On 18th December 2014 we gathered together an interdisciplinary group to launch Future Works and to start to uncover accounts of the relationship between energy, industry and landscape in the English Midlands and Derwent Valley. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing a number of blogs posts that document this rich and varied day, starting here with a short overview of who came, and what we did together… The day kicked off with Dr Joe Smith from the Open University, who set the scene, “The Climate Change Act 2008 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom. It was the spur for the Stories of Change project. This extraordinary piece of legislation ensures cross-party commitments to make provisions for reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.”
And so, we begin… Tony Butler and Hannah Fox of Museums Derby, our hosts for this Stories of Change event welcomed us to the Derby Silk Mill site of the world’s first factory, in a region that has good claim to being the hearth of industrial manufacturing. Our guests included those involved in factories and manufacturing in the region, whether as employers, employees, volunteers, curators, who joined together with creative practitioners including artists, musicians, architects, students, historians, journalists to tell stories and spark off conversations about the future of energy, work and making. With such a fantastically diverse and interesting group of guests, we strove to get everyone as actively involved as possible, inviting performances and presentations from about half of the guests and making sure everyone took part in scenario building about the future of energy and manufacturing in the region.
In the morning we welcomed to the stage Masters in Architectural Design and Masters in Architecture (MArch) Students from the University of Sheffield who have been working in collaboration with the research project as part of Post Graduate Design Studio ‘Future Works’. Over the next 6 months they will be carrying out research and design work around the themes of energy and making in the region working closely with our partners at factories in the region.
The 24 students told us about their research and interests so far, including factory visits, mapping work and less conventional architectural methodologies, such as spelunking! (More to follow) Keeping the fast pace of the morning, guests were invited to join 8 tables, each with a unique map developed by Studio Future Works working with distinct themes: WATER, POLITICS, TRADE, TRANSPORT & COMMUNICATIONS, GEOLOGY, CLIMATE, WASTE, POWER. Participants were then asked to take turns adding their knowledge to the map to develop a future scenario that could be a story about the future of energy and manufacturing. For each table Curator Daniel Martin placed an object from the Silk Mill’s collection that was also to have a voice in the scenarios.
After a lunch of ‘posh pyclets’ assembled by the energies (head, heart and hand) of Future Works Studio and sourced from Derby Pyclets, we gathered together to tell our scenarios of the future. A scenario ‘FLOW’, told of the Future Liberation of Waste, another ‘Exhausted’ proposed a future without cars, and others still considered political change, benign dictatorships and gave forth impassioned rally cries to ‘rage against the machines’ and ‘take the power back!’ These funny and thoughtful group presentations said much about the dynamics and peer learning in these interdisciplinary and diverse groups. A challenging but rewarding process!
Throughout the day photographer Tim Mitchell invited guests to enter his photo booth and be photographed with a thought bubble that engaged with the question: what question would you like to ask about the future of energy, to any person or institution, past, present or future? The thought provoking portraits and questions were streamed in the main hall as we munched on our lunch and chatted over cups of tea and tarts from the local bakery.
The Silk Mill opens for the public from 3pm and we invited visitors to join us to watch a series of performances, talks and short films. We first welcomed Dr Kate Fletcher Professor of Sustainability, Design, Fashion at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, who proposed that clothes should be thought of in terms of ‘usership’ rather than ownership, and beautifully illustrated this with the photos of a whole family competitively sharing a favourite dress and family events throughout the years.
Intelligent Life journalist Robert Butler talked engagingly about energy production and visibility, evoking powerful images, which will follow in a subsequent post; “As the miners went underground, so to did the visibility of their process, skills, tools and the men themselves…”
The fast pace of the day continued with a presentation from Charlotte Ely and Fran Kirk, both Architecture Students who were part of One Great Workshop a Live Project based at Portland Works Sheffield. They showed their short film about designing with tenants to think about questions of energy and manufacturing both at this Grade II* cutlery factory, and other similar places within the city. Their info-graphics considering questions such as what happens when you turn on a light bulb at Portland Works, or what would happen if ‘Russia turned off the tap’ were exhibited at the Silk Mill, draped down columns and informing conversations.
Award winning animator Bexie Bush introduced two of her short films ‘Have you ever heard a postman whistle?’ and ‘Mend and Make Do’, and told us about the craft of their making to a rapt audience. The beautiful stop motion animations brought together verbatim dialogue with lively everyday objects such as chairs, bicycles and clothes to explore notions of a good life.
Future Works blogger and landscape historian Dr Nicola Whyte told us of the ‘History of Energy in 8 Objects’, which explored how to tell the story of energy in ways that might help us envisage a low carbon future. Bringing together varied objects found at the V&A and National Archives, she evoked the changing relations between energy and people. 14th Century maps and etchings revealed there would be one mill for every 400-600 people at the time, embroideries from the 17th Century showed the central importance of the waterwheel, and an 18th Century ballad, revealed the mills as both central to everyday life and vibrant social spaces, suitable for assignations!
Following on seamlessly, award winning Derby folk singer, Lucy Ward regaled us with wit and song (and witty songs), her warm and beautiful voice demonstrating the great acoustics of the main hall at the Silk Mill. The energy in the room was palpable; Future Works was well and truly launched!