AHRC Connected Communities Festival Event 20 June 2015: Global Cotton Connections: creative reflections – Part II

The wider activities of the Global Cotton Connections Festival day

Hosting the film and poetry events was just one part of the Global Cotton Connections Festival day.The wider groups from Nottingham and Sheffield, including family groups and children, made a day trip to the Derwent Valley, where activities available to them included attending the film and poetry performances, guided walks around Cromford and Belper North mills and exploring the wider context of the mill sites at Cromford and Belper. People were recruited  using the wider contacts of Bright Ideas Nottingham and the Slave Trade Legacies group and the Sheffield Hindu Samaj. Everyone set off early on coaches for the day long visit the Derwent Valley mills.

Cromford Mill, Derbyshire

Cromford Mill, Derbyshire

All of the Nottingham and Sheffield participants spent the morning at Cromford where they had the opportunity to attend one of the film and poetry performances and take a free guided tour of Cromford Mills provided by a volunteer guide from the Arkwright Society.

Cromford is the site of the world’s first successful water-powered spinning mill and a main centre of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

2267 Cromford Mill guided tour

Sheffield and Nottingham visitors on a Cromford Tour hosted by an Arkwright Society guide. Photograph provided by Debjani Chaterjee.

Around 35 members of the groups from Sheffield and Nottingham went on guided tours of Cromford Mills provided by The Arkwright Society guides.

There was also a chance to look at the wider context of Cromford Mills and several people visited Cromford Church and looked at the Arkwright family mansion, Willersley Castle.

A free lunch was provided at Cromford then most of the group took a short coach journey to Belper further down the Derwent Valley and another key site of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

2279 Guided tour at Belper

On tour at Belper North Mill. Photograph provided by Debjani Chatterjee

In the afternoon at Belper, the groups had extended free tours of Belper North Mill Museum, led by volunteers from the Belper North Mill Trust. North Mill was one of a number of mills developed by the Strutt family, leading cotton entrepreneurs in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

2290 Romina & Brian in North Mill, Belper

Photograph provided by Debjani Chatterjee

The visit gave the group the chance to look at cotton machinery, gain information about cotton histories and the role of Strutt family as well as to view the North Mill building.

2283 Romina Janet Brian chat with Belper staff

Photograph provided by Debjani Chatterjee

The tour guides were happy to answer questions from the group as well as to take people around the mill.

Long Row, Belper

Long Row, Belper

The tours continued outside with visits to the workers’ housing provided by the Strutt family. Many even had the chance to see inside one of the cottages, the home of one of the excellent guides

2292 Group at North Mill, Belper

Some of the group from Sheffield after their visit to Belper. Photograph provided by Debjani Chatterjee.

2299 Return journey from Belper

Sheffield group on coach journey home. Photography provided by Debjani Chatterjee.

The Sheffield Hindu Samaj group returned safely to Sheffield after a good day in the Derwent Valley, laden with copies of their new poetry collection.

2301 Tired & happy at journeys endFront cover Poetry Collection

kemetFM_LogoBright Ideas Nottingham, who facilitated involvement of the wider Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group in the day, also commissioned Christine Belle, radio presenter on 97.5 kemet fm, to make a programme of the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group’s experiences. Using sound recordings made on the day she hosted a special programme to share the group’s experiences with the wider community. This reflection on the whole day can be found on:

https://slavetradelegacies.wordpress.com/projects/global-cotton-connections/606-2/

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AHRC Connected Communities Festival Event 20 June 2015: Global Cotton Connections: creative reflections – Part I

The setting

The Arts and Humanities Research Council Connected Communities Festival fortnight provided an excellent opportunity to bring the work of the Global Cotton Connections project, particularly that undertaken by its associated community groups, to the historic mill venue of Cromford Mills, Derbyshire, part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. So on Saturday 20th June 2015, the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group, facilitated by Bright Ideas Nottingham, and the Sheffield Hindu Samaj heritage group came to Cromford to share and celebrate key creative outputs arising from their involvement in the Global Cotton Connections project.

