You may know I'm from a gritty part of Northern England where the textile industry dominated the landscape and families of every town around. I grew up in a three storey house built in the 1700s, where the top floor, my bedroom, was formerly the place where looms were kept for the family to work on.
Like everywhere else in Lancashire, the industrial revolution swept through and took home workers into hundreds of thousands of factories across black smoke soaked hills and valleys. Where once mills stood on every corner, now precious few remain. Fewer still in working order, as global textile industries have moved trade elsewhere.
However, the Queen Street Mill, just a few miles from my home town, still runs. Still churns and chugs and judders and jolts. You may have seen it on the film The King's Speech. It's an unglamorous place tucked away behind an unglamorous run down old town. But it's a gem. An insight into what runs through many Northern families like mine and shapes the way we feel about the past, our families and our landscape.
I didn't know how much this background ran through me and shaped me when I was little. Hints of it started to show in my degree, when I wrote my dissertation about the Indian influence on British homes in the form of decorative textiles, and I learned more about the strange relationships between the two countries.
As part of Manchester International Festival, Indian artist Nikhil Chopra is creating a performance which explores these same relationships. Coal on Cotton will take place in The Whitworth Art Gallery - itself home to a rich collection of historical textiles including many that illustrate the relationships between Britain and India.
Above, is the video of Nikhil visiting the tucked away Queen Street Mill. It's a little thing but I'd like you to know the mill is not in Manchester (an error in the video) but in that small tucked away, seldom visited corner of East Lancashire. And I'd encourage you to go there for yourself.
You can visit Chopra's performance for yourself in July: https://www.mif.co.uk/event/nikhil-chopra