Derwent Pulse installation celebrates river and mills

derwent pulse spreadThe pulse of the Derwent and its mills is to be celebrated with a major art work which will weave its way down the river during October.

Derwent Pulse is the creation of installation artist Charles Monkhouse and will involve a light flow from 400 pulsating spheres travelling from Bleaklow in the north to the Trent in the south with the helping hand of teams of ‘shepherds’ in the communities on the banks of the river.

“The idea is that over a lunar month the lights will resonate with the pulse of the river and the first ever factories and weave together the past, present and future of the river, Derbyshire and its people,” explained Charles.

“The first strike of the bell above Arkwright’s Cromford Mill changed time forever. Gone was the time of agriculture measured by the sun and the moon and the passing of seasons. That bell sounded the first beat of clock time and with it came the industrial revolution.

“Everything up stream of the Derwent Valley Mills is the past and everything downstream the future.”

Charles explained that the spheres would each contain a miniature computer, GPS module and radio transmitter and receiver, so they can be partially controlled remotely. Their journey has been split into 17 different stages starting at Bleaklow on October 8, where 50 walkers will help them navigate the hidden streams that feed the Derwent.

At Ladybower on October 11 the spheres will trace a gigantic rainbow as they drift across the reservoir. From Bamford to Hathersage on October 13 the Bamford Quaker Community will take a meditative walk alongside the river as they pass through.

From Hathersage to Grindleford and then Carver and Curbar on October 14 and 15 it will be primary school children who escort the spheres on their journey.

Chatsworth House will be bathed in colour to celebrate as the spheres pass through the park escorted by youngsters from Pilsley Primary School on October 18.

First Movement clients from the Level Centre at Rowsley and Darley Dale Primary School pupils will be the next teams to bear the responsibility of shepherding, and on October 23 it will be Matlock Canoe Club members who get up close to the lights on their slalom course in the river.

The next day the pulsating spheres will take centre stage as part of the annual illuminations event at Matlock Bath and it will be motorcyclists who escort them through the village.

By October 25 the artwork will have arrived at Cromford and Arkwright’s bell will be involved in the day’s proceedings before the next long journey to Belper’s River Gardens where rowing boats adorned with colourful lights will greet them when the moon is at its fullest on October 28.

They will reach Darley Abbey Mill for Halloween on October 31 and then head into Derby and the Silk Mill where a Samba band will amplify the rhythms of the city and its people on November 1.

The artwork will reach the end of its journey where the Derwent, the Trent and the Trent and Mersey Canal meet on November 4.

As well as the light flow there will also be the creation of the Derwent Chart, a six metre long map of old and new cartography. Based on 18th century maps it has been updated in workshops by communities along the river.

The whole project is being recorded for a permanent display at the Silk Mill in Derby and it is hoped that after their journey the spheres will be gifted to other European industrial heritage sites.

“The aim of the project is to celebrate the valley and the mills, providing a spectacular attraction for residents and visitors while engaging schools and the communities with the river and its history,” said Charles.

Derwent Pulse has been commissioned by the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site and has received funding from Arts Council England as well as the Peak District National Park and the mills.

Go to for more details.