Astarte Cara is an artist, writer and creative producer, as well as a graduate of the Islington Mill Art Academy. As part of our ‘Dreadful Accident’ heritage project we commissioned Astarte to produce a new piece of work to commemorate the workers who died in the collapse.
The dress that she devised is based on templates of authentic mill worker clothing from the period. The earliest known photographic image of Salford was taken in 1856, long after our mill workers had lived and died. Regardless of this, most working class people would never have their own image recorded in their lifetime. This absence of a physical image for our workers is both referenced and partially remedied by Astarte’s dress which holds space within it for a girl or woman’s body, the closest we might have to an embodied memorial.
The poignancy of the piece is also present in the making of the fabric. The designs imprinted there are cyanotype panels made using flora that was collected from the sites of the workers’ mostly unmarked or paved-over grave sites. Material was also gathered from the memorial garden at Manchester Cathedral that commemorates those people killed in the Manchester Arena Bombing, tying together two Manchester tragedies in a touching gesture that reminds us of the young age of many of our victims, and asks that nobody remains forgotten in our history.