War Horse and the Yorkshire costume connection?

The National Theatre's production of War Horse makes its Yorkshire premiere at the Bradford Alhambra from 26 May to 14 June, 2014. This award-winning production has a connection with Yorkshire's long established textile industry. 

War Horse tells the powerful story of a young boy called Albert and his beloved horse, Joey, who has been requisitioned to fight for the English in World War I. The National Theatre associate costume designer Johanna Coe was given the task of sourcing fabrics suitable to the period and as a 'Northerner' (born in Baildon, West Yorkshire) she didn't have to stray far from her roots. 

Johanna grew up amongst the mills of West Yorkshire and studied her Art Foundation at Bradford College. Her keen interest in the Yorkshire textile industry came from her grandparents. They worked in Salts Mill  and she grew up knowing how important the woollen industry has been to Yorkshire.  Her granddad always called it 'the finest worsted fabric in the world.'  

The fabric used to make the costumes for War Horse was sourced from the following West Yorkshire based companies; Abraham Moon [Guiseley], Hainsworth [Pudsey], Whaleys [Bradford] and West Yorkshire Fabrics [Leeds]. 

Whaleys of Bradford was established in 1869 by Mr Samuel Whaley and this is where Johanna gets basic cottons and linens for the War Horse costumes. Whaleys can, with some justification, call themselves a family firm, since Harry Jowett, who took over the reins in 1900, was the great-grandfather of the present Managing Director. During the First World War, weaving was suspended and silk making abandoned. When normal work recommenced an industrial fabric section was established to furnish the textile finishing industry.

It is poignant that War Horse comes to the Alhambra Theatre in 2014, as the theatre opened in March 1914 on the brink of World War I.  

Adam Renton, General Manager Bradford Theatres said: 

"Hosting the exclusive Yorkshire premiere of the National Theatre's production of War Horse is wonderful news for our award-winning venue, the Alhambra Theatre, and for the Bradford district.  The fact that the Alhambra Theatre celebrates 100 years in 2014 while the show is in residence makes it even more special." 


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