Wednesday, 29 July 2015

And now for something completely different

Some of us were glued to the television last weekend watching the Tour de France. It's very exciting to hear that the Tour of Britain will be coming through Belper on Friday September 11th, in the afternoon. They will come past the North Mill over the bridge. There are sprint stages through Belper too. They will be fast, but it won't be a case of 'blink and you miss them' ! The North Mill and the Triangle will be a good place to watch from. Hopefully the TV helicopters will be flying over the iconic East and North Mill buildings.I wonder if we will get a mention! Belper will be making the most of this chance to celebrate world class cycling in style. Save the date!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

A visit from the Duke of Devonshire

On the 22nd July the Duke of Devonshire made a visit to the Mill. Following in family tradition - his father the late Duke visited in 2001 and his mother the late Dowager Duchess visited in 2005 - he came to celebrate 20 years of the Mill and the Trust with the volunteers, trustees and local councillors. He chatted with the volunteers in turn, taking a great interest in all the hard work that goes on here at the Mill. He unveiled new interpretation screens in the Gallery, funded by HLF and designed by Mike Mulliner.
We are so lucky to have two people associated with the Mill who are also residents of Strutts historic housing. Brian Deer took him for a tour of his house on Long Row - a bit different from a tour of Chatsworth, but the Duke was really interested in the ideas behind the housing and the development of Belper as a community around the Mill. He then took coffee and cake at Pat Vayro's Cluster house, again taking a tour of the house and learning the rationale behind its unusual design. He had the privilege of being the first to sign her visitors' book!
He was able to meet representatives from the Cluster Roads Group, discussing road and path surfaces with them because of his experience at Chatsworth with the garden paths. He was intrigued by the surviving Telford road surfaces.
His visit finished at the Station, where he met members of Belper Transition group. He admired the art work and the wild flower planting, and again was able to discuss sustainability and environmental concerns because of his understanding of those issues at Chatsworth.
It was a short but very successful visit. His real interest and understanding of issues, from the politics of heritage to workers' housing and sustainability was really appreciated by those who met him. I think it gave him an insight into the active and lively community of Belper too. Adrian Farmer told us about Chinese visitors who are amazed to realise that the Strutts houses are real homes, not museum pieces. Interestingly, having worked as a guide at Chatsworth, that's something we always said about the house - that it's the family's home not a gallery or a museum. I know some useful connections have been made by his visit. We are all looking forward to inviting him back for a proper tour of the Mill!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Outstanding Universal Value

The phrase 'outstanding universal value' is the catch phrase for World Heritage Site status. It takes a bit of thinking about. Universal is used in the sense of world wide importance. The Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site is one of 29 in the UK. It was added to the list in 2001. The 18th and 19th century mills, running from Masson Mill all the way down to the Silk Mill in Derby, changed society forever. They created the first factory system, the ability to mass produce quality goods, and social housing especially designed for mill workers and their families. The change from water to steam power,developments in cotton spinning technology and mill architecture are all represented in the sites along the valley. Roads, railways, canals and water management systems are also part of the picture. As the mills and factories closed, tourism became increasingly important to the economy of this part of Derbyshire. In the last couple of weeks we have had two film companies filming at the North Mill, one German, the other Japanese. Our fame spreads far! They visited other mills in the Derwent Valley too. An episode of Tony Robinson's series of Walking Through History showcasing this area was repeated recently on Channel 4. On Monday Adrian Farmer of the Derwent Valley World Heritage Site team, based with Derbyshire County Council, took a group of us on a training tour. We all had some connection to sites, as enthusiasts, volunteers or employees. We discovered the beauties of Darley Abbey, the history of Milford, the exciting plans for Cromford Mills and the allotments and weavers' cottages of Cromford Village. We also visited the North Mill and took lunchtime shelter from the rain in Strutts' lovely Unitarian Chapel in Belper, eating our sandwiches as we learnt about the the crypt below us. We stood where Oasis had their photo taken on Cromford Station. We discovered a 'bear pit' in Cromford Village as well as some great looking pig sties. We now know where Milford schoolchildren learnt to swim, and what part Sangers' Circus elephants played in delivering the new boilers to the East Mill.We know the secrets of Willersley Castle's bookcases too. In spite of the rain, it was a great opportunity to find out more about the area and to get to know what other people are busy doing to preserve, develop and publicise the Derwent Valley. It really is the Valley that changed the world.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

First shift at the Mill

Introducing Tom, fund raiser, volunteer supporter and handy with a mop and bucket!
My name is Tom Wyke and I arrived this week at the Strutt’s North Mill ready to start work as the new ‘Fundraising and Volunteer Support Officer’. On approaching the building I was struck by the thought of the large numbers of Belper residents, just like me, that must have arrived at the Mill for over two hundred years. My first couple of days have been good ones, meeting new colleagues and volunteers who each showed their passion for the Mill and helped to highlight again, through their enthusiasm, the importance of the heritage of the Mill. It was encouraging to see the different roles volunteers have, as on arrival there was a maintenance team fixing doors and cleaning carpets. It was also great to be shown around the Mill site again, by Mary, and get a feel for the place, as well as discuss further my new role and ideas with Nicky the Mill Manager. I even leant a hand with a couple of volunteers as we tried to clean up a flood in the basement, which showed me just how dedicated and flexible in their roles Belper North Mill volunteers are. Moving onto what I’m here to do. The priorities for my new role are: 1. Scoping fundraising opportunities and developing a sustainable fundraising strategy 2. Supporting current volunteers and recruiting additional volunteers, through developing the volunteer experience at the Mill. 3. Working with the Trust, the staff and the volunteers to develop ideas of how to raise funds independently. I’m excited to be involved in such an important project, and even more excited to be in a position to encourage more people to get involved in a variety of ways. I’m grateful to the Arts Council England for funding this role, as we seek to develop a more sustainable and financially secure museum that is embedded in the community, and a place that continues to be enjoyed by visitors, staff and volunteers alike.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Reelin' in the years

This weekend Tracey Harris, a University of Derby intern, textile artist and fine art student, is going to be in residence at the North Mill. She has been sharing her ideas and work process with the Mill through her blog on wordpress, Strutts North Mill Internship. This weekend she'll be there in the hope that people will come in and share their personal memories of sewing and will donate a cotton reel to one of the displays. I'll be choosing a reel from my trusted old sewing basket. It's full of colours bought for hemming a particular garment or sewing on a certain button. There are spare buttons for clothes that have long since gone to the charity shop. Needles, pins, bits of ribbon, safety pins, crochet hooks and scissors. I can turn up a hem, sew on a button, mend a tear, do blanket stitch. When I was married my husband was in the fashion business and I lived the seasonal life of A/W and S/S collections. But my confidence in my sewing abilities was destroyed by a needlework teacher who used to throw our below standard sewing out of the window and into the River Irwell below! She also had a habit of throwing scissors across the room!. No wonder I never mastered the art of threading a treadle sewing machine. Luckily my children have inherited their father's talents for making clothes. What part has sewing played in your life?