Brighton Magazine

The Brighton Magazine

Selected Brighton Magazine Article

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Bafta-Nominated Filmmaker Seeks Backing For Documentary On Dress Made From Nettles Foraged On The South Downs

Local textile artist Allan Brown has spent five years painstakingly making a dress by hand from wild nettles he's foraged on the South Downs - simulating the Neolithic techniques used to make textiles by the ancient people of Sussex. 
Textile Artist Allan Brown

His aim is not just to investigate how our prehistoric ancestors made textiles, but also to ask vital questions about humanity's relationship with nature in a time of climate crisis. 

Local people interested in helping fund this ambitious and timely artistic endeavour can contribute here: The Nettle Dress by Dylan Howitt — Kickstarter. The deadline for contributing is Tuesday 22nd December 2020.

Howitt – who's been twice nominated for a BAFTA, for his BBC series Matters of Life and Death and the children's series Rooted for Channel Five – has filmed Brown's progress from the beginning. 

Three short videos he made with Allan went viral and clocked up millions of views. 

They inspired the creation of the Nettles for Textiles Facebook group, a vibrant international community of more than 16,000 crafters and makers. 

He is now seeking funding to create a 30-minute documentary about the project, with plans to have it shown in cinemas.

Every thread Brown creates represents weeks of work. 

He walks in the South Downs to harvest the nettles, then strips and softens them to extract fibres that can be spun and woven. 

All those hours, days and seasons of labour have resulted in just a few dozen skeins of precious thread for his loom. 

He aims to complete the dress – which will be based on a Viking design – in spring 2021.  

"This is the slowest of slow fashion, a real labour of love to create an iconic object," explains Allan Brown. 

"The idea came to me because I wanted to see if it would be possible to make wearable cloth by hand from freely-available local plants. 

Nettles for Textiles

"I wondered if this was the first cloth our Neolithic ancestors made and, if so, how on earth did they do it? 

"I decided to use only the kinds of tools available to them at the time.

"It's not just about looking to our past though. I also want to see if nettle fibre can play a role in helping us develop more sustainable and ethical ways of making clothes – harnessing the power of the natural world around us and, thereby, becoming more in tune with it."

Dylan Howitt adds: 

"In the documentary, I plan to show the complete process of making the dress, from the plant to the loom – set against the stunning backdrop of the changing seasons of the Sussex countryside.

"The film will be a vivid 'how-to' guide, showing Allan searching out and working the nettles – and taking us through what he's learning, in a film as carefully crafted as the dress itself. 

"I'll also weave in conversations with other makers from the Nettles for Textiles community.

"We'll reflect on philosophical lessons learnt during this extraordinary effort. 

"Working so slowly by hand is transformative, bringing up different conceptions of time and questions of what constitutes value.

"I know there is an audience for this documentary, especially in and around Sussex. 

"The short films we've made have had tremendous success, demonstrating a growing community of people who want to learn about nettles for textiles and discuss new ideas around sustainability in fashion and life. 

"Any help local people can give, no matter how small, is hugely appreciated."

The Nettle Dress by Dylan Howitt — Kickstarter. The deadline for contributing is Tuesday 22nd December 2020.

by: Mike Cobley




Share    


Brighton Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has joined businesses, MPs, faith leaders, academics and campaigning organisations in calling on the Prime Minister to introduce legally binding targets to stem the growing tide of plastic pollution.  

When Brighton-born filmmaker Luke Bradford travelled to Tanzania to make a documentary which featured members of a community living with albinism, he met Florence.
Credit John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The latest series of livestream talks featuring celebrated authors and TV personalities begin this month, produced by Fane Online in partnership with Brighton Dome, ideal entertainment during lockdown evenings at home.
Credit Andy Sturmey

"I think, how the fuck did that happen, because we did all the wrong things: we didn't bother too much with America but we're the biggest selling live act in the UK." The Stranglers' bassist JJ Burnel is talking about a period from early punk until 1990. But now, thirty years later, the band has announced a final full tour of the UK.
Credit Rick Guest

One Dance UK has teamed up with independent director, filmmaker and photographer Rick Guest and his collaborators visual effects artist Rob Rae, and dancer Jamal Sterrett Phoenix to debut his new film Flow state, part of an on-going series which aims to promote mental wellbeing amongst the dance sector.

Brighton-based trans-national, genre-blending, musical riot Genn's new single Feel, is a luscious blend of 70s psychedelia and shoegaze, and an appetite-whetting taste of what's to come.

Brighton's Green Councillors are among those who have slammed 'discriminatory,' rule changes that could see migrants deported if they become homeless, saying new rules will harm and undermine vital homelessness prevention work in the city.

A Sussex-based author fought censors, do-gooders, powerful unions, and corrupt business tycoons, and now the man behind Britain's comic book boom has told his story.

Fickle Friends ended 2020 on a high when they released Radio 1 playlisted Million, now they now start 2021 in the similar style by releasing new EP Weird Years (Season 1), alongside a new video for the EP track IRL.

This Thursday, Latitude Festival and international charity ActionAid will bring some of the best comedians together for a virtual stand-up comedy gig in support of women and girls leading change.

Bulgarian artist Vera Hadzhiyska has been chosen to exhibit in the In Between Gallery - a temporary gallery in Fabrica's large window space, showing contemporary photography in the heart of Brighton's busy city centre for all who pass by.

The experience of seeing actors live on stage is under threat during the present Covid restrictions. Simon Annand's Time To Act reminds us of what we are missing while theatres are closed. Through the eyes of this legendary photographer we observe how performers get ready to face their audiences.
Credit Andy Labrow

As part of a worldwide day of action organised by the Union for International Cancer Control to reduce the global impact of cancer, Mike Peters of Welsh rock band The Alarm's Love Hope Strength Foundation (LHS) has announced their Love Hope Strength Big Night In, an evening of entertainment on February 4th, World Cancer Day.

With more than three-hundred food parcels being delivered each week in Brighton, a local family support service has swapped single use carrier bags for bags for life thanks to a donation from a local co-operative.

Organising a conference or event in Brighton?
See our Brighton Conference section.
Brighton web design by ...ntd