Poster ppt

The events were publicised at Cromford and Belper Mills and virtually by a number of organisations, including the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, The Arkwright Society and Derbyshire Record Office, as well as the Global Cotton Connections project itself and its associated community groups.

The day involved the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies and Sheffield Hindu Samaj heritage groups, together with the Global Cotton Connections project, hosting three events open to the public at Richard Arkwright’s Cromford Mills. Each session lasted just under an hour and started at 10am, 12noon and 2pm.

The day involved the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies and Sheffield Hindu Samaj heritage groups, together with the Global Cotton Connections project, hosting three events open to the public at Richard Arkwright’s Cromford Mills. Each session lasted just under an hour and started at 10am, 12noon and 2pm.

Entrance to Exhibition room with banner 2

The new Global Cotton Connections project banner outside the Exhibition room at Cromford

The venue was the Exhibition room at Cromford Mills, kindly made available to us by The Arkwright Society. This room also hosts displays relating to the history of Cromford Mills and is the starting point of Mill tours. A banner highlighting the overall work of the Global Cotton Connections project was prepared especially for the day and placed at the Exhibition room entrance.

This banner is now available for use by all those involved in the project. Please contact Susanne Seymour if you want to borrow it.

A wider group of people from the local cities of Nottingham and Sheffield and associated with the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies and Sheffield Hindu Samaj heritage groups also signed up for a whole day trip to attend the events and undertake further activities at Cromford Mills and Belper North Mill Trust museum. These included free guided tours of Cromford Mills and the Belper North Mill Trust Museum. The people of Sheffield and Nottingham came to the Derwent Valley for the day!

The film and poetry events and the Global Cotton Connections project

Each of the advertised events, lasting just under an hour, included a brief introduction to the Global Cotton Connections project, a showing and discussion of the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group film and poetry readings from the Sheffield Hindu Samaj heritage group.

Susanne Seymour (University of Nottingham), lead coordinator of the Global Cotton Connections project, welcomed the audience and gave a short introduction to the project activities and to the forthcoming presentations by the community-based groups.

Historical research banner vertical

Poster showing historical connections of Strutt family’s cotton business with slavery

In her introduction to the project she highlighted various items in the room available for the public to browse throughout the day or to take away with them. Alongside the new project banner and the poster prepared by the Sheffield Hindu Samaj group on their research on the British Raj in the Peak District and cotton, she drew attention to a poster outlining the project’s historical work on the slavery connections of Strutt family of Belper. An earlier version of this poster was presented at an international conference on The Business of Slavery organised by the University of Nottingham’s Institute for the Study of Slavery in September 2014.

Film Show: Global Cotton Connections: Unravelling the Threads of Slavery

The Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group and Bright Ideas Nottingham hosted a showing of their short film, Global Cotton Connections: Unravelling the Threads of Slavery, produced as part of the Global Cotton Connections project.

Film showing - Veronica Barnes

Audience watching one of the film showings, with Slave Trade Legacies group member Veronica Barnes on film

This thought-provoking film reflects on the learning journey of the group as they came to know more about cotton histories and the connections to the slave trade and their experiences of how such histories are presented  in the Derwent Valley mills. The film focuses centrally on the perspectives and experiences of the Slave Trade Legacies group members, particularly in terms of their encounters with cotton mill heritage venues in the Derwent Valley.

Film showing - Mark Suggitt

Mark Suggitt speaking on the film

Film showing - led by Clive Henry

Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group member, Clive Henry, introducing the film, with Lisa Robinson from Bright Ideas Nottingham

It also includes historical perspectives on slavery and the Strutt family’s cotton supplies and interviews with Mark Suggitt, Director of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, and Dr Susanne Seymour (University of Nottingham) as lead coordinator of the Global Cotton Connections project.

Different members of the Slave Trade Legacies group introduced the film, reflecting on their experiences of making it.

There was also time for some questions from the audience.

Earlier versions of the film had been shown in Nottingham in March and April 2015, but the Festival premiered the final edited version.

A free copy of the final film, can be accessed directly on Youtube:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2QmVmXqP6g

We all hope it will be shown more widely in cotton mill heritage venues in the Derwent Valley and further afield.

