The National Theatre’s production of War Horse makes its Yorkshire premiere at the Bradford Alhambra later this month and marks a welcome return for its Shipley-born costume designer.
Brought up in Baildon, Johanna Coe attended Salts Grammar before studying art at Bradford College and the magic of wool manufacture is deeply woven into her life.
“Many of my father’s side of the family lived in Saltaire and worked at the mill,” she said.
“My grandfather John was an overseer and I remember visiting his house with its outside toilet and playing out around Ada Street.”
And so when given the task of sourcing fabrics for the show she turned to Bradford to find the best and most authentic tweeds which match the period of the award-winning production.
Her grandfather also proudly claimed Yorkshire produced “the finest fabric in the world” and so when Miss Coe came to source the fabric for the actors’ costumes for the show she went to Whaleys in Bradford, Abraham Moon in Guiseley, Hainsworth in Pudsey, and West Yorkshire Fabrics in Leeds.
Whaleys of Bradford was established in 1869 by Samuel Whaley and provided Miss Coe with basic cottons and linens.
During the First World War, weaving was suspended at the family firm and silk making abandoned. When normal work recommenced an industrial fabric section was established to furnish the textile finishing industry.
Moon’s still makes exceptional tweed in the traditional style. Miss Coe said: “It’s very British, authentic and they have a great variety of styles and colours.”
London-based Miss Coe said she would be bringing her two teenage daughters to visit family in Saltaire and Baildon during the show’s run from May 26 to June14.
“They love going to Saltaire and I’ll love to show them round.
“It’s great that War Horse has ended up with me back on my home turf.” she said.
Poignantly, War Horse comes to the Alhambra Theatre a century after it opened in March 1914 and shortly before the outbreak of World War One.
Adam Renton, general manager of Bradford Theatres, said: “Hosting the exclusive Yorkshire premiere of the National Theatre’s production of War Horse is wonderful news for the Alhambra Theatre, and for the Bradford district.
“The fact that the Alhambra Theatre celebrates 100 years in 2014 while the show is in residence makes it even more special.”