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Queens of Industry


From Loom to Limelight

Leeds Industrial Museum celebrates the working class women shot to fame and glamour between 1920’s – 80’s.

Designer Lee Goater in partnership with maker Aimee Grundell, worked with Leeds Museums and Galleries to create the exhibition design and marketing.

Drawing comparisons with talent shows of today, where we see ordinary folk quickly raise to celebrity status, the team agreed the concept theme ‘From Loom to Limelight’. Lee and Aimee set out to make something fresh and exciting that referenced the hertitage but had a contemporary look and feel aiming to engage new audiences and make something special for the museum.

One of the quotes that helped solidify the approach came from Marjorie Knowles in 1932, a machinist from Brieffield in east Lancashire, “I appeal to the so-called weaker sex to show we can be stronger than the men in more ways than one, by doing all that is possible to help cotton,” she said in a rallying cry. Statements like this show how the queens were far more than just pin-ups but needed to become PR representatives for their industries, helping to raise moral in harder times, speak publicly and meet with state leaders on a global stage.

The queens travelled the world as industrial ambassadors. Blackpool’s Audrey Mossom, Railway Queen in 1936, was sent on a train to Moscow aged just 15, where she met Joseph Stalin. John McGoldrick, Leeds Museums and Galleries’ curator, said: “She was introduced by Lazar Kaganovich, a key acolyte of Stalin, who as minister for the railways organised the purging of of thousands of railway officials. “We have been loaned this great picture of Audrey at a mass meeting of railway workers, with a huge image of Stalin behind her. It’s surreal to see this young girl from Blackpool being thrown into the lion’s den like that.”

The exhibition features historic photographs, objects collected and worn by the queens, letters from fans across the globe, interactive displays and film, all telling the story of how a handful of women from across the country lives were changed forever.

Designer Lee Goater said, “We love working with Leeds Industrial Museum”, once one of the largest working wood mills in the country, “the team is wonderful and it’s collections are always a great source of inspiration. I’m forever steering young designers away from the internet to the museum to get inspired”.

The Queen of Industry exhibition, running until September 2019 at Leeds Industrial Museum.

Lee Goater


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