World Factory: 28 Hands Make Light Work

28 Hands Make Light Work, the third event in our Cafe series, was hosted by Artsadmin on 13th February 2014 as an alternative to Fashion Week, which started the following day.

Zoe Svendsen and Simon Daw told the story of how they came to be investigating the global textile industry, how this was sparked by a meeting with Zhao Chuan, and how it lead to forming a relationship with Madame Wang’s garment construction factory in Shanghai.

Zoe and Simon discussed their vision for a modular performance installation – one that mirrors Zhao Chuan’s own modular work with the theatre collective Grass Stage – one that involves ‘playing’ at being factory management, creating a manufacturing space, facilitating conversation and curated talks in a cafe/canteen space and installing a ’boutique’ that reveals something of the provenance or construction process of the goods within.

The performance installation is intended to be heavily influenced by Zoe and Simon’s participation in the system of garment manufacture. In order to facilitate this, they decided to mimic the system as much as possible, and therefore launched a process to raise capital investment. A pre-sales portal is now live, and investment in 200 shirts is necessary in order to green light production.

Hilary Seaward, chartered account, discussed the process of capital investment, highlighting how we all, as consumers of clothing, invest in companies and brands. The basic level of investment is as Consumer, which is advance purchase of a shirt. Moving on from there, in awareness of the importance of sustainability in the curriculum, the second tier of investment is Donor, which is an advance purchase of a shirt as at Consumer level, and an additional shirt for a school, complete with education pack. Finally, acknowledging the wealth of expertise and the appetite for shaping artistic process amongst many people connected with METIS, we have described a Backer, who will meet the creative team and extend their involvement in the project.

Zoe and Simon then discussed their commitment to public engagement in their projects – not just at the point of presenting a performance, but through the whole process. This commitment is manifest in a public research platform online, called the Digital Quilt. The philosophy underpinning the quilt can be read here.

The final talk of the evening came from Anne Lally, a freelance consultant heavily invested in the work of the Fair Wear Foundation, which has a mission to implement a Living Wage in garment construction factories.
Anne introduced us to the complexities of the supply chain for garments, and in particular to the practice of those beyond the factories in the chain of determining their fee in percentage terms of the cost of construction. In an example provided, an additional $3 paid to the workers in the factory resulted in an extra $15 of costs further up the supply chain – from agents, transport, wholesalers (companies) and retailers. This practice is one of the many reasons that it is so difficult to bring about change in the industry, but Fair Wear Foundation continue to engage directly with companies to find solutions to these problems.

World Factory: A Conversation in Progress

The second in a series of cafe events, Zoë Svendsen hosted an evening of lively discussion as part of the University of Cambridge’s Festival of Ideas, in November 2013.

Professor Dagmar Schaefer, Director of the Chinese Studies Centre at the University of Manchester, and incoming Director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, presented a talk on the historical transmission of cultural practices in relation to Chinese silk technologies.

This was followed by Dr. Joe Smith, Senior Lecturer in Environment at the Open University, who talked about the history and geography of the contents of his Grandmother’s wardrobe, based on his chapter, in the Routledge Handbook of Sustainability and Fashion, which addresses geographies of care.

There was also a discussion, featuring Professor Maxine Berg, Ruth Pearson, Jennifer Davies and Shirley Magilton, which explored the broader history of global textile production and consumption from myriad points of view.

The event was a collaboration between Hot Numbers, Cambridge Junction, the Cambridge University English Faculty and METIS.

World Factory: Presenting research

Like 3rd Ring Out, World Factory is a research-led project. It explores the China-UK axis of the phenomenon of the mass production of textiles, from the production and global trade of cotton in 19th century Manchester to the mass manufacture of clothing present day China. The project therefore traces shifting ideologies from Marx and Engels’ experiences of Manchester, and their writing of the Communist Manifesto, to the opening up of the Chinese market to capitalist modes of production.

Simon Daw and Zoe Svendsen wanted to share what they had discovered as part of a residency at the National Theatre Studio, in collaboration with theatre director and cultural theorist, Zhao Chuan (Shanghai) and a subsequent residency at Cambridge Junction.

An event at Cambridge Junction in May 2013 was the first in a series of talks sharing the process of research more publicly. METIS have long regarded food and drink as key to establishing an informal but productive conversational atmosphere, so Chinese tea, cake and cava were served to all guests.

A stimulating talk responding to the ideas of the project by Dr Alan Blackwell, Reader in Interdisciplinary Design at the University of Cambridge, provided a non-intimidating environment for members of the audience to respond to the topic offering new insights into peoples’ perceptions of the subject-matter.

World Factory: A Conversation in Progress

Mon 28 Oct 2013

Venue: Hot Numbers café, Gwydir St, Cambridge

Time: 6.30pm

Price: Free


Part of Cambridge University’s Festival of Ideas

Zoe Svendsen hosts an evening of discussion on the themes of World Factory.

Professor Dagmar Schaefer, Director of the Chinese Studies Centre at the University of Manchester, and incoming Director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, will present a talk on the historical transmission of cultural practices in relation to Chinese silk technologies.


This will be followed by Dr. Joe Smith, Senior Lecturer in Environment at the Open University, who will present a short talk on the history and geography of the contents of his Grandmother’s wardrobe, based on his chapter, which addresses geographies of care, in the Routledge Handbook of Sustainability and Fashion.

