Future Economies: a cafe conversation with Doina Petrescu, Professor of Architecture, University of Sheffield

In Public Conversation – Tuesday 6 February 2017

7.30pm – 9.30pm
Blue Moon Café, Sheffield
Free Event, No RSVP

Future Economies: A Café Conversation


On Tuesday 6 February, Zoë will be in conversation with Doina Petrescu, Professor of Architecture, University of Sheffield, exploring the question of who we would be under conditions of an alternative economic future. Zoe will be asking the questions:

What is the best possible economic structure for responding to climate change?

& what would it be like to live in this future system?

Future Economies: a Café Conversation with Climate modeller, Chris Hope

Tuesday 30 January 2017, 7 – 9 pm Hot Numbers, Cambridge

Zoe Svendsen wil be talking policy and its consequences with Climate modeller Chris Hope, Cambridge Judge Business School asking the question  ‘What is the best possible economic structure for responding to climate change?& what would it be like to live in this future system?’

Exploring climate change scenarios is not only about the changed landscape and atmospheric conditions of those situations, but also invites the question ‘how to live’ and brings with it the opportunity to ask the question ‘how do we want to live’?

This is a free, bookable event – tickets can be booked through the Junction here



Future Economies: a Café Conversation with architect, lecturer and writer, Carolyn Steel


Tuesday 10 January 2017, 7-9 pm, Hot Numbers, Cambridge

Zoe Svendsen will be talking food, architecture and distribution systems with Carolyn Steel  author of The Hungry City, and creator of the concept of sitopia, asking the question ‘What is the best possible economic structure for responding to climate change?& what would it be like to live in this future system?’


This is a free, bookable event – tickets can be booked through the Junction here.


World Factory: The Politics

World Factory: The Politics

Friday 21 October: 4:00pm – 5:30pm

Main Dining Hall, University Centre, Granta Place Mill Lane

World Factory: The Politics is free to attend but booking is recommended.

An interdisciplinary discussion engaging with the real-world issues explored by the interactive theatre show World Factory. Featuring a panel of Cambridge experts, this discussion interlinks questions of ethics, fashion, environmental impacts, working conditions, migration and globalisation.

Short provocations will be given by the following speakers:


  • Dr Shana Cohen (Deputy Director of Woolf Institute; Stone Ashdown Director; Senior Research Associate in the Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge)
  • Professor Joe Smith (Professor of Environment and Society; Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open University)
  • Dr Bhaskar Vira ( Director, University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute Reader in the Political Economy of Environment and Development, and Fellow of Fitzwilliam College)
  • Dr Brendan Burchell (Reader in the Social Sciences, Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge, Director of Cambridge Undergraduate Quantitative Methods Centre)
  • Anne Lally (Independent consultant, specializing in ethical global garment manufacturing)

This will then be followed by a Q&A session chaired by World Factory Director/ Designer Zoë Svendsen.


Speakers’ biogs:

Dr Shana Cohen

Dr Cohen has been engaged in both academic research and community-based work in Morocco, India, Egypt, Israel, England, and the US. Her research has focused on the transformation of the middle class and the politics of social action under neoliberalism, exploring how the constitution of identity intersects with economic insecurity and ideologies of human potential and social value. Shana’s current writing and research projects reflect her practitioner and academic trajectories – the first project involves rethinking local management of resources to improve frontline service effectiveness and the second, how grassroots social action indicates the emergence of a new political consciousness controverting management models and allocation of resources based on commodification of human potential and vulnerability. She is also the PI (with Ed Kessler, Founder Director of the Woolf Institute) on a comparative study of how the recession in Europe has affected trust between religious minorities in London, Paris, Berlin, and Rome.

