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'Identity' - A creative exhibition by the Midlands Textile Forum

A sewing design on the middle of a dress showing a woman in distress with her hands up in the air, grasping for anything she can. Words underneath say 'life was toil'
The textile exhibition uncovers and relays a range of feelings and emotions | © National Trust

The Midlands Textile Forum have delved into The Workhouse's history, stories and legacy to create this evocative and revealing exhibition where people are at the very heart of its design.

Want to learn more about the Midlands Textile Forum?

To learn more about their talented work and the team responsible for this display, go to:

What is identity, anyway?

Identity is complex but it provides a starting point for exploration into the meaning of who we are, both for ourselves and for others. We're closely intertwined with eachother, so identity can refer to individual characteristics or those that are displayed in a group, where appearance and role behaviour help form a group identity.

A face and hands popping out from a pillow. The hands are placed together in a prayer pose. In the background, there are hollow faces with dark brooding eyes both looking out and the window but also looking within towards the person indoors.
The displays open up deeper questions to consider | © National Trust

How does this relate to the Workhouse and Infirmary?

There are lots of emotionally-charged stories about people at The Workhouse. We can paint a picture of their lives through historical documents, conversations and physical evidence that, when put together, allow us to explore their existence and contributions as individuals.

We’ve taken inspiration from the building, its presence and impact, both inside and out. Our research has taken us on journeys into the past to connect with the lives and identities of those affected by the Workhouse.

A quote by Jane ArthurMidlands Textile Forum Textile Artist

Sadly, there is limited information about lots of inhabitants of The Workhouse. It's still important to remember that they were people who had a voice and identity too, even if we can't provide evidence of it today. While there's always more to explore, we know that we can already build an understanding of these silent voices through the group identities they may have had, as well as general understandings of that period of time.

A piece of cloth with the workhouse
The art connects deeply with The Workhouse building and its past inhabitants | © National Trust

What materials and techniques were used to produce the displays?

The strength of the Midlands Textile Forum is the diversity of the textile mediums they employ. This can include traditional techniques used in a contemporary way. It involves...

  • Stitching
  • Quilting
  • Lace
  • Knotting
  • Weave
  • Print
  • Painting on cloth
  • Digital manipulation

A range of crafting tools arranged on a table with a display box protecting them. They show needles, materials and other important crafting tools.
Discover the crafting tools that were used to produce these evocative works of art and craft at The Workhouse and Infirmary | © National Trust

Some handy information about the Identity exhibit...

How long is it on for?

The exhibit will be displayed until we close for the season in October, giving you lots of time to come along and see it for yourself.

Where can I find it?

The exhibit is featured exclusively on the top floor of The Workhouse, where there is lots of space for the artists to present their work. You won't find this exhibition anywhere else!

How much does it cost?

The exhibition is included with your normal site admission fees. If you are National Trust members, you gain free entry.

Contact us


If you want to get in touch about future opportunities to exhibit, get in touch with us via Email and we will be delighted to get back to you.