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Illuminating Threads of Belper’s Heritage

New Art Installation

A new contemporary textiles installation and atmospheric lantern walk is being created for the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. 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. Entitled “Thread” and the creation of Japanese contemporary textiles artist Seiko Kinoshita, the commission will draw attention to the rich heritage of Belper, in the heart of the World Heritage Site.

Seiko at work in her studio

Seiko is bringing together two concepts for this work. The first, “Threading through Time” is an installation combining hundreds of bobbins, cotton thread, and a soundscape which will be installed into the historic basement area of Strutt’s North Mill museum in Belper from 18th October. The sound is inspired by Seiko’s investigations into sounds made within different textile mills, including the Tomioka Silk Mill World Heritage Site in Japan. These will be incorporated with the sounds from other working mills such as John Smedley (U.K) and Usui Seishi (Japan). Seiko is also talking to people who work and have worked in the mills, as she is interested in how the rhythm of the machinery stays in people’s minds and how they are remembered.

The exhibition will be at Strutts North Mill, Belper from 18th October to 3rd November. It is part of the Derwent Valley Mills Discovery Days Festival and Japan Season of Culture. Belper’s Strutt 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.

The second concept, “Threading through Communities,” is a community lantern event inspired by the Japanese tradition of lantern festivals. Seiko is making lanterns influenced by the shape of the cotton bobbin, using cotton thread including John Smedley’s Sea Island Cotton which has been kindly donated, paper and other natural materials to thread through each wooden lantern to create beautiful effects. She is working 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. Visitors to the event will be able to see this beautiful installation of lit lanterns in situ, and hear new poetry inspired by the Strutt family, written by Jeanette Burton a member of the Clusters Heritage Group, performed by Captive Audience Theatre Company. The event will culminate at St Peter’s Church where there will be more lanterns to see, refreshments, and the opportunity to see a film created by Seiko about her commission.

Lanterns lit create beautiful reflections

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.


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