Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

The clocks have gone back. Christmas decorations fill the shops. Father Christmas is scaling Masson Mill. Summer really has gone, in spite of some of the lovely weather we have had in late October. We can only look forward to the spring. November means that the North Mill only opens at weekends. Less time for the great team of volunteers to get together. Inevitably it means fewer visitors too, until we pick up the weekday reins again in March. It is always possible to book a group visit during the winter months, so do get in touch if you would like to. We are also hoping to have some outings and events for volunteers over the winter months. There will also be events through the winter to keep us in the public eye, so do check out the website. Winter is a great time for creating. We have the spinners here on November 1st to demonstrate their skills. The designers of the new Derbyshire tartan will also be here to talk about their inspiration and plans for this lovely colourful fabric. In the next few weeks I am hoping this blog will be taken over by a local writers' group, who will be sharing their stories inspired by the Mill. Winter is also a good time to catch up on all the essential work involved in running the museum and visitor attraction, from updating policies to historical research, via hoovering! Don't lose touch!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Sweet memories - come and share them!

This weekend a new exhibition opens at the North Mill, celebrating Belper's great retail heritage. Sweet Memories will be running a pop up sweet shop in the reception area on Sunday 25th October. The exhibition is also at No 28 and will then stay at the Mill over the winter weekend opening. We'd love it if visitors got involved, by sharing their own memories of shops in the town. There'll be post it notes aplenty for you to write down your thoughts. These are a couple of my favourite images!

Friday, 16 October 2015

Sew and Sew

Tracey Harris, fine art student at the University of Derby, worked with the mill to produce some wonderful interpretation material for the basement. Material is the right word! Photographs and words are printed onto Victorian nightdresses, bolster cases, pinafores and fabric to provide colour and interest.
There are also memories of learning to sew from our visitors, displayed hanging from bobbins, written on fabric. Men and women, old and young, everyone who visited that day had a tale to tell. I have just come back from visiting the Art_Textiles exhibition at the Whitworth in Manchester. It's an amazing opportunity to see where art and craft meet, and to see how fabric, embroidery, quilting, felting and all forms of needlework can be used to tell a personal and a political story. Items range from Tracey Emin's appliqu├ęd blankets, to a traditional Malian warrior's tunic. One of Grayson Perry's tapestries is on show too. Well work a visit. It also made me realise how lucky we are to have such innovative work at Strutt's North Mill. Tracey was one of the University of Derby interns over this summer. I look forward to seeing future projects from her.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Back to the Future

This week we held an induction evening at Strutt's North Mill. Intended for our recent and new volunteers, all were welcome. As we come to the end of our summer opening hours, I realise I can look back over more than half the season. From November through to March the Mill is open at weekends only, though groups and schools are very welcome to book private tours during the week. Earlier this year we celebrated twenty years of Strutt's North Mill as a volunteer led visitor attraction and museum.
We have also received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a governance review and Arts Council England funding through the Museum Resilience Fund for a new Fund Raising and Volunteer Support Officer, Tom Wyke. He will be sharing some of his thoughts and progress on this blog soon. There's a wealth of enthusiasm, knowledge and dedication here at the Mill, thanks to volunteers past and present, new and old. As we all look to the future, we can only say long may it continue. If you are interested in volunteering do get in touch to find out more by calling 01773 880474 or emailing

Thursday, 1 October 2015

On Deaf Ears

Earlier this year, not long after I had started working at Strutts North Mill, I visited Bletchley Park. There I saw a reconstruction of the Bombe equipment and read interviews with young women who had worked there. The noise, the movement and the urgency with which those tapes had to be looked after made me think of parallels between the working environment there, and spinning and weaving sheds in the cotton industry. I lived in a Lancashire mill town when I was at university, and there were older neighbours who recalled working in the mills. They learnt to lip read so they could have conversations across the factory floor. They even had sing songs, not that anyone could catch the tune! When the BBC started their successful series'Who Do You Think You Are', one of the early episodes featured someone who had been brought up in a Lancashire mill town. Both his mother and his grandmother had worked in the mills. His childhood had been blighted by the death of his younger sister as a baby. It was a heartbreaking story. His sister's death had led to his mother's breakdown and those problems affected the rest of her life and his. He blamed his grandmother, who had told his mother in no uncertain terms to leave the baby crying. The mother knew it was a different type of cry, but hadn't had the confidence to go against the grandmother's advice. I guess it must have been meningitis or something similar. It was one of those situations where you are trying to shout at the television. The grandmother would have literally been deaf to the pitch and urgency of the cry. How terrible. I do hope someone pointed this out and he managed to forgive her.