Japanese artist unveils stunning installation at Belper North Mill

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A Japanese artist has unveiled a new installation celebrating global textile heritage at Belper’s North Mill.

Seiko Kinoshita’s Thread: Threading Through Time uses 300 reels of thread in a visual echo of the River Derwent.

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The high-tension threads flow through the mill's basement to a soundscape recorded at historic mills in Japan and Derbyshire, interspersed with interviews with millworkers past and present.

Seiko, who is based in Sheffield, 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."

She added: "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.

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"I hope my installation brings together the unique aspects of those mills, memories and the future of the Derwent Valley. "

As part of the project, a lantern walk will be held around George Street at 6pm on Saturday, October 26.

Seiko has worked with local community groups such as the Belper Clusters Heritage Group, schools, Church and craft groups to make the lanterns from John Smedley’s Sea Island Cotton, paper and other natural materials.

The Captive Audience Theatre Company will perform works by local poet Jeanette Burton at the event.

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If the bad weather persists, the event will be moved to St Peter's Church.

Following the event, the lanterns will then be installed along the Clusters Housing, a historically significant area in Belper where the workers from the cotton mills lived.

Sunday offers the perfect opportunity to see Seiko's installation, as the mill offers free entry 11am to 4pm as part of the Discovery Days festival.

Museum manager Kat Tonks said: “We’re really pleased to host Seiko’s installation. It’s absolutely amazing to see it in situ, and great to see how she has been inspired by the heritage and social history of this part of the world.”

Strutts North Mill manager Kat Tonks braves the buildings basement, which is to host three storytelling nights.

Strutts North Mill manager Kat Tonks braves the buildings basement, which is to host three storytelling nights.

Councillor Barry Lewis, chairman of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Partnerships, added: “We’re really proud that the installation has also been included in the national programme of events for Japan-UK Season of Culture, giving 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.”

The mill will host Halloween craft days for younger visitors on Monday and Tuesday, October 28-29.

Staff are also gearing up for a series of spine-chilling storytelling nights full of terrifying true tales from the town’s history.

Actor Alistair Massey and a team of ghostly volunteers will lead audiences into the darkened basement for three monthly nights of ghouls, gore and grizzly goings-on, starting on Saturday, November 9.

The North Mill Trust trialled the events for the first time last winter, and they proved a sellout success.

Kat said: “Last year’s events got a really good response and we’re hoping to match that this winter.

“It’s a great way of using the mill’s space as something other than a museum and bringing back to life.”

Alistair has conducted painstaking research into Belper’s history to dig up an anthology of stories which raise past spirits and paint the town in a very different light.

The spooky atmosphere of the mill’s basement will provide the perfect setting.

Kat said: “There are lots of rumours about funny business going on at the mill itself, but of course it depends if you believe that sort of thing.

“There is talk of odd noises and alarms going off in the dark of night. One of our volunteers was called out to deal with an alarm, and his dog refused to go into the basement because it was so scared.”

She added: “Not all of Alistair’s tales are full of horror though. It should be a good night out for anyone with an interest in local history too.”

The events run 7.30–9.15pm on November 9, December 7 and January 18.

Tickets cost £12, including hot drinks. Audiences should wrap up warm as some of the stories may make the blood run cold.
The events are recommended for ages 14 upwards, but parents can decide what is appropriate for children.

To book, go to wegottickets.com/belpernorthmill.

For more information, see belpernorthmill.org.uk.