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Home > News > First Ever Sudbury Silk Festival

First Ever Sudbury Silk Festival

Posted by on 3 September 2019 | Comments

Sudbury’s silk weavers are coming together this Saturday (7 September) in the Sudbury Silk Festival, showcasing the work and heritage of an industry that has shaped the town. 

The festival, celebrating the only town in Europe that is home to five separate silk weaving companies, will display a multitude of patterns and designs, as well as offering public talks, historical and architectural town tours and a chance to buy international quality silk from the mill shops themselves.

Exhibitions and walks are open from 10am to 5pm on Saturday 7 September, with an evening talk also available at 7pm.

The Festival has been organised by a well-known local artist, Ruth Philo, who leads a festival group with representatives from Babergh District Council, Sudbury Town Council, Sudbury in Bloom and Gainsborough’s House working in partnership. Principle funding for the festival has been provided by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and by Babergh District Council. Full details of the Festival are available on the Sudbury Silk Festival website.

Ruth has brought together an array of exhibitors to fill St Peter’s Cultural Venue in the middle of Sudbury for a free exhibition, while a series of talks will take place in the nearby Assembly Rooms in the Town Hall, with tickets ranging from £5 to £15. 

The town’s most famous resident, Thomas Gainsborough, is renowned for his painting of silk in his portraits, so it is entirely fitting that the Gainsborough’s House museum has free entry that day to see an exhibition of Vivienne Westwood ensembles inspired by the 18th century.

Weavers’ Piece, an enclosed garden off Siam Place, has been also been restored to show off the plants used to provide the natural dyes, together with a display depicting a silk loom, with free entry during the Festival.

All of these places to visit are in walking distance of the town centre, so armed with a free festival guide available from St Peter’s, the Town Hall and Sudbury Library, visitors can explore Sudbury and find everything easily during the day.  

There will also be guided historical and architectural walks around the town, starting from St Peter’s, while the silk mill shops will be open, and there is a print workshop for children to have a go at silk screening.

Together the five silk wavers of Sudbury import over 110 tonnes a year of Chinese silk thread which they then colour and weave. Over 300 highly skilled people work in the silk mills, producing cloth for stately homes, fashion houses and high profile customers. The Queen’s coronation robes were milled in the town, as was Princess Diana’s wedding dress. Who can forget Michelle Obama’s fantastic blue silk dress she wore on their state visit here – or the singer Adele’s wonderful green dress she wore at the Oscar’s – all made from Sudbury Silk!

To celebrate hundreds of years of these silk weaving firms being in Sudbury, they have all come together to display the multitude or patterns and designs at the Silk Festival on Saturday 7th September.