From Kent to Cumbria by Zoe Murphy

As much as I love my southern seaside town I always enjoy leaving in order to learn more about other UK coastal communities, and my week up in Barrow recently was no exception.

After I was contacted by Signal Films, and heard all about the amazing work being done on reviving the history of the Cooke’s building and its neighbouring businesses, when they asked if I would like to come and help with the creativity it was a straightforward ‘yes’!

Some of the designs…

As a textile and furniture designer who takes inspiration from the histories of her hometown (Margate in Kent), I found the stories of the Cooke’s provided perfect topics to inspire some really interesting imagery. The accounts of the people who used to work in the department store hold tales of dolls and fabrics, socials and deliveries, furniture and upholstery, good days and bad – all things that can inspire some fantastic shapes, colours, and patterns!

I visited Signal Films for a few days of workshops in May and had a chance to meet some of the very creative volunteers. We had a whole selection of vintage Cooke’s adverts and oral history information to work from, and everyone involved came up with some fantastic design ideas based on the history of the store and on memories of Barrow itself.

We used the notion of old adverts and retro textile designs as a template to work to, and each person tapped into a different element of the store’s past. Some taking part chose to draw parts of their design by hand before scanning them into the computer, while others were happy enough to start working in a program like ‘Photoshop’ straight away. All in all the results were a great start to my side of the project and I’m looking forward to working with the volunteers during some further days next month. We hope to make a striking piece of art or design that can represent some of the most interesting histories in a new way.

Considering we’ve got the manufacturing and upholstery history of Cooke’s top floor to live up to… I wonder what we’ll make!!

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About cookescreativeheritage

The Cooke's Creative Heritage Project is an exploration of the history of the iconic Cooke's Building on Abbey Road in Barrow-in-Furness, using film, creative writing and digital media to bring the heritage of the former department store to life.
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