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Donna Ramsden


My daughter and I saw an advert in the paper asking for volunteers at Batley Festival. That year we didn’t actually make it down in time to volunteer, but we came to the festival. They were doing a lantern parade and me and Rosie wanted a lantern. We went to find out where they were and we got told, oh you can’t just take one, they’ve been making them for weeks! So we decided to have some of that the next year. Me being me, I just ploughed straight in, feet first, and ended up on the festival committee! 

I got into Jacob Kramer Arts College, which is now Leeds College of Art, when I was 17; but I’d been brought up in the care of the local authority and I just couldn’t afford to go to Art College. I had to get a job. But it’s always niggled away at me. The spark came back when I became a mum – finding stuff to occupy Rosie before she started school. Now I’m doing an arts degree. I’m going into my third year next year, and I’ve tried to stop spreading myself too thinly, but I can’t let go of Batley Festival – I love it too much. I’m more satisfied now. I feel like I’m part of something bigger, and I want to be able to make other people feel how it makes me feel. 

For Batley Festival decorations this year – we were trying to look at what Batley’s famous for, and we decided it was shoddy, which is recycled rags all woven together to make new garments. But we decided we couldn’t reinvent the word shoddy, because – to me – it means not up to standard, or not good enough, so we took the weaving part of shoddy and decided we’d try and weave the diverse community of Batley together somehow. We decided to use bicycle wheels – that came from the parts of the machine, ripping up the rags – and we’ve been doing workshops weaving the wheels.  It’s nice to see people at their best when they’re doing something like that. I like to see their faces – people doing something that’s not making them frown!

Photo: Stephen King