Professor Joe Smith

All of Dr Smith’s research seeks to enhance understanding and action on global environmental change issues, and draws on work from across the social and political sciences. This breaks down into two main areas of research and commentary: 1. Global environmental change and culture, largely focused on broadcasting and digital media; 2. Contemporary environmental history and politics, including the politics of consumption.
His research tends to be collaborative, interdisciplinary and experimental. Throughout my career he has sought to combine ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’, and impact and engagement has been integral to my varied projects. I am Principle Investigator on two major AHRC funded projects: Earth in Vision and Stories of Change, and also convene the Mediating Change group which seeks to support research and practice at the intersection of culture and climate change. My other current area of research relates to the politics of food in post-socialist societies. These investigations are currently summarised by the title Quiet Sustainability. Past projects include Interdependence Day, which tested reframings and provocations around themes of globalisation and sustainability with a series of events and publications.

Dr Bhaskar Vira 

Dr Vira’s research interests centre on the changing political economy of development, especially in India; and on political ecology, focusing on forests, wildlife and landuse change and the social and political context for biodiversity conservation. His work on incentives for natural resource use and management deals with trade-offs and discourses relating to the concept of ecosystem services, and how this overlaps with poverty and human well-being, as well as values for biodiversity conservation. Research into the policy process in this sphere has included work as a Coordinating Lead Author with the Responses Working Group of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the UK National Ecosystem Assessment. His research on the political economy of development in India focuses on the distributional consequences of changes in the Indian urban and rural economy since the 1990s, with a particular interest in labour relations, as well as alternative strategies for land-use and the management of resources.

Anne Lally

Anne Lally is an independent consultant specializing in ethical supply chains and multi-stakeholder regulatory frameworks.  She works on strategy and policy issues pertaining to the garment industry – with groups such as Fair Wear Foundation, Fair Labor Association, Global Reporting Initiative, and Clean Clothes Campaign. In her previous life, Anne headed a national-level fair trade organisation in the US and spent time monitoring human rights issues at the UN in Geneva and New York.  She holds a Masters in International and Public Affairs from Columbia University.


Dr Brendan Burchell

Dr Burchell’s research interests include the effects of labour market experiences (e.g. job insecurity, work intensification, bankruptcy, unemployment) on psychological well-being. The social psychological effects of precarious employment and unemployment; Analysis of complex work and life histories data; Gender segregation, men’s and women’s life cycle and career; Emotional reactions to personal finances: “Financial Phobia”; Member of the Sociological Research Group and Individual in the Labour Market Reading group.




The Canteen will serve a Chinese buffet following the World Factory: The Politics, with prices starting from £3.40 before the evening performance of World Factory at Cambridge Junction.


World Factory will show at Cambridge Junction from 18-21 October, 7.30 pm, as part of Cambridge Festival of ideas. Book tickets here


The research and process behind World Factory – Rotterdam 31 March 2016

The research and process behind World Factory – Rotterdam  31 March 2016

On 31st March 2016 Simon Daw, Lucy Wray and Kate O’Connor were welcomed to Rotterdam by the Het Nieuwe Institut. We gave a talk about the research and process behind the World Factory show, culminating in a Q+A and open discussion of the themes raised by the project. Our visit coincided with a major exhibition, in which the Institute re-imagined itself as a fashion museum  for a period of 8 months, September 2015 – May 2016. We explored the exhibition the following day, witnessing a magnificent collection 20th century haute couture, the launch of a sustainable brand who make clothes from recycled waste, and a Documentary floor which tracked the creation of a T-shirt from start to finish. In experiencing this display, we were struck by how much its explorations overlapped with our own – examining the origins of our clothes, their extraordinary hold over us as consumers, and ways in which we might move beyond the current exploitative system of global production.


During the evening, the audience were asked to consider individual questions on some of the game cards used in the World Factory show, sparking a wide range of discussion about the pressures currently faced by the industry. Many people in the audience had been following a series of talks run by the Institute on similar themes, whilst others worked in the fashion sector themselves. We were joined by Sophie Koers from the Fairwear Foundation, who provided great insights through her experience of visiting factories worldwide and seeking sustainable alternatives. It was a great opportunity for the World Factory team to engage in conversation with those undertaking similar investigations.

We’d like to thank Flora van Gaalen and Myrthe Terpstra for welcoming us so kindly, and for such fascinating discussions.

