The Threads Project
Where have all the factories gone?
The Threads project was set up to capture the oral history, memories and reminiscences of people who used to work in the Derwent Valley Mills, or lived nearby. These memories date from the 1920s, 30s, 40s, up until the late 80s, when the last mills in Belper closed. Many of these have come from the 6 early mills along the lower Derwent Valley – The Silk Mill, Derby; Darley Abbey Mills; Milford Mills; Strutts North Mill, Belper; John Smedleys’ Mill, Lea Bridge; Cromford Mill and Sir Richard Akrwright’s Masson Mills. We have also heard from people working more recently in the John Smedley Ltd and Stevenson’s Dyeworks in Ambergate.
The two year project has been led by artists who, through conversations and recordings, have collected the real life stories of the people who lived and worked along the valley. They have used these to inspire songs, visual art and film which bring the words, memories and personalities to life but they only include a small amount of the wealth of material that was collected. You can see the videos of some of the people involved here:
A Life at the Mill – Kitty Weston
A Life at the Mill – Peter Hodgkinson
A Life at the Mill – Tony Bowker
A Life at the Mill – Dennis and Barbara Basford
A Life at the Mill – Linda Coton
A Life at the Mill – Doug Waldren
A Life at the Mill – Lawrence Leatherland
A Life at the Mill – John Mumby
A Life at the Mill – Audrey Ankers
A life at the Mill – Brian Fleay
A Life at the Mill – Mary Bowes
Here are a selection of poems written by Graham Langley, who lives in the Derwent Valley and has seen many of the remnants of its industries past and gone, as he has walked much of its banks. He specialises in traditional stories and song, and his ear has become attuned to the rich rhythms of local speech. For the Threads project he was able to draw on much of his past work in the creation of “Song of the River”.