A new contemporary textiles installation and soundscape has been 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 produced by Beam. Entitled “Thread” and the creation of Japanese textile artist Seiko Kinoshita, the commission draws attention to the rich heritage of Belper, in the heart of the World Heritage Site.

Seiko brought together two concepts for this work. The first, “Threading through Time” is an installation combining hundreds of bobbins, cotton thread and a soundscape installed into the historic basement area of Strutt’s North Mill museum in Belper from 18th October – 3 November 2019. Seiko researched and recorded sounds from inside different textile mills, including the Tomioka Silk Mill World Heritage Site and Usui Seishi, the largest silk mill in Japan, John Smedley Ltd, and Masson Mills. Seiko also spoke to people who work and have worked in textile mills, as she is interested in how the rhythm of the machinery stays in people’s minds and how they are remembered.

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 for Japan-UK Season of Culture. 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, and intrigued by her concept. 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.”

The second concept, “Threading through Communities,” is a lantern lit walk for the community. Seiko has created a lantern design inspired by the shape of the cotton bobbin, and the Japanese tradition of illuminating paths with lanterns. 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.

She has worked with local community groups such as the Belper Clusters 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 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. 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.”

Photo credit: Daniella Sasaki

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