Arts and Humanities Research Council Workshop – 20 February 2016

Arts and Humanities Research Council Workshop – 20 February 2016

On 20th February 2016, World Factory ran a workshop for current AHRC-funded (Arts and Humanities Research Council) PhD students at Cambridge University. Each group played the game in a custom-designed space, adapted for a smaller number of participants, while keeping the flavour and experience of the full show. The group members knew different amounts about the issues raised by World Factory – some were working on labour laws and the global garment trade, but others worked in disciplines such as literature or history.


Afterwards, there was plenty of time for everyone to discuss how they had found the experience, and what they had got from it. People commented on the ‘incredibly stimulating’ atmosphere and the ‘very engaging and fun’ format, while others saw it as a ‘good opportunity to learn about agency and structure in the global economy.’

When thinking about what World Factory had led them to consider, one participant had gained perspective on their daily choices, saying: ‘Sometimes we make important decisions without realising how important they are.’ For another, their reflection was wider, saying that ‘as a human being this is a very welcome wake-up call regarding our world’.

IAA Workshop – 15 February 2016

IAA Workshop  – 15 February 2016

On 15 February, METIS met with social science researchers from Cambridge University and the Open University to talk about the future of World Factory. Participants included:

Dr Ha-Joon Chang, an economist and author specializing in development economics.

Dr Brendan Burchell, a sociologist who studies the social and psychological effects of precarious employment and unemployment.

Dr Shana Cohen, a sociologist and political activist interested in the politics of social action under neoliberalism and how grassroots social action indicates the emergence of a new political consciousness.

Prof. Joe Smith, a geographer who writes mostly about environmental history, policy, and politics.

The discussion ranged from labour laws to climate change, from workers’ rights to the politics of public space. We thought through how the performance and research could work together to resonate in the public consciousness, and how to integrate these concerns into the World Factory project.

The concerns of World Factory exist in a wider web of global issues, from South-South outsourcing to the UK housing crisis, so we talked about creating more information about these issues through videos and online resources. We also considered creating a book version of World Factory that could be used in schools, universities, and businesses. Key to all of these initiatives was including the people who come to see World Factory in the long-term future of the project, allowing them to keep thinking about these issues and engaging with one another.


Centre for Chinese Contemporary Arts, Manchester

Wednesday 25 February 2015 , 6.30 – 8.30 pm
Jasmine Suite

This informal evening offered  an introduction to the World Factory project – an investigation of global consumer capitalism through the lens of the textile industry, from the heart of the industrial revolution in nineteenth-century Manchester to the world behind the ‘Made-in-China’ labels on our clothes today.

Three expert speakers with different perspectives on the global textile industry  discussed the relationship between production and consumption patterns in China today, and Manchester’s clothing and textile history, before the conversation was opened up to the wider audience. There was also a live demo of the digital World Factory shirt – where we trialled our phone app by scaning the barcodes on the shirt – this revealed the people and processes behind how each shirt was made.

Our speakers included:

Sara Li-Chou Han –  PhD Candidate and guest lecturer in sustainable fashion at Manchester Metropolitan University, upcycling designer and formerly a co-founder of the Stitched Up sustainable fashion collective

Amanda Langdown – Senior Lecturer, Fashion, Illustration with Animation at Manchester Metropolitan University with an interest in sustainable development

Lena Simic– performance practitioner, co-organiser of the Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent at Home and Senior Lecturer in Drama at Liverpool Hope University


For a taste of the topics covered please click on the following text Thoughts from the Cafe Conversation at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Manchester




World Factory: considering consumption symposium, 13 January 2015

World Factory:  considering consumption on Tuesday 13 January 2015 2 pm at  Free Word Hall, London At Free Word we engaged with speakers and audience in a conversation about what alternatives to consumer capitalism already exist, and what we might dream of. The speakers included:

Julian Kirby   Friends of the Earth, Make It Better Campaign
Stella Hall   founder and programmer of the the Festival of Thrift
Lyla Patel   – head of education at TRAID, a charity that works to stop clothes being thrown away
Jenny Chan –  Sociologist and expert on labour conditions in China
Kate Fletcher –  London School of Sustainable Fashion, Craft of Use project

