‘Hanging by a million threads’
A new artwork by emerging artist Sophie Fields transforms Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre.
Edinburgh based emerging artist Sophie Fields has created a statement of thanks to all who have supported Capital Theatres over the past few months, in her textile-based installation Hanging by a million threads.
The work is made up of hundreds of comments posted on the Capital Theatres ‘Theatre Emergency Support Fund’ crowdfunding page, and commissioned by Capital Theatres with the support of the Performing Arts Venues Relief Fund in an open competition.
The title Hanging by a million threads is quite literal, as the fabric is made up of millions and millions of individual threads woven together to give it a strong tensile form.
It links to the state of jeopardy the theatre has experienced this year as a result of closure throughout the pandemic. Capital Theatres was literally hanging by a single thread. But with everyone’s help through the crowdfunder, patron donations, money received from the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland, and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, as well as furlough being extended; all of these factors help the theatres sustain a stronger financial position over the winter until March…hanging by a million threads for now, rather than dangling in hesitation.
Inside the glass panes of the Festival theatre façade, Sophie will hang 20 individual, digitally printed curtains: Each curtain made up of stripes of colour (blue, pink, purple and orange to match the Capital Theatres branding) and featuring some of the beautiful messages, thoughts and memories from the hundreds shared by the public during Capital Theatres’ crowdfunder campaign. Other messages from the 525 submitted will be displayed on the digital screens on the ground floor, so people walking past can read the messages clearly.
Hanging by a Million Threads will showcase the charity’s gratitude to those who have supported Capital Theatres so far.
Hanging by a Million Threads will transform the Festival Theatre’s frontage until the end of January. Following which, in line with the theatre’s commitment to environmental sustainability, the intention is to transform the work itself into pouches, tote bags and pencil cases for sale in collaboration with Leith based circular business Kalopsia.
Sophie Fields is a graduate of Edinburgh College of Art. She worked as a member of Front of House staff at Capital Theatres before the pandemic and is a resident artist at George Watson’s College.
Capital Theatres, as part of its Learning and Participation programme, held a competition for freelance artists to secure a commission to create a work of art for the Festival Theatre. Artists were given a brief and two weeks to respond, 60 entered and Sophie won from a short list of 5 judged by Fiona Gibson (Chief Executive, Capital Theatres), Brian Loudon (Head of Operations, Capital Theatres), Jim Cursiter (Fine Artist), Graham Raith (Head of Electrics, Capital Theatres), Catrin Sheridan (Learning and Participation Coordinator, Capital Theatres), and Fatos Ustek (artist and former director of Liverpool Biennial).
Artist Sophie Fields said: “I was really inspired by the messages the public shared during the crowdfunder and wanted to find a way to incorporate that in my response to the commission.
“The idea of having draped textile pieces filling the front of the Festival Theatre came from the new series of activity created by Capital Theatres ‘Raise the Curtain’ which continues aspects of their community engagement work whilst the theatres are closed, together with the idea of real stage curtains opening up again in the spring. Having the curtains pulled back slightly is a symbol of hope that the theatre still exists and events will hopefully be running as normal inside soon.”
Fiona Gibson, Chief Executive of Capital Theatres said: “We loved Sophie’s idea, and the symbolism of the name of the artwork, Hanging by a million threads. It’s been a tremendously tough year for so many people involved in culture this year and being able to support an emerging artist at this time as well as invest in someone who has worked with us and knows the building so well has been a really positive and powerful experience for us all. The words of our wonderful supporters who contributed to our crowdfunder made a huge difference to the spirits of the Capital Theatres family. Those sentiments and the passion really matter to us and so it seems fitting to have them at the heart of this work celebrating us getting through this together.”