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Futurecade exhibit
Temporary Category for 2022


Collage of photographs of women from the 80s with the text 'Battledress' in pink neon below
  • Exhibit
Event Central, Fargate

Professor David Forrest, School of English, has collaborated with writer Rachel Genn,  Debbie Ballin and Human to create Battledress. This immersive gallery piece explores working class women’s fashion and the rituals of getting ready and going out. It encourages participants to reflect on their own coming of age experiences through music, fashion and rebellion and asks ‘what outfit makes you feel most powerful?’

In 1980’s Sheffield, we dressed in jockey silks, danced like we meant it and fought because we had to…

R Genn, 2021

Battledress is a new two screen immersive using archive and oral history material by Genn, Ballin and Human, commissioned by Festival of the Mind, that explores working class women’s histories of fashion, fighting and allegiance.

You could get into Turn Ups nightclub in 1980s Sheffield if you were 15, but only if the bouncers fancied you. If they did, you could be wearing whatever you liked: jodhpurs, Prince of Wales check suits; you could even be carrying a walking cane. We weren’t fully out of the shadow of A Clockwork Orange, and so found ourselves getting away with a tasteless mix of aristo and militaria. It would be nearly ten years until Bikini Kill released ‘Rebel Girl’ but we already lived by the lines, “That girl thinks she’s the queen of the neighbourhood, I got news for you, she is!”

R Genn, 2021

Want to take part?
Share your Battledress. Tell us what outfit made you feel invincible. Did you ever have a fight? What for?




With Support From

  • Festival of the Mind, University of Sheffield
  • Arts Council England
  • SODA at Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Manchester School of Art Research Centre
  • Manchester Writing School (CELL)


  • Made with the assistance of North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University & University of Salford
  • BBC Copyright Content Reproduced from courtesy of the British Broadcasting Corporation all rights reserved 
  • Granada Studios

Archive Materials Provided by 

  • Beth Hewitt 
  • John McManus

Still Images Provided by

  • Picture Sheffield 
  • The Sheffield Star
  • Ron Clayton
  • V&A
  • Connor Matheson
  • Rachel Genn 

Special Thanks to

  • Pat Dallman 
  • Will McTaggart 
  • Martin Jones
  • Jennifer Booth
  • Ingrid McKinney/Esther McKinney