Poetry reading: British Raj in the Peak District: Threads of Connection

As their contribution to the events the Sheffield Hindu Samaj heritage group hosted poetry readings from their new collection, British Raj in the Peak District: Threads of Connection, which was launched at the Connected Communities Festival on 20 June.

Front cover Poetry Collection

The volume includes 26 poems written by 15 different contributors and reflects on the group’s activities in their Heritage Lottery Funded project, British Raj in the Peak District, as well as the Global Cotton Connections project.

The editor of the collection, Debjani Chatterjee, introduced the poetry readings and various members of the Sheffield Hindu Samaj group read their own contributions. Many of the poems had been prepared during a series of poetry writing workshops in summer 2014 led by Debjani and funded by the Global Cotton Connections project.

2261 Debjani reading her poem

Sheffield Hindu Samaj member, Debjani Chatterjee, reading her poem, Masson Mill, one of three contributions she made to the collection. Photograph supplied by Debjani Chatterjee

2265 Dr Marium Nesha reading

Dr Marium Nesha, another member of the Sheffield Hindu Samaj, reading to the audience her poem, Derbyshire Path. Photograph supplied by Debjani Chatterjee

2260 Geoff Roberts reading

Geoff Roberts, also from the Sheffield Hindu Samaj, reading his contribution to the collection, aptly titled, Arkwright. Photograph supplied by Debjani Chatterjee

2274 Esme reading

Dr Esme Cleall, the Global Cotton Connections coordinator from the University of Sheffield, reading her poem included in the collection, also entitled, Arkwright. Photograph supplied by Debjani Chatterjee

Debjani answering audience questions

The group also fielded questions from the audience, each of whom received a free copy of the poetry collection.

2268 Hindu Samaj poster at Cromford Mill rotate

Photography supplied by Debjani Chatterjee

In her introduction to the poetry readings Debjani Chatterjee also outlined the wider activities of the Sheffield Hindu Samaj heritage group, undertaken as part of their HLF project and the Global Cotton Connections collaboration. Key highlights of these have been made into a poster specially prepared for the Festival event. A framed copy of the poster has also been made for permanent display in the Sheffield Hindu Samaj premises in Sheffield so all members can see and celebrate their research.

Audiences

2255 Audience at Cromford

Photograph provided by Debjani Chatterjee

Audiences were buoyant at all three performances and included about 25 people of mainly Hindu and Indian heritage background and around 30 of mainly African Caribbean heritage brought to the events from Sheffield and Nottingham respectively. In addition around 25 members of the general public, including some of the volunteer guides based at Cromford and Belper mills, attended the events.

Celebrating the cotton heritage legacy materials of collaborating community groups

The Global Cotton Connections project is delighted to celebrate the production of key cotton heritage legacy materials by its community based collaborators, the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group, facilitated by Bright Ideas Nottingham, and the Sheffield Hindu Samaj heritage group.

The Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies group, made up of Nottingham people of mainly African Caribbean heritage backgrounds, has produced a short film, entitled Global Cotton Connections – Untangling the Threads of Slavery. In this thought-provoking film members of the group reflect on their learning journey as they came to know more about cotton histories and the entanglements with slavery and, through their visits to Derbyshire, how these stories were told in the Derwent Valley mills.
STL film graphicA free copy of the film, can be accessed directly on Youtube:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2QmVmXqP6g

The film can also be found alongside a second film made by the group as part of its Heritage Lottery funded project, ‘The Colour of Money’, on the Slave Trade Legacies blog: https://slavetradelegacies.wordpress.com/time-line-our-year-the-colour-of-money/

Earlier versions of the film were shown in March 2015 at the Slave Trade Legacies, Colour of Money, celebration event at the Broadway Cinema, organised by Bright Ideas Nottingham, and at the Global Cotton Connections International Cotton Workshop held in Nottingham in April 2015. The final version was screened at the AHRC Connected Communities Festival events hosted by the Global Cotton Connections project and Slave Trade Legacies group at Cromford Mills, Derbyshire on Saturday 20th June 2015. We hope the film will be shown more widely in the future in mill heritage venues in the Derwent Valley.

