Beam was appointed in 2018 to produce an ambitious Creative Programme for the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Great Place Scheme (DVMWHS). Over the last 3 years we have had the privilege of commissioning 105 creative practitioners and directly engaging 7,500 participants through creative workshops, pop up events, immersive installations, live music, song and dance as well as digital content and live stream events.



Each commission focused on a specific place within the World Heritage Site designed to connect residents and visitors with the area’s heritage using a range of artforms to facilitate memorable experiences and raise awareness about the World Heritage Site. Importantly, most commissions were delivered in collaboration with host venues and community partners to help build capacity for future creative projects and to empower these unique heritage venues to engage artists in telling their story.

What did we set out to achieve? 

  • Engage residents and visitors with the DVMWHS exploring the landscape, the built environment, its past and its future to deepen pride in place and encourage repeat visits.
  • Reveal and celebrate the hidden aspects of the place (physical & cultural heritage) and encourage an understanding of the value of the DVMWHS and of the site as a whole entity.
  • Raise the profile of the world heritage site through a creative programme that incorporates ‘slow art’ supporting self-guided tourism.
  • Enable artists’ to generate creative ideas that respond to the DVMWHS.
  • Skills development and opportunities – local creatives & young people

The Covid 19 pandemic did impact on the programme with some events being delayed and adapted in line with government restrictions. Whilst this was a major challenge the whole team and commissioned artists worked hard to respond and adapt. These changes did actually have some positive impact enabling us to reach a wider audience and participants from a greater geographic reach, even internationally through remote research and live stream events. We were delighted that we were able to continue to support artists during these times and produce a series of high quality films that will act as a rich resource for the DVMWHS team in the future.

ART IN UNUSUAL SPACES included a mix of pop up events with music & dance; creative conversations; live music & bespoke sound collages; fun activities & new skills; temporary exhibitions; community led installations; spoken word; and use the arts to reveal hidden histories.

Find out more about about some of these commissions here:

DERWENT DELIGHTS was a celebratory exhibition of a community arts project run by Fleet Arts, that explored the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Sites’ rich landscape and history. This project culminated in an event at Cromford Mills in 2021 showcasing sculptural metalwork by Miles Halpin, Textile Art by Tan Draig and poetry, textile and video responses created by a wide variety of groups across the valley working with professional artists.

MAJOR TEMPORARY COMMISSIONS – series of three major commissions that fused art, engineering & people power to share and reveal the areas unique heritage; created bespoke installations breathing new life into historic objects & spaces; harnessed people power with breath-taking results; all made possible through a collaborative approach between artists and community champions.

Mr Arkwright by Jo Fairfax – watch the short film

  • An interactive art installation created by Jo Fairfax that was a water and cycle-powered drawing machine which took inspiration from Sir Richard Arkwright’s early career as he started out his journey as entrepreneur, inventor and architect of the modern factory system.

Threading Through Time by Seiko Kinoshita – find out more

  • Contemporary textiles installation combining hundreds of bobbins, cotton thread and a soundscape installed into the historic basement area of Strutt’s North Mill museum in Belper

Threading Through Communities by Seiko Kinoshita – watch the short film.

  • 500 local residents and children engaged in making Lanterns influenced by the original cotton bobbin design to illuminate Belper. The project culminated in a one-off installation in St Peter’s Church, with poetry performances by Captive Audience Theatre Company in the church yard and a short film was screened depicting Seiko’s artistic journey including images from the lantern making workshops and Seiko’s research trip to a Japanese World Heritage Site- Tomioka Silk Mill and Usui Seishi Silk Mill.

Spin a Tale by Constella OperaBallet – watch series of short films

  • In partnership with Darley Abbey Day 2021 and Darley Abbey Community Association, internationally renowned artists Constella OperaBallet created an exciting series of short films featuring singers, dancers and choirs from Derbyshire including Déda Youth Company, dancers from Derby University and individual voices from across the county and beyond to bring the past, present & future of Darley Abbey to life.

Photo credit: Ray Gumbley Photography

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