Compare Friedrich Engel’s ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’ 1845 descriptions ‘’in the cotton and flax spinning mills there are many rooms in which the air is filled with fluff and dust…The usual consequences of inhaling factory dust are the spitting of blood, heavy noisy breathing, pains in the chest, coughing and sleeplessness….accidents occur to operatives who work in rooms crammed full of machinery’’ with an account of working life in Shenzen, China in 2000. ‘There is no fixed work schedule. A 12- hour work day is minimum. Our legs are always hurting. There is no place to sit on the shop floor. The machines do not stop during our lunch breaks. Three workers in a group will take turns eating one at a time…The shop floor is filled with thick dust. Our bodies become black working day and night indoors. When I get off from work and spit, its all black.’’

from guardian newspaper article 09.05.09

Dusty threads

Dusty threads



‘the story tellers never imagined Sleeping Beauty waking up covered with a thick layer of dust: neither did they ever dream of sinister spider’s webs, tearing at the first movement of her red hair. Yet sad coatings of dust endlessly go on invading earthly dwellings, leaving them uniformly sullied; as if attics and old rooms were left ready for the next arrival of those ghosts, phantoms and grubs substantiated and intoxicated by the worm-eaten smell of old dust’

Dust at mr gillibrands fireplace shop

Dust at mr gillibrands fireplace shop

Quote from Georges Bataille, documents 1929 / 5 p. 278

Abandoned theatres

Found this amazing site of images of abandoned theatres by Julia Solis.


The empty, decayed stages framed by proscenium arches, remind me of  fireplaces. Using the space inside to create a framed theatre space, used to project images and stories.  Shadows in the fire like Platos cave. The traditional theatre and the fireplace space hold vibrant images, senses of illusion, memories even when old and  left to decay. Nostalgic times of entertainment, the flickering fire holds our attention, still a primal instinct through film, tv and todays screen based technology. From our need to have warmth and light in the darkness.

Shadows in the Fire – site installation

Here are some images from today’s intervention.

Mr Gillibrands Fireplace shop  is  the oldest business still running at the  Yardworks site, and the shop backs on to the original wall. Playing upstairs in this hidden space, stacked with old and new fireplaces, people could peep through the doorway inside to watch.

As well as working with shadow imagery, I showed  3min wonder films exploring the hidden scenes and sense of the site.

There was a great atmosphere, the time flew and I felt the dust from 100 years was in every pore of my skin by the end of the day

Shadows in the fire

Shadows in the fire

Found oject installation

Found object installation

Thanks you to everyone who came and gave such positive feedback. Especially thank you to John Gillibrand, his daughter Tracey and Charlie from the fireplace shop. And to Heather Burrill for all her assistance and to Chantal Oakes for film documentation and support.

Installation update

‘ /a response to a transitory space, lost tangles threads of whispering stories and secrets made visible/’

Rachel Riggs, UCLAN MA Fine Art Site & Archive artist
would like to invite you to the current site intervention at the *Yardworks, *Preston.
Rachel makes installations using shadow play and puppetry to bring real and imaginary stories to life.
Researching Mr John Gillibrands experiences of life by the Yardworks, she is creating a work in progress piece as part of her final MA exhibition in September

On *Monday June 22nd from 1pm – 5pm,* I will be developing a working piece provisionally titled –
‘Shadows in the Fire’

Mr Gillibrand’s Fireplace Shop

a live theatre installation, played on the hour throughout the day.

address – J. Gillibrand Fireplaces,
Bluebell Place
Church St PR1 3BY
(Behind the Bluebell pub)

Refreshments will be served. I hope to see you there.

Please take a look at my new blog documenting my current practice for my MA Fine Art – Site & Archive at UCLAN Preston


I would very much appreciate your comments on the blog and anyone who would like to link up is most welcome! please send this on to anyone who may be interested.

The next date for Yardworks related activities is *July 22nd at the Harris 6pm – 7.30pm
Cotton Fairies in Preston
Sorry for the confusion caused by mixing up dates & change of times!

Something in the Woods

Today, I went to walk in the woods which have grown up by the wall of the site. And look what i found! I think they symbolise the spirits of the cotton children, who were worked to death all those years ago and are running amok on the overgrown waste land. No idea how many there might be, will keep you informed of any more sightings.

Cotton children 1

Cotton children 1

Cotton children in the woods

Cotton children in the woods