The Sheffield Hindu Samaj cultural group is a Hindu faith group made up of Sheffield people of mainly Indian heritage backgrounds. Drawing on both its involvement in the Global Cotton Connections project and its previous Heritage Lottery Fund project, entitled ‘British Raj in the Peak District’, it has produced two key cotton heritage legacy outputs. The first is a rich collection of poetry, entitled British Raj in the Peak District: Threads of Connection, edited by a member of the group, Debjani Chatterjee.

Front cover Poetry CollectionThe poems in the volume are written by members of the group, many of whom attended writing workshops in the summer of 2014, run by Debjani and funded by the Global Cotton Connections project. The collection was launched at the AHRC Connected Communities Festival events hosted by the Global Cotton Connections project and the Sheffield Hindu Samaj heritage group at Cromford Mills Derbyshire on Saturday 20th June 2015. Free copies were distributed to audience members at the poetry reading events. Further copies are available while stocks last at Cromford Mills and Belper North Mill Trust Museum or from the Sheffield Hindu Samaj.

Hindu Samaj leaflet view 1

The second is a leaflet of three Indian Heritage Walks in the Peak District, one of which is a cotton route focused on Calver, Cromford and Belper mills. The leaflet design and script was led by Chamu Kuppuswamy, a volunteer ranger with the Peak District National Park as well as Hindu Samaj member, with production input from the Peak District National Park design team. Free copies of the leaflets are available in a range of Peak District and Derbyshire venues, including Cromford and Belper Mills, while stocks last.

Funding for the production of the above heritage legacies materials has been provided through the Global Cotton Connections project. Thanks to all the volunteers who gave so generously of their time, effort and skills to make these outputs possible.

Free public lecture, 31/10/14

Slave Trade Legacies: The Global Cotton Connections of the Derwent Valley Mills

On Friday 31st October 2014 Susanne Seymour will be giving a free public lecture as part of the University of Nottingham’s Black History Month programme. For further information see Susanne’s blog post on the talk and link to the University of Nottingham event listing for the talk.

Date:           5.15pm, Friday 31 October
Location:    Senate Chamber, Trent Building, University Park
Contact:     Register by emailing Claire Henson

Please note that the email address to sign up should be: claire.henson@nottingham.ac.uk

BlackHistoryMonth_SSTalk

 

Peak District site visits #1

Over the summer the project team was busy organising and leading site visits into the Derbyshire Peak District for community volunteers interested in learning more about the global connections of the Derwent Valley’s textile industry, including its slavery legacies. Our first trip took us to Calver, Cromford and Belper, our second to Masson Mills, and then back to Cromford.

Calver Mill

On Saturday 31st May we set out on our first journey into the Peak District. First stop: Calver. Here, Chamu Kippuswarmy (of the Hindu Samaj, Sheffield) and Tom Lewis, a Peak District Park Ranger, took us on a walk from New Bridge to the site of Calver Mill. While the Mill itself has been converted into private apartments, traces of the landscape’s industrial past were still clear to see – and their relationship with the natural habitat of the area today was the subject of Tom’s discussion of the site. Pointing out particular plants growing along the riverbank, Tom’s knowledge of the local flora helped get volunteers chatting and reminiscing about plants and landscapes of India and of the Caribbean.

Calver_Tom

In terms of historic global cotton connections, research at Derbyshire Record Office, Matlock, for the Hindu Samaj group’s Heritage Lottery Fund project has uncovered some of Calver Mill’s links both to India and America. Between 1868 and 1877, Calver Mill received supplies of cotton from various cotton growing regions in India, as well as from Orleans in America. Issues of quality, price and availability of raw cotton were important as Indian and American producers competed to supply cotton to the growing market in England.

