falkner & Son, makers and sellers of boots and shoes in Market Harborough from the 1830s. The workshop has been painstakingly recreated, from the leather apron hanging on the door and the rows of lasts on the wall, down to the original floorboards. Some of the wooden lasts for regular customers even show adaptations for the growth of bunions. The museum is well worth a visit if you’re local or in the area. (You might wish to check out the Iron Age Hallaton Hoard, also housed here).
Digital assets will take the form of story tweets, flash fiction and poetry which visitors will be able to access via a smartphone app. Up to thirty writers have been commissioned by University of Leicester’s Centre for New Writing.
The project seeks to engage teenagers as ‘future curators’ who will create an web-gallery about the exhibit. There will also be a creative writing workshop for over-55s with the opportunity of handling some of the artefacts (sadly, there’s an assumption that none of us work, though – it’s on a Monday afternoon). If you’re interested, click here for a link to the flyer with all the details.
I felt a real connection with the exhibit; family history research shows that the Gills, Wrights and Connellys of my ancestors include at least three shoemakers (or cordwainers, as one distinguished himself) amongst other skilled craftsmen and women. Here is my poem:
as if these wooden rows of lasts could slip
the wall of nails and find their dancing feet,
skip to the old tunes in their velvet slippers,
grip a Fernie hunter’s flanks in riding boots.
as if time stands still beyond the glass, as if
the burnishers and blacking, pegs and rasps
are overnighting and the apron’s hanging
on the door hook, waiting for the craft
of ghosts. As if I could walk in their shoes –
the journeymen cobblers, cordwainers,
cloth manufacturers, tailors and drapers,
framework knitters, wrights and butchers,
farmers, labourers, factory workers: grafters,
my ancestors, the names that made me.
© Jayne Stanton May 2014