Discovery Days began as a single day of activities to celebrate the diversity and importance of the Derwent Valley Mills – the only World Heritage Site in the East Midlands, where the factory system was born.
Every year there is a new first for this event and the opening of all this fascinating industrial heritage for us to see is an opportunity not be missed. Discovery Days gave me my first experience of the view from the fifth floor of the East Mill at Belper and this year I will definitely be one of those queuing to see inside the homes on North Street in Cromford.
Mark Suggitt, director of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, said: “This is the eighth year of Discovery Days, but the mix of activities stays as fresh as ever. As well as the annual favourites there are plenty of new experiences to enjoy, many of them free‐of‐charge.”
The 2012 programme fills a 48‐page events booklet and events kick off at the weekend with a wide range of activities, from walks and art exhibitions to theatre performances and dance demonstrations. On the opening day, there’s plenty going on in Derby and Darley Abbey, with a mass of family activities in the Silk Mill, and a vintage bus will take people on tours around the historic parts of the city and (a first for the festival). Visitors can take a look inside the schoolroom in the attic of the Long Mill at Darley Abbey – almost untouched from when the mill children moved to a purpose‐built school in 1826.
On Sunday there are more historic buildings open in Belper than ever before, and a showcase for Belper talent at an arts and crafts fair in the Strutts Community Centre. There’s a wide mix of children’s activities and tours from Strutt’s North Mill museum. One of the most exciting events will be the opening of homes at Berkin’s Court (now called Chevin View). The residents of this little row of houses have come together to research and now tell the story of their homes (some of the earliest industrial housing on the planet) and recreate a traditional 1912 wash day.
It is by far the busiest year yet for midweek events, with activities including Singing round the Calendar with Pete Castle, Keith Kendrick and Sylvia Needham singing and telling stories which celebrate holidays and holy days, and walks and talks every day. On the evening of October 31 – Hallowe’en – there’ll be a chance to see the 1623 Theatre Company perform Supernatural Shakespeare in Belper’s River Gardens.
The final weekend of November 3 and 4 is Cromford‐based, with houses on North Street (the world’s first industrial housing) open to the public for the first time ever, a chance to view a private vintage motorcycle collection never seen publicly before, and a torch‐lit procession to Masson Mill on the Sunday afternoon for a closing concert with local children by folk group Mills and Chimneys.
“It’s the best line‐up yet, and we’re relying on plenty of people to turn up and join in the fun. The volunteers work so hard, it’d be great if they could be rewarded with a good turnout throughout the week,” added Mark.
To see what’s on during the festival, visit http://www.derwentvalleymills.org/discovery-days. The booklet explaining all the events planned for the Discovery Days Festival is now available from the mills and county libraries. Alternatively contact the booking line on 01629 536831 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday or email email@example.com.