Cromford Mill

Our next stop was Cromford Mill for lunch and a quick tour of the site, with those who’d been before visiting some of the housing built for mill workers in the village. This stop also gave us the opportunity to hear from Michael Ledger, the Arkwright Society’s Education Officer. Michael outlined some exciting opportunities to work together and to incorporate some of the project’s findings into the heritage provision at Cromford Mill. Although much of this seemed positive, understandably some volunteers from the Slave Trade Legacies group were angered by the current lack of information on cotton and its connections to slavery at Cromford Mill – volunteer guides tend to tell visitors that cotton came on pack horse from Liverpool, but no more. This was compounded by the suggestion that to date the Society had not addressed the issue of slavery connections, as it has no historic records establishing exactly where the Mill sourced its cotton. The general feeling was that this was a cop out – that common sense indicates that a mill working at this time would have had to source cotton from plantations using enslaved labour. Many volunteers voiced their hope that the findings from our project would help the Society address these issues.

Belper Mill

122_0283Our final stop for the day was Belper Mill, where we split into three groups for a guided tour of the museum. After the disappointment at Cromford Mill, many of the volunteers were very pleased to see exhibits indicating that raw cotton was sourced from India and the Americas, as well as acknowledging the industry’s connection to the slave trade. A number of volunteers took photographs of themselves with specific exhibits (such as the one pictured above) to record the fact that they’d finally found some acknowledgement of global cotton connections, including with slavery. The community group I accompanied kept up a lively discussion throughout the tour, and our museum guide (also a volunteer, it should be noted) did an excellent job answering often challenging questions.

For more on this first site visit, please see the two community blogs:

Back to blogging #2 – events

Launch of the Slave Trade Legacies projects

Launch image

Launch of Slave Trade Legacies projects

Community events kicked off in style on 12th May 2014 with the launch of the two Nottingham-based Slave Trade Legacies projects on (i) Global Cotton Connections and (ii) the Colour of Money. Bright Ideas had done such a fantastic job of marketing the event that our room at Nottingham Contemporary was packed and buzzing with anticipation. The programme for the day was as packed as the room, with guest speakers including:

  • Patrick Vernon OBE Genealogist / Associate Fellow, Every Generation Media / University of Warwick
  • Dr Shawn Sobers Senior Lecturer in Photography, University of the West of England
  • Dr Martin Glynn Criminologist and Public Health Researcher, University of Wolverhampton
  • James Dawkins PhD Student, University College London

Alongside talks about slavery, its histories and legacies, Susanne and I introduced the Global Cotton Connections project, in the hope that some of those attending the launch would want to get involved. It was the first time either of us had been introduced to music!

Despite the upbeat mood created by the Bright Ideas team who were running the event, the topic of slavery is one that is inherently challenging. Discussions between speakers and participants raised a number of difficult questions. A key issue here was whether slavery legacies are too painful to discuss. Questions of relevance and the motives of academics working on these topics were also raised – why do academics get involved in this kind of work? Should limited resources be spent on projects concerned with histories and heritage?

Although discussions were at times challenging, the day proved a success, with participants taking to twitter to talk about it:

 

Connecting community groups – Hindu Samaj Sheffield event

SheffieldWorkshop

Later that week, on Friday 16th May, Susanne attended the Global Cotton Connection’s first community event in Sheffield organised by Esme Cleall (University of Sheffield) and Chamu Kuppaswamy, who has taken a leading role in the Hindu Samaj Heritage projects. As well as presenting on the research we’d been doing on the Strutt archives at Derbyshire Record Office, Susanne gave an account of the Slave Trade Legacies launch event and outlined how we hoped to bring together the different groups from Sheffield and Nottingham through a series of events, including trips to the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. An account of this workshop by Chamu can be found on the Hindu Samaj Heritage blog, along with a summary of the first joint community trip to the Peak District – more on this to follow in a later blog post.

 

Spreading the word – Kemet FM & BBC Radio Nottingham

KemetfmAs part of Bright Ideas’ marketing of the Slave Trade Legacies launch event, Susanne and a number of the guest speakers were invited to join Kevin Brown at the studios of 97.5 Kemet FM for his Talk Back show on 11th May. As Nottingham’s first Official Urban Radio Station, Kemet FM serves the needs of the African and Caribbean communities of Nottingham and surrounding areas.

kemetFM_Logo

Slave trade legacies logoBright Ideas logo

 

 

Later that same week Susanne and Danielle Woods from Bright Ideas were invited onto Reya El-Salahi’s Sunday evening show on BBC Nottingham to discuss the Slave Trade Legacies projects further. A clip from this interview can be heard here:

 

Back to blogging #1 – connecting, collaborating, contributing

Apologies for the break in posts – we’ve had a busy few months of archival research, stakeholder meetings and community events. Having just got back from holiday, which meant a break from work email and our project’s Twitter feed, I wanted to take the opportunity to get back to blogging with an account of some of our recent activities. More to follow soon.

