By Kingsley Bishop, BA International Relations
Most often when we think of knitting, we are constrained to a very popular perception of the craft. Imagine swathes of elderly white women sat in rocking chairs, needles in hand, yarn in lap, and a cat at their feet. In reality, as with all creative outlets, the contemporary base of knitters across the globe is actually far younger, blacker, and off the wall. From knitted bikinis to bucket hats, these skills have no bounds.
“From knitted bikinis to bucket hats, these skills have no bounds.”
Conch Art Collective’s SOAS-based society aims to shine a light on this untold narrative and others, producing creative and intellectual events for those whose access may have been traditionally limited. After all, knitting is a skill easily enjoyed by all, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or class. With intersectionality at its core, attendees of the art collective’s events are encouraged to abandon previous notions of creativity, self-growth, and intellectual credibility, instead of learning from those around them in an environment that values self-expression above all else.
Yarned and Dangerous, an event borne out of our co-founders’ love of the craft, was first held on the 21 January and is open to all. Friends of attendees and non-SOAS students are always welcome. In particular, the collective encourages beginners to attend and learn a new skill. Held in BG01 and also open to the public, there is little besides a lecture clash stopping SOASians from attending. Having spent so long in lockdown, many young people have the same desire to escape their bedrooms and explore creative and convivial spaces. Regular event releases, updates, and ways to get involved are posted on their Instagram @conchartcollective.
Since 2021, the collective has hosted several successful online talks open to the public on issues like sexual preference, fast fashion, and overconsumption. Thus, in a bid to also encourage sustainable living practises, the collective aims to encourage more advanced knitters to move beyond expensive and mass-produced synthetic or animal yarns. Instead, led by the Conch team, future sessions will include a masterclass in using waste materials (plastic bags, netting, and fabric) as knitting materials. Yarned and Dangerous attendee, Francisco said of the Collective: ‘I’ve attended lots of Conch events before and I’m a sucker for anything creative. I’d never done any knitting but am now working on a balaclava for my girlfriend haha.’
Conch events are not to be missed, even if you despise knitting! The art collective’s values encourage discussion at all opportunities, so if you want to attend, get caught up in knots and move on to describing whether neoliberalism has rendered collective action obsolete – we’ve got you. Their spaces aim to be as safe and supportive as possible, and attendees are reminded to be respectful and mindful of others and their experiences to ensure everyone in attendance feels at ease.
In the previous Yarned and Dangerous, knitters worked on an array of items, from scarves and sweaters to underwear and balaclavas.
Conch Art Collective was founded by three SOAS students during lockdown last year and has grown to host online and in-person events of 80+ attendees, as well as build a loyal online following of students, poetry lovers, and creatives. Upcoming events include a self-care focused writing workshop with poet and inspirational speaker Andreena Leeanne, as well as various talks and film screenings to take place in Shoreditch, East London. These will take place in addition to our already highly successful and international poetry sessions held on Zoom every 2 weeks.
The collective offers a number of opportunities for students and creatives, providing internships, networking events, and acting as a platform for written and artistic work. To learn more about getting involved with the collective’s work visit: conchartcollective.com or drop us an email at [email protected].
Photo Caption: Yarned and Dangerous poster (Credit: Conch Art Collective).