To listen to our speakers presentations simply click on their names below:

This symposium formed part of a residency at Free Word supporting the writing of the World Factory theatre production. The idea behind METIS’s World Factory discussion events: We have committed from the start of the project to the idea of ‘research in public’ – creating a series of public events in different kinds of spaces, where we investigate a particular aspect of the topic. Through inviting experts to share their views in an intimate, but public, forum, we aim to both share our process and catalyse a wider conversation. Previous events include cafe conversations at both the University of Cambridge and The Junction in Cambridge. As part of their commitment to researching the project ‘in public’ METIS collaborate with other organisations to host events in which invited speakers share their perspective on the World Factory phenomenon.

Pulse: the shirt and the shop

Following on from a week in residence at Tower Ramparts in April, METIS returned to the shopping centre as part of Pulse Ipswich.

METIS occupied a unit at Tower Ramparts through the day on Saturday 7th June 2014. A visit to the shop, as well as including a cup of tea, offered a range of material to consider:

  • A wall of opinions, that visitors were invited to contribute to, about what matters to people about what they wear. These thoughts, opinions and stories have been collected since Pulse 2013, and some can be found on pinterest

  • A rail of clothing, made (and bought) in many different places, but repaired in Ipswich, illustrating a strong culture of make do and mend that was uncovered in Ipswich during the April residency, accompanied by a video of interviews with Ipswich makers and menders

  • A presentation of the World Factory Shirt and Digital Quilt, allowing visitors to try out the scanning technology and view prototype footage from the first factory visit, see the video telling the story of the shirt and learn about the Digital Quilt, METIS’ public research platform

World Factory – Makers and Menders from Zoe Svendsen on Vimeo

Alongside the artefacts presented in the shop, visitors also had the opportunity to be involved in events. Lucille Acevedo-Jones wowed visitors with her ‘minimal sewing’ re-purposing of four shirts into a beautiful statement dress that made use of shirt features like buttons and collars. METIS conducted a game of chance that had been created in response to research uncovered about factory management practices that allowed players to enact a factory management scenario. Jill Carson of the Wedding Dress Agency, and Danuta Tabard of New Wolsey Theatre’s costume department, gave a masterclass in how to sew a shirt, in conversation with Simon Cantrill, of Great British Sewing Bee fame.

Later that afternoon, the team repaired to New Wolsey Theatre to host another cafe event. Simon and Zoe spoke of their journey so far with World Factory, and Bianca introduced the Digital Quilt to an Ipswich audience. Expressing the team’s growing interest in not just where clothing comes from, but what happens to it once it’s been made and sold, Lucille was invited to demonstrate her re-purposing skills again, demonstrating just how simple construction can be when you use the building blocks provided in existing clothing.

Embracing the premise of doing research in public, Zoe started a discussion with Simon Cantrill about Bradford’s industrial heritage, with particular reference to his family history. Simon explained that an abundance of water in Bradford meant it was an ideal place for the textile industry to thrive both from rivers providing power to drive machinery, and from the prevalence of rain providing the ideal damp atmosphere for wool to be processed and made into yarn. Simon, who works at Bradford’s industrial museum, talked about the impact of industrialisation, and the gradual de-skilling this initiated, to the present day, now that Mill workers are much less knowledgeable, essentially servicing machinery rather than understanding how cloth is constructed. On a lighter note, Simon kept apologising for a lot of jargon introducing the audience to job titles that were largely unfamiliar: his birth certificate has his Dad identified as a Warp Twister, and Simon’s very first job at the Mill was as Greasy Percher.

The audience again proved themselves a font of knowledge, with information about clothing factories that were once sited in the East, the recycling of fabrics of different compositions, and speculating about gender politics in the fact that de-skilling in factories threatened jobs and industry on a much greater scale than pit closures in the 1980s, but was much less a public concern as the industry was mostly populated by women.

Copyright © Metis Arts 2013