3.1.11 Jenny KilBride

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  • Born 1948
  • Guild member 1974 – 1988 (closure)
  • Weaver and Dyer

Life

Jenny KilBride is one of six children of Valentine KilBride, five of whom became weavers and worked with Valentine. In Jenny’s case, she learned a great deal from her father as a child before studying for an English degree at Manchester University and starting a career as a teacher. Eventually though, at the age of 24, she came back on a temporary basis to help her father who, by then, was 77. She developed her skills, eventually taking over from him in 1981, soon before his death, becoming the first female member of the Guild. She was assisted by outsourcing some work to her brother Gilbert, who had his own workshop in Wales.

When the Guild was wound up in 1989 she abandoned weaving altogether and went to work at Glyndebourne Festival Opera where eventually she became a fundraiser.  She followed that career for many years and, although both her brothers continued to work as weavers – Gilbert, as noted above, in Wales and Thomas in Scotland.

Seeing the need for the Ditchling museum to play a part in memorialising the Guild and its members, she agreed to join the Trustees in 2001, eventually becoming chair and heading the fundraising drive to redevelop it and a museum of Art and Craft. In this capacity she raised Β£2.3 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, charitable trusts, foundations and individuals. The museum reopened in the summer of 2013 to great acclaim, Jenny KilBride being awarded the MBE in recognition of the part she played.

In recent years, she has returned to weaving and operated a small workshop, using the basic weaving equipment that she stored away 26 years ago. Once again, she specialises in natural dyeing and silk weaving; she also runs classes on weaving.

Interview, from 2019

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