Any work that wanted doing is an exhibition that brings disabled people’s voices from the past and present together, highlighting their contributions to heritage and contemporary culture. Artworks created in response to the hidden histories of disabled mill workers will be displayed amongst Leeds Industrial Museum’s collection of textile machinery.
From the eighteenth century onwards, the industrialisation of the textile industry led to large numbers of workers becoming disabled due to dangerous factory conditions. Many of these people did not leave the workforce, and instead joined other disabled people who were already doing useful, skilful work in the textile mills. Yet the lives of disabled people have largely been omitted from history unless they are portrayed as tragic victims dependent on the goodwill of others, or as scroungers and benefit cheats. This isn’t the whole story.
Disabled people have played their part in the textile industry and in their communities, from ordinary working people, to those who added their voices to campaigns for factory reform. This exhibition’s title is taken from the 1833 testimony of one of those workers who spoke up against harsh working conditions.
The artists in this exhibition are taking this legacy forward. By making art for Armley Mills, once the largest woollen mill in the world, they are reclaiming the space for conversations about disability and disabled people’s lives. They make connections between the past and the situation of disabled people today informed by their own experiences and those of other disabled people.
Any work that wanted doing is curated by Gill Crawshaw, working in partnership with Leeds Museums and Galleries, and supported by Leeds 2023, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Go to the museum's website: https://museumsandgalleries.leeds.gov.uk/leeds-industrial-museum/visit-leeds-industrial-museum/#access
Some of the artists in the exhibition gather in front of a loom at Leeds Industrial Museum
BSL translation by Khalid Ashraf of the information about the exhibition.