Why was cotton so important in north west England?

Fabric, Golden Harvest

Designed by Althea McNish, manufactured by Hull Traders, 1959
Screen-printed cotton satin

Object number T.10271
Purchased from Hull Traders, 1961

See this object at The Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester This object may not always be on display. Please check with the venue before visiting.

Fabric, Golden Harvest

Golden Harvest was created as the result of a weekend spent in the English countryside in 1957. Excited by the effects of sunlight on the Essex cornfields, designer Althea McNish turned drawings and watercolour sketches into a repeating design using both black monoprint and textured colour.

The design was initially trialled by a company called Tofos Fabrics, but was quickly picked up by innovative new textile firm Hull Traders, based in Colne in Lancashire.  Hull Traders specialised in hand screen-printed textiles by some of the leading artists and designers of the day. Golden Harvest became their all-time best-selling design, and continued to be manufactured into the 1970s.

Althea McNish began painting as a child in Trinidad. She came to London as a student in the 1950s and went on to develop a hugely successful career in textile and wallpaper design. Bringing tropical colour to Britain, she became the country’s first black textile designer of international repute. As a member of the Caribbean Artists Movement (CAM) she took part in seminars and exhibitions, and organised CAM work for the BBC magazine programme Full House in February 1973, which promoted Caribbean arts to a British public.

McNish’s ancestry and life reflect the history of the African diaspora. Her paternal ancestor came from Senegambia in the 1700s, before being enslaved in Georgia, fighting for the British in the war of 1812 and then settling in Trinidad in 1816. McNish’s career as a prominent black and female presence in 1950s Britain helped develop recognition of multicultural issues in the then conservative design world. In 2006 her work was recognised by the honorary award of Doctor of Fine Art of the University of Trinidad and Tobago.

This information was provided by curators from The Whitworth Art Gallery.