Working Lives Of Derbyshire Folk At Silk Mill, Derby

By Chris Breese | 18 March 2005
shows a man holding a small child - they are stood outside a stone cottage

Steve Spencer, Wirksworth father. © Kate Bellis.

An intimate look into the lives of Derbyshire’s rural working families is being provided by a unique photography exhibition that runs until April 10 2005 at The Silk Mill, Derby.

‘This Place’, by documentary photographer Kate Bellis, is a series of 40 gritty black and white images recording mining, quarrying and farming families as they struggle to adapt to a time of decline in their industries.

To produce the project Kate spent the last four years befriending and shadowing members of her local community in the Wirksworth area of Derbyshire as they went about their working lives.

shows a framed photograph on a gallery wall of a child knelt on the ground in front of a floral well dressing that says 'Bolehill Chapel'

Photo © 24 Hour Museum/Chris Breese courtesy Derby Industrial Museum/the artist.

Speaking to 24 Hour Museum Kate explained: “Derbyshire is a very special county and I wanted to show what a strong community it is and how it’s changing.

“I’m very lucky, there was a commitment to go in and get to know the community and tell their story. I can never repay that kind of openness.”

The Silk Mill, Derby’s Museum of industry and history, was to run ‘This Place’ until April 3 but decided to extend this until April 10 after it proved more popular than anticipated.

shows a detail of a photograph of a man in a flat cap in a cottage interior

The exhibition includes a photographic portrait of the life of rural farmer Peter Melbourne. Photo © Chris Breese/24 Hour Museum.

The exhibition records compelling stories such as that of Moor Cottage Farm, run for forty years by farmer Peter Melbourne. He decided to sell up and move on during the project and his story, from working on the farm to final auctions of furniture and equipment, is captured in vivid detail.

Peter’s story is accompanied by his own spoken narrative, in which he says: “It’s time to let the old place go, it’s falling down around me… I’ve been working here since I left school. I hope whoever gets it will have young ‘uns here, the old place needs new life.”

Kate, originally from Devon, moved to Bolehill in Derbyshire four years ago. The 35-year-old has previously completed projects on the effects of the BSE and foot and mouth crises on farming communities.

shows a photograph of a framed photo of a man using a drill in a quarry.

Work at Dene Quarry, Cromford (detail). © Chris Breese/24 Hour Museum, courtesy the artist.

Life as a quarryman is also captured in the form of Nick Taylor, a shot firer at Dene Quarry, Cromford. After completing the project Kate asked him to join her in giving an open talk about the exhibition and this will be held at the Silk Mill on Thursday March March 24 at 7.15pm, admission free.

The Silk Mill, Derby’s Museum of Industry and History, is on Silk Mill Lane, off Full Street, Derby. ‘This Place’ runs until April 10, free admission.

Chris Breese is the 24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Writer in the East Midlands region. Renaissance is the groundbreaking initiative to transform England's regional museums, led by MLA, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

Shows the Renaissance in the Regions logo.
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