Famous British designers to teach at Saddleworth’s newest creative hub

SADDLEWORTH’S new creative hub – the Weavers Factory – opens on Saturday, April 6 with a celebration of the life of the woman who made the project possible – Joan Charnley.

When she died in July 2016, Joan bequeathed her Grade II listed house in the centre of Uppermill to neighbours Julian Bovis and Nigel Durkan.

Her only stipulation was to turn the property into an art house for the Saddleworth community and beyond.

For the last 18 months, Julian and Nigel have worked tirelessly to fulfil her request.

A successful open day in February whetted the appetite for what was to come.

And now the first visitors to Saddleworth’s newest tourist attraction are about to arrive.

The inaugural exhibition “Joan Charnley – Cut Grass, Lavender & Chanel No.5” tells the story of Joan and her life in Saddleworth.

The show features artwork from Joan, plus illustrator Dr John Hewitt, landscape artist Julian, illustration students from Manchester School of Art, and design students from Oldham College of Further Education.

The Manchester School of Art students have produced new works, especially commissioned for the Weavers Factory, on the subject of Charles Dickens’ visit to Saddleworth.

Additionally, the Weaver’s Factory is launching with workshops from Sex & The City clothes designer Jenni Smith and award-winning felt artist Valerie Wartelle.

Nigel Durkan

Gallery manager Nigel spoke exclusively to the Independent and explained how he chose the tutors.

“Our patron Joan Charnley had an art studio here for 50 years and we wanted to continue the tradition by turning her studio into a creative workshop,” said Nigel.

“Because Joan always had very high standards it was important we only used the best tutors we could find.

“So, in 2018 we began our hunt for Britain’s most experienced creative practitioners.

“First on board was renowned felting artist Valerie Wartelle, followed by international sewing expert Jenni Smith who stars on the Sewing Quarter TV Channel and designs clothes for Sex & The City actress Kristin Davis.

Jenni Smith

“Because Joan was a textile artist we’ve put textile courses at the heart of our first year’s programme.


“So, we have teamed up with Manchester co-operative ‘Stitched-Up’ to run workshops on sewing, banner-making and pyjama-making.


In May, we have Valerie’s wonderful weekend felting course and in July textile designer Sally Gilford will be teaching fabric screen printing.

“In October, designer Natalie Linney will be showing people how to use flowers and leaves to dye fabrics naturally.

“But it’s not all about textiles. We also have courses on photography, drawing and interior design.

“Our year’s programme finishes in December when Uppermill florists Vicky and Jodie expand their successful annual Christmas Masterclass from Eden floral styling to the Weavers Factory.

Since the demise of Alexandra Mill, Saddleworth has been missing a dedicated art space with people having to travel to Slaithwaite, Huddersfield or Manchester to find creative courses.

Valerie Wartelle studio, The Artworks, Halifax

Nigel hopes the Weavers Factory will fill that gap saying: “When we first started telling people about our plans they were so encouraging, saying how Saddleworth is crying out for something like this.

“Bars, cafes and coffee shops are great, but where do you go for a bit of peace and quiet?

“We want people to enjoy the space and relax on our courses.

“Our interior designer has worked hard to make the workshop space bright and cheerful, furnishing it with colourful Robin Day Polo Chairs and beech-ply work units.

“And the room’s dual aspect is lovely too with its sweeping views of Saddleworth Moor across the rooftops of Uppermill.”

Manchester artist Simon Buckley, who runs the annual Not Quite Light Festival in Salford, is one of the Weavers Factory tutors who also has an exhibition in the gallery in June.

He explains why the place is so important to him. “I used to come to Saddleworth as a child and watch the Rushcart being built.

“So, it’s an honour to be asked back to run a photography course here.

“My June exhibition will be focusing on the history and legacy of Dobcross Silver Band and on the longest day of the year I’ll be taking people out across Saddleworth to photograph the villages at dusk and dawn.

“It’s such a beautiful place and I can’t wait to see what people on my course come up with.

The Weavers Factory is open from 10am-4pm, Thursday to Sunday at 13 New Street, Uppermill.
Courses can be booked in the gallery or online at www.weaversfactory.co.uk/workshops


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