Once a behemoth of industrial manufacturing in Britain, a place where sewing machines buzzed, metal was hammered the smell of engineering oil seeped into everyday life.
With its massive factories making textiles, shoes & machinery, skilled & unskilled workers went home each day with dirt under their finger nails knowing they had produced something useful.
No one ever laughed at the “Made in Britain” label.
Leicester manufacturing dates back to Saxon times. Until the late 1990’s Leicester was home to all types of manufacturing, textiles, shoes, machinery & engineering.
In the late 1960’s Leicester was said to be the richest city in Europe.
In 1971 65,000 people were employed in Leicester’s textile industry. By the late 1980’s the clatter of industrial machinery had started to fail. The stalwarts of British pride sadly began a decline, leading to our industrious nation becoming a “Service” led economy.
N Corah & Son
1911 2,500 Employees
2015 Said to have been the largest hosiery factory in the world. A £200m plan to convert the site into a leisure, retail and residential complex was approved last year.
British Shoe Corporation
1986 BSC head office employed 2500 locally and 35,000 worldwide. Distributing two and a half million pairs of shoes a week from its Leicester warehouse.
"The decline of the British Shoe Corporation is one of the biggest cock-ups in UK retail," says Robert Clark, an analyst at Retail Knowledge Bank. "The company completely failed to invest in its stores and see that the market was changing. They reduced shoe retailing to a bland commodity."
After several years of abandonment and loss of skills, Leicester people are starting to re-emerge, in a different way. Human beings want to make things, they want to feel productive, have a sense of satisfaction, the feeling that comes when we produce something useful, of quality. Making things takes great passion and skill. Without these qualities our efforts are soulless with no enduring value.
Back in the groove
In 2016 Leicestershire has 1480 textile, apparel & leatherworking manufacturers employing 8,500 people
• Leicester has the largest concentration of textile manufacturing in UK
• Textile and related service industries are the 2nd largest employers in the region
• Bringing half a billion pounds to the UK economy
Now, It’s a fast, fast world, being slow… appreciating the time and skill taken to make something by hand is great, appreciating, a well manufactured, well designed item brings a calm, satisfaction.
To combine the fast & slow opens a whole new world unavailable to our predecessors.
Technology offers us limitless opportunities to showcase our goods to the world.
A global audience is available at the click of a button.
Now we can all enjoy “Slow Made” in a fast world.
Artisan is a word I hear a lot these days. It seems an overused term to me, I think it takes years of study of your craft to become Artisan.
I prefer to be part of the “Made” movement. A normal person with a desire to make something of quality, that I hope people will like and find useful. I want to make things that aren’t the same as the endless fodder available in Normal shops.
Customers should feel able to express their mood and personality through the items they choose to surround themselves with, choosing to buy them because they love them, not just because they are the only choice. If we all start learning & creating again we can each add to our growing economy.
Leicestershire Manufacturing Industry from Pera Training on Vimeo.
On our way....The Tipping Point.
No longer satisfied working in dullness, dancing to another’s drum. We love to make things, to be useful, producing something of beauty and purpose makes us feel good. Crafters are the new industrialists. Up and down the land, new business is spilling over from our home studios & sheds. Artisans, crafters, knitters, sewers, woodworkers, potters, leatherworkers all looking for a voice.
A global audience is only a click away, customers crave the well made and unusual. Etsy is a testament to that.
The next step is already here... let’s make stuff again. Let us use our history, skills and buildings work on our skills, give things soul. All the knitters, sewers, woodworkers, potters, leather workers, artists, bakers, bookbinders let’s show the world our wares Let us make Britain Great once more.
The only bar to entry is yourself…..