Connecting with other organisations

Collaboration is central to our project, and shortly after our last blog post, Susanne and I made two important new connections – with the Arkwright Society, who own and manage Cromford Mill, and with a thriving community-based business in Nottingham called Bright Ideas.

Arkwright Society – working with heritage stakeholders

Our first meeting at the Arkwright Society was very positive. On Friday 4th April we met with Michael Ledger, the Society’s Education Officer, who received our project and its aims for community-based collaboration with great enthusiasm. Most importantly the meeting opened up an opportunity to engage with the current development of the Cromford Mill site, which in part aims to increase the heritage provision for the whole Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site through the creation of a ‘Gateway’ visitor centre at Cromford Cromford Mill - interpretation boardMill. Although at this initial stage it sounded as though we wouldn’t be able to contribute to the permanent displays in the centre itself, other opportunities to help shape the interpretation of the site were welcomed. Options we discussed that would enable visitors to explore the global connections of the cotton industry, including its colonial and slavery histories and legacies, included: creating a new guided walk; producing a set of temporary exhibition panels and leaflets; developing an object handling/memory box; contributing to the site’s on-line blog.

This was a great start, but we weren’t naïve enough to think it would be plain sailing from herein out. Bringing a new set of interpretive perspectives, a new set of voices, to a site that is typically heralded for its role in Britain’s so-called ‘industrial revolution’ was never going to be easy. How to challenge a Whiggish history of ‘great men’ such as Arkwright? How to widen the horizons from a view centred on the Derwent Valley to its position in the truly global network of the cotton industry? Importantly, Susanne has been involved in thinking through some of these questions through her participation in the series of Derwent Valley Mills Research Framework meetings that took place March-May 2014. Funded by English Heritage as part of its programme of regional research frameworks, it aims to provide a Research Agenda and Strategy for the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site and its wider Buffer Zone.

Connecting with communities – Hindu Samaj Sheffield & Slave Trade Legacies volunteers

Key to our plan for shaping interpretation at Cromford and the wider World Heritage Site are the local communities and community groups in Nottingham and Sheffield.

Hindu Samaj logoOur Co-I Esme Cleall had previously worked with the Hindu Samaj on a Heritage Lottery Funded project called ‘British Raj in the Peak District: Discovering, Recovering and Sharing Colonial History’. This collaborative partnership was extended to the Global Cotton Connections project to enable the participation of members of Sheffield’s Indian community in exploring aspects of colonial history that link the physical and cultural heritage of the Peak District and Sheffield to their Indian heritage.

Our hopes to connect with members of the Black British communities of Nottingham through our project so as to explore some of the slavery legacies of the cotton industry were boosted when Helen Bates, a freelance community historian working with us, introduced us to Lisa Robinson, Director of Bright Ideas.Bright Ideas logo Offering a wealth of experience in community engagement in Nottingham, especially with those of African-Caribbean heritage, Bright Ideas has been an invaluable partner for the project,  even though managing the expectations and needs of a University research project alongside those of a community business has not always been straightforward.

As part of the partnership with Bright Ideas, the Global Cotton Connections project teamed up with a Heritage Lottery Funded project that is also concerned with slave trade legacies and the ‘hidden histories’ of so much of Britain’s heritage landscape. Focusing on the heritage of the Black British Caribbean community, the Colour of Money project enables volunteers from this community to investigate how the lives of their ancestors were affected by the transatlantic slave trade, as well as considering how their enslaved ancestors contributed to the building of modern Britain.

Slave trade legacies logos

You can read more about the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies project activities through two blogs and a Facebook page: