Politics, pockets and power take centre-stage at Glastonbury

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Glastonbury Festival provides a platform for an inventive show-and-tell around research into 200 years of clothing inventions.

Six performers in costume next to an outdoor stage

Performers from Pockets of Power pose by their Glastonbury stage

Dr Kat Jungnickel, Reader in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and the Scary Little Girls feminist theatre company have collaborated on an interactive and immersive theatre show, Pockets of Power.

The show will be performed multiple times during Glastonbury Festival and brings together comedy, spoken word, songs, sketches, puppetry, and audience games, showing how women throughout history reimagined clothing invention and design to solve problems and smash stereotypes. 

Dr Jungnickel and colleagues in the Politics of Patents (POP) team at Goldsmiths use an approach called speculative sewing to reconstruct historic costumes from clothing patents, as part of a project funded by the European Research Council. This collaboration places the costumes and the stories behind them centre-stage.

The academics' latest research has shown the power of pockets, and how women adapted them to resist and respond to social, political, and physical restrictions. Costumes featuring an array of secret spaces in everything from bags and bustles to belts and hats with hidden compartments therefore play a key role.

Performances will feature costumes including an 1880s muff with pocket for lunch, an 1890s convertible sports skirt that converts into a satchel, and a 1900s secret double safety stocking pocket. All were made from original patents and adapted for the festival with glitter and neon.

Dr Jungnickel said: “This creative collaboration brings to life the unusual and surprising stories of inventors who transform the ordinary into the extra-ordinary and reveal unexpected entry points into things we take for granted. We’re excited to be turning this research from text into dynamic, convertible, and pocket-filled garments that inventors were designing a hundred years ago and seeing how they work in action.” 

Rebecca Morden, founder of Scary Little Girls, said: "We're thrilled to be working with the amazing research of the POP project, to share the fascinating designs that liberated women and unleashed them into the world, as we’ll be unleashing them onto the audiences of Glastonbury!”