A FESTIVAL celebrating Bradford’s wool heritage, held last year for the first time in nearly two centuries, was such a success it will return this month.

St Blaise Wool Festival was first held in 1825, when Bradford was a world leader in textile manufacturing. It was resurrected 194 years later, in February 2019, at Bradford Industrial Museum, attracting large crowds.

The event, named after the patron saint of wool combers, included a specialist wool market, complete with alpacas, spinning and weaving demonstrations, family activities and stalls selling woollen yarns, textiles and hand looms. There was also a pop-up pub and entertainment from a choir and brass band.

Now the festival is to return, from January 31 to February 3. Events included a talk about Bishop Blaise and wool combing at City Hall, on Friday, January 31 and the Blaise Wool Fair at Bradford Industrial Museum on Sunday, February 2.

The event marks the significance of wool to Bradford’s industrial past, and celebrates St Blaise, a beatified bishop and physician from 4th century Armenia who was tortured, for refusing to renounce his faith, by being flayed using pins from a wool comb, then beheaded.

“The Feast of St Blaise is celebrated by the Latin Church on February 3, and with Bradford’s links to the wool industry St Blaise is a significant figure,” said festival organiser Glyn Watkins, whose efforts to revive the event have led to the Bradford Woolly Heritage Community Interest Company. The company has been set up to support the St Blaise Festival and encourage interest in Bradford’s wool history.

Mr Watkins, a Bradford poet, teamed up Dan Horsman, landlord of Jacobs Well pub, and educator and art director Julia Armstrong (pictured, left) to launch the company in City Hall last week.

“The Bring Back Blaise Festival has grown from a walk with a few people to having Bradford’s first wool fair at the Industrial Museum,” said Mr Watkins. “Now the company intends to weave the festival into a city-wide, internationally linked event on St Blaise’s Day, on February 3 in 2025. That will be the 200th anniversary of the last time Bradford celebrated Bishop Blaise in a big way.”

He added: “The positive audience reaction, from the company launch, showed that wool and Bradford’s history still have a place in the hearts of many locals. From people with decades of work in the wool trade to those who have moved to Bradford, everyone expressed appreciation for the attempt to make Saint Blaise’s Day a day that anyone can enjoy.”

* For more about the St Blaise Wool Festival visit bradwan.com