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'Amazing response' as hundreds attend town's first silk festival

PUBLISHED: 07:00 08 September 2019 | UPDATED: 17:13 10 September 2019

Niamh McCartney, Vanners Silk  Pictures: Ross and Angie Bentley

Niamh McCartney, Vanners Silk Pictures: Ross and Angie Bentley

Archant

Event celebrates Sudbury's rich heritage of silk weaving, which started in the 1780s and continues today with the town producing 95% of the UK's woven silk.

Crowds packed out St Peters church for the Sudbury Silk FestivalCrowds packed out St Peters church for the Sudbury Silk Festival

At a packed St Peters church in the centre of town on Saturday, visitors could see colourful displays from the five silk weaving companies still operating in Sudbury including Humphries Weaving and Vanners Silk, which exports luxury neck ties and other fashion garments across the world to destinations such as Japan and the USA.

"It's been brilliant and we've had an amazing response," said Vanners senior designer Alex Hill.

Carla Reason. Liz Cole and Kiera Batty try on eighteenth century silk dressesCarla Reason. Liz Cole and Kiera Batty try on eighteenth century silk dresses

"There's a real sense of pride in the work we do and this is a chance to show people the skilled work that goes on in Sudbury."

Megan Fowler and Ann Turnbull of Stitch and BitchMegan Fowler and Ann Turnbull of Stitch and Bitch

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Sudbury Silk FestivalSudbury Silk Festival

At the back of the church a short film was on loop featuring interviews with Sudbury silk workers past and present while a number of guided walks were held where people could learn about Sudbury's silk heritage and visit historic weavers cottages and factories, which were built during the town's silk weaving hey-day in the nineteenth century.

Other attractions included an exhibition of garments from designer Vivienne Westwood in Gainsborough's House museum and a series of talks relating to the silk industry, held throughout the day in the town hall.

Sudbury Silk FestivalSudbury Silk Festival

One speaker was author Liz Trenow, a member of the Walters family, which stills runs the Stephen Walters & Sons silk mill in Sudbury. Ms Trenow has written a number of novels with titles like the 'The Silk Weaver' and 'The Dressmaker of Drapers Lane' which have the silk industry as a backdrop.

She said: "The silk industry is full of fascinating stories and it is such an extraordinary fabric - it comes from a moth and starts off little more than a cobweb and becomes this incredible fabric prized by royalty and the famous.

Beth Humes and Sarah Sherry, Stephen Walters & SonsBeth Humes and Sarah Sherry, Stephen Walters & Sons

"I'm so proud my home town continues to manufacture silk and there are so many stories yet to be told."

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Festival organiser Ruth Philo said there are plans to hold the festival on a regular yearly or biennial basis.

She said: "Sudbury's silk industry is a hidden gem and its wonderful to be able to tell its story to both local people and those from further afield."

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