The idea to develop a project promoting weaving in the Liberties first started in 2018 when Marja Almqvist, textile artist and adult education tutor with the City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB), met Cathy Scuffil, Dublin City Council Historian in Residence for Dublin Central.
Both were passionate about the history of the tradition of weaving in the Liberties and also concerned about the narrative that has been emerging that the Liberties is only famous for the production of whiskey and beer. They were also concerned about the recent building boom in the area, which didn’t seem to take enough account of the needs and wishes of local residents.
Marja had been approached by Dublin City Council to run a weaving workshop and together Marja and Cathy decided to pitch the idea that a course could be developed which would combine history and practical hands-on weaving skills. With the support and collaboration of both their employers, they ran a series of taster workshops in Dublin 8, and discovered through these, that there was considerable local interest in the project.
Through the taster workshops twelve participants were recruited and the first Weaving in the Liberties course started in September 2018.
The course proved to be a great success and in September 2019 a further ten students were recruited for a night-class along the same lines.
In January 2020 Weaving in the Liberties ran a two-day seminar, exhibition and weaving workshops in the new Hyatt hotel. This was attended by over 200 people and was a great success. It proved to us that the idea of promoting weaving as a craft and a means for local development was indeed a viable idea, and we faced the new year with considerable optimism.
However, then the Covid pandemic struck and we found ourselves operating in very different circumstances. Due to social distancing restrictions, we were no longer able to meet in our original premises but we managed to meet in limited ways in new locations and online. In this situation, we decided not to recruit new members, but to do our best to support our existing participants through the Covid crisis.
The silver lining to this situation was that it brought our already tightly knit group of budding weavers and historians closer together and as the months progressed this group became determined to expand and develop the project once we were able to work and meet more freely.
Establishing The Liberties Weavers
Claire Byrne, one of our original students, took the initiative to establish The Liberties Weavers as an independent community group. After a series of online meetings The Liberties Weavers drafted a constitution and elected a steering group and The Liberties Weavers was formally established in February 2021. Claire is the first chairperson of this new group.
The overall aim of The Liberties Weavers is to breathe new life into the 1000 years of history, weaving and textile production in the Liberties.
We aim to do this through organising weaving classes, community based workshop (online and face to face), exhibitions and historical lectures for local residents and visitors to our area.
We aim to be as inclusive as we can, and particularly welcome newcomers to the Liberties to get involved in the project and expand our local knowledge with their own textile know-how and histories.
We also want to reach out to people who for various reasons find it difficult to attend weaving workshops in person.