After this there will be a panel discussion exploring the broader history of global textile production and consumption, and a chance for further conversation.

The event is a collaboration between Hot Numbers, Cambridge Junction, Cambridge University English Faculty and METIS.

Advisory Network

The advisory network engages with the ‘how-to’ of a range of experts in the performing arts and related fields. Set up in the first instance to act as a sounding board for advising METIS on its operations, our ambition for the network is that it pools ideas in a way that it is of mutual benefit for its participants. Most participants are local to Cambridge, allowing a cross-fertilisation of ideas among professionals who are geographically proximate, but rarely have the opportunity to meet.

The network holds a meeting once every few months. Inspired by the dinners held at METAL in Southend, the meetings are held over lunch or high tea. Each meeting explores a particular topic, with a speaker to kickstart discussion.

International Collaboration

The first advisory network meeting took place on the 28th June, over high tea at Metis Finance Director Hilary Seaward’s house. After a brief introduction to Metis, the topic of discussion was international collaboration. Present were: Rachel Parslew, Zhao Chuan, Jonathan Goodacre, Aileen Muir, David Russell, Hilary Seaward, Zoë Svendsen, Simon Daw, and Phoebe Monk.

The speakers were:

Rachel Parslew, producer/facilitator of a wide range of arts projects in China

Zhao Chuan, alternative theatre director and cultural theorist from Shanghai

Zhao Chuan is visiting the UK on a British Council Connections Through Culture grant to discuss a new collaboration with METIS: World Factory

Here is your content
Here is your content

Molly Zero

Molly Zero is a multi-media performance that combines live real-time digital and manual artistic creation to create a unique ‘comic-book’ form of story-telling. It is loosely based on Keith Richard’s dystopian sci fi novel, first published in 1980.

This project was initiated through an R&D process with Company of Angels, with Mira Voigt and Carolyn Downing. It is currently being developed for 2013.



The Competition (Previously ‘The Fencing Project’)

THE COMPETITION  explores the relationship between live action and remote interaction, via the digital mediation of an invented sport. The heart of the project will be a new interdisciplinary performance work. Inspired by the intense, balletic feints of fencing, we explore the idea of choreography as tactics, and sport as aesthetic.

Visit the Competition website here, to find out more.

On 16th-19th August 2012 we inhabited an empty shop in Cambridge’s shopping centre, The Grafton Centre, in association with Changing Spaces.

We were testing the technology for the potential installation/performance; the format is a ‘rehearsal in public’. As part of the work we are gathering thoughts on tactics for winning and losing – click here to submit yours.

The pop-up event will took place during ordinary shop opening hours. We collaborated with Cambridge Contemporary Dance who supplied dancers to perform within the installation.


Developed with support from the National Theatre Studio and The Junction (Sampled).

Click here for more information on The Competition

We are inspired by how contemporary sport takes excellent advantage of the vast array of possibilities for digital mediation. Even at live events, close-ups and replays are displayed on large screens, whilst spectators capture highlights on mobile phones and cameras for personal archives. We want to apply these kinds of mediation to an artistic event that encodes a similar framework of winning and losing, exploring the extent to which the body is straitjacketed by the ‘performance’ parameters of sport.

In competitive sports, you don’t move more than you have to
and everything is goal-directed. That’s useful because the 
best acting is economical, it’s not extraneous. 
People in life don’t show extra emotions, unless they are 
trying to get something out of it. It’s all about winning.
Greta Gerwig, actress and former fencing champion,
The Guardian April 2012

3rd Ring Out China

We don’t inherit the world from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

In July 2011 Zoe Svendsen and Simon Daw visited China to meet with artists, climate specialists, journalists and art producers to discuss how the issues explored in 3rd Ring Out relate to contemporary Chinese climate change questions, art and performance. We did a presentation at Xindanwei in Shanghai, to artists, cultural producers and media people all concerned by climate change. This was followed by an open space discussion, where the topics ranged from questions of the relationship between art and education, to the decisive split between city and rural areas in terms of climate impacts (for those living in the resource-hungry cities, climate decimation feels remote, even when encroaching, as is the case with the desertification outside Beijing).

In Beijing, we held two round-table discussions at the British Council, using 3rd Ring Out as a catalyst to explore climate change issues. The first was with climate journalists from a variety of organisations, including CCTV, Global Times, the China Information Centre, 21st century Business Herald and China Dialogue. The second was with climate scientists, teachers and British Council climate champions.

In Guiyang, Zoe gave a presentation at the annual international Ecoforum, participating in the education panel.

Articles on Climate Change in China
Other relevant artistic/cultural projects
This project was conceived of and produced by Rachel Parslew, inspired by 3rd Ring Out.

It was supported by a British Council Connections through Culture grant and the Sino-British Fellowship Trust.

Many thanks to aaajiao, Zhou Liping, Xindanwei, Rebecca Nadin and the arts and climate change teams at British Council China for making the trip possible.

Other artistic/cultural projects engaging with sustainability:


Goethe Institute exhibition: Updating China


Please get in touch to let us know about other projects engaging with climate change in China or the UK. 



china map climate change
Copyright © Metis Arts 2013