Illuminating Threads of Belper’s Heritage
A new contemporary textiles installation has been created for the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site and is now open to the public at Strutt’s North Mill Museum, Belper. Entitled “Thread: Threading Through Time” and the creation of Japanese textile artist Seiko Kinoshita, the installation draws attention to the rich heritage of Belper, in the heart of the World Heritage Site, and also makes connections with the textile heritage of Japan.
“Threading Through Time” is an installation combining over 300 previously unused bobbins, and coloured cotton thread inspired by the River Derwent. The threads have been meticulously placed paying close attention to tension and order to stunning effect, now installed in the fascinating basement area of Strutt’s North Mill Museum. Seiko has also created a soundscape which incorporates sounds from inside different textile mills past and present, including the Tomioka Silk Mill World Heritage Site and Usui Seishi, the largest silk mill in Japan, John Smedley Ltd, and Masson Mills. Seiko has also spoken to people who work and have worked in textile mills such as John Smedley Ltd and the East Mill, and their voices are included in the soundscape as they remember the sounds that the machinery made.
Councillor Barry Lewis, Chair of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Partnerships said, “We’re delighted to have Seiko’s installation here in the World Heritage Site, and we’re really proud that it has also been included in the national programme of events for Japan-UK Season of Culture. This installation makes links between the textile heritage of the UK and Japan, and gives us an opportunity to celebrate the close relationship between Derbyshire and Japan. We’re working hard as a partnership to put the World Heritage Site on the map, and this series of arts commissions is helping us to do that.”
Belper’s Strutt’s North Mill is one of the world’s first fireproof buildings and the world’s second water-powered cotton spinning mill. The North Mill houses a museum telling the story of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site in Belper. Kat Tonks, manager at the museum said, “We’re really pleased to be hosting Seiko’s installation here this Autumn – it’s absolutely amazing to see it in situ. It’s great to see how she has been inspired by the heritage and social history of what happened in this part of the world.”
Seiko has also brought together a second element to her commission. “Threading through Communities,” is a lantern lit walk for the community taking place on 26th October. Seiko has created a lantern design inspired by the shape of the cotton bobbin, and the Japanese tradition of lantern festivals. The lanterns combine cotton thread, including John Smedley’s Sea Island Cotton, paper and other natural materials to thread through each lantern to create beautiful effects when lit. She has worked with local community groups such as the Belper Clusters Heritage Group, schools, Church and craft groups to make the lanterns which will then be installed along the Clusters Housing, a historically significant area in Belper where the workers from the cotton mills lived – these are some of the earliest examples of industrial housing in the world. The event will shine a light on the significance of this area, and also transfer skills and ideas to the community groups about how they can continue this type of event into the future.
The lantern event will start at 6pm from George Street in Belper on Saturday 26th October and will include poetry performed by Captive Audience Theatre Company, written by Janette Burton of the Belper Clusters Heritage Group. The event will end at St Peter’s Church, Belper with refreshments. This event is also included in the World Heritage Site Discovery Days Festival starting on the same day.
This major commission, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England for the World Heritage Site’s Great Place Scheme is the second of 3 programmed arts commissions. “Mr Arkwright” can still be seen at Cromford Mills until 3rd November, and the team is working with Constella Opera Ballet to bring an exciting outdoor performance to Darley Abbey Day on 20th June 2020.
Seiko Kinoshita is a contemporary textile artist based in Sheffield. Her work is innovative and thought provoking and she has exhibited at venues such as the Silk Mill in Derby, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery and Sheffield Cathedral.
Seiko said, “I feel very privileged to work on this project. Strutt’s North Mill is full of hidden interesting history and heritage. I was especially inspired by how the socially – minded Strutt family built a thriving community in Belper and I wanted to shine a spotlight on the unique areas they built and create an opportunity for communities to get together. I was also fascinated by the World Heritage Site status of Derwent Valley Mills and found many similarities to the Tomioka Silk Mill in Japan which was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2014. I hope my installation brings together the unique aspects of those mills, memories and the future of the Derwent Valley. ”
The lantern event will start at 6pm on George Street in Belper on Saturday 26th October and end at St Peter’s Church, Belper.
This event is also included in the Discovery Days Festival which also starts on 26th October.