Hundreds of years ago, the English town of Macclesfield was famous for its thriving silk industry. Today, silk culture continues and is passed down in the town. A few days ago, reporters walked into England’s “Silk Capital” and felt the efforts of local entrepreneurs and folk artists who are committed to continuing silk culture and seeking to broaden the path of cooperation.
Macclesfield is located in Cheshire, northwest England, with a population of approximately 50,000. The 18th and 19th centuries were the heyday of the town’s silk industry, with more than 70 silk manufacturing factories at one time.
Today, although there are not many silk manufacturing factories in the town, silk is still the most eye-catching element here: the apartment building is named “Silk House”, the shopping plaza is named “Silk Retail Park”, and the ring road is named “Silk House”. “Silk Road”, even fish and chips restaurants are named after “Silk Fried Food”.
At the tourist information center of the town, a silk painting that resembles Chinese fan embroidery attracted many tourists to stop. The thin silk fabric is painted with pink flowers and a butterfly next to it. The piece was hand-dyed by local silk painter Ruth Leal.
There are many folk artists like Lier active in the town, who are committed to passing on the traditional skills of silk making. Jeff Coghlan is one of them. Coghlan told reporters that the small cultural and creative company he runs is trying to integrate ancient silk elements with modern art, such as producing various greeting cards with ancient silk styles as the background. In the UK, many people also regard Macclesfield as the westernmost point of the ancient Silk Road extending in Europe. Elements of the ancient Silk Road also frequently appear on popular local souvenirs such as coasters and tea towels. The reporter saw this text on a coaster: “The ancient Silk Road extended from Xi’an, China to Macclesfield.”
During the conversation, Coghlan shared with reporters the “indissoluble bond” between the town and China. He said that in the past, many local silk manufacturers imported large amounts of silk raw materials from China, but in recent years many Chinese tourists have come to Macclesfield to explore the history of silk. “This kind of cultural exchange between Britain and China is needed.”
There is still a small silk industry in Macclesfield today. One of the textile companies, Adamli, combines traditional screen printing technology with modern digital printing technology to produce high-end silk fabrics. The company’s CEO, Tro Manukian, told reporters that the company has been cooperating with China for 15 years and 80% of its silk raw materials are imported from China because “the best quality silk fabrics in the world are produced there.”
Manukian has visited China many times and was deeply impressed by the development of China’s silk industry. “I first visited China 15 years ago… When I went to China again in 2018, I was amazed by the improvements in the hardware facilities of Chinese companies.” In Manukian’s view, the “Belt and Road” initiative has benefited Macclesfield. He said he was happy to see more cooperation between the two countries.
In fact, in Macclesfield, silk is not only an industry, but also a cultural link. In June this year, the British Silk Road Horizon Foundation, a governing unit of the British Shaanxi Chamber of Commerce, invited representatives from the British cultural, political and business circles and international students to gather in Macclesfield and held an online and offline Silk Road-themed event with Beilin District of Xi’an. combined dialogue activities.
Jiao Bo, Executive Chairman of the British Shaanxi Chamber of Commerce, said that the exchange between Xi’an and Macclesfield aims to promote investment, which will not only bring more opportunities for cultural exchanges and trade exchanges to both parties, but also help Chinese students in the UK to innovate and start businesses, strengthen social practice.