The Big Weave at Spitalfields on the 13th April 2013 was a celebration of two dates relating to the local area and the silk weavers who settled there during the 16th century. The same date in 1598 was when the Edict of Nantes was signed declaring that French protesants – the Huguenots – could worship freely, providing they did not ‘incite’ the Catholics. Many Huguenots sought refuge in other countries at this time and the Spitalfields area became renowned for the presence of Huguenot Silk Weavers. 2013 also sees the 250th anniversary of the death of Anne Maria Garthwaite (1690-1773), an English textile designer who lived and worked in Spitalfields.
The West Dean Tapestry Studio and students studying on the Tapestry & Textile Art programme were invited to take part in the celebrations. They were allocated a space between the regular market stall holders, slightly away from the main stage where weaving-related events and entertainment were taking place. A relative lack of weaving related stalls elsewhere around the market hall was noticeable but this did not detract from the footfall. Togetether with staff member Philip Sanderson, the students set up a space representing West Dean College, displayed various tapestry samples and set about weaving on ready-warped up looms to demonstrate to inquiring minds.
Throughout the day there was a steady flow of customers of all ages, taking genuine interest in tapestry and what West Dean College has to offer. Many catalogues and leaflets were handed out, giving information on the full-time Graduate and Postgraduate programmes and the provision of Short Courses. Philip was able to give information about the work and commissions realted to the West Dean Tapestry Studio and later gave a talk atthe Bishopsgate Institute, which brought another interested audience to us in the market area. Despite the cold and the relative lace of specific weaving events, the day flew by and a full and fruitful day was had by all.