Biggest turnout ever for start of festival
ATTENDANCE figures for the sixth Discovery Days Festival held in Derbyshire’s only World Heritage Site nearly doubled in 2010.
Organisers have been delighted that last month’s ten day event for the Derwent Valley Mills saw over 11,500 attendances across 120 events – over 5,000 more than in 2009.
Promotional support from the Peak District and Derbyshire Tourist Board helped to bring in visitors from across the UK, including Kent, Yorkshire, Cumbria and the Midlands, some staying the full week.
“When so many volunteers work so hard to put on these activities, it’s great to see so many people turning out to enjoy them,” said World Heritage Site Coordinator Adrian Farmer.
Most successful new event was the unique opportunity to access the top floors of Belper’s East Mill.
“The owners, First Investments Ltd, gave us access to areas that haven’t been fully open to the general public during the mill’s entire 99-year history,” said Adrian.
“We reckon there were well over 2,000 people who came up to the fifth and sixth floors to see the views of Belper from the town’s highest building. There were stalls and exhibitions to look at and we had over 120 people on tours of the mill.”
Another hit on the Belper-focused day was the opening of 7 Long Row, an 18th century millworkers’ cottage, by the owner Brian Deer, which had queues of 20 or more people waiting to take a look inside for most of the day. “He must have had nearly 400 visitors over the day so it was very kind of him to give such unlimited access,” Adrian said.
The day ended with a sell-out showing of old Derbyshire films at Belper’s Ritz Cinema, introduced by Phil Leech of MACE, the Media Archive for Central England.
The previous day a steam rally and 1745 battle re-enactments from the Charles Edward Stuart Society proved popular on Derby’s Cathedral Green. New events included a float-a-boat challenge at Darley Park and a tour of Allestree Park.
Guided walks and tours throughout the week were well attended, with some fully booked up.
“Some were so popular that people who hadn’t booked weren’t able to take part. Hopefully next year the more popular walks can be run more than once so everyone who wants to take part will get the chance,” added Adrian.
As in the past, the final weekend was based around the Cromford end of the 15-mile long World Heritage Site. Attendances for activities were higher here as well, and the addition of the Shuttler’s Clog dance group helped keep people entertained. The canal wharf was busy as in past years, although the canal itself is no longer sufficiently deep to have a horse-drawn narrowboat on the water as happened in previous years.
The festival received a significant boost from the Derbyshire County Library Service this year, with activities running over seven days at Belper Library, a launch event for the new Reading Detectives scheme at Cromford, Book Pushers giving readings at Duffield and the lecture hall in Chesterfield Library being used to launch the festival with a lecture by Lynn McDonald, the world’s foremost expert on Florence Nightingale.
It has already been agreed that the seventh Discovery Days Festival will take place in October 2011 – the organisers will meet in January to decide if the festival can be extended beyond its present ten days, subject to funding and support from voluntary groups and individuals, including the Belper North Mill Trust and Volunteers, the Friends of Cromford Canal and the Arkwright Society, as well as Derbyshire County Council, Derby City Council, Amber Valley Borough Council and Derbyshire Dales District Council.