Adrian Farmer's Commendation video transcript

Adrian Farmer BEM

STEPHEN SMITH: I now have great pleasure in inviting Dr Chris Bussell, Pro Vice-Chancellor Dean of the College of Life and Natural Sciences, to give the commendation for the conferment of the Honorary Master of the University to Mr Adrian Farmer.

DR CHRIS BUSSELL: Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, honoured guests and graduands, it gives me great pleasure to be presenting today Adrian Farmer for the award of Honorary Master of the University.

Adrian has devoted hundreds of hours of his own time to teaching, writing, leading tours, managing events and campaigns and engaging with authorities to raise the profile of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Sites.

Adrian began his working life as a journalist. Qualifying in Sheffield at the age of 23, he became the editor of the Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser, then six months later, the Belper News. For the centenary edition of the Belper News in 1996, he read the hundred-year back run of all the issues and appreciated for the first time the historic significance of the Belper and Derwent Valley.

Shortly after his writing of his first book on the town and becoming a volunteer guide Strutt’s North Mill Museum, an opportunity arose to join the coordination team of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Sites, which sits within Belper. The site is the birthplace of the factory system and home of historic gems such as Sir Richard Arkwright's Masson Mills, Cromford Mill and the Strutt’s North Mill.

Since 2004, Adrian has worked to protect and promote the World Heritage sites and educate people about its outstanding universal value as part of a coordination team (of which at times he was the only member). Two of his greatest successes at the time - the Discovery Days Festival and the Belper Ambassador Scheme - have brought national recognition. Both schemes, delivered on very tight budgets, have had a lasting legacy. Adrian is also actively involved in a number of local voluntary organizations promoting heritage within the Derwent Valley.

Adrian was appointed a medallist of the Order of the British Empire (the British Empire Medal) in the 2018 New Year's Honours List for services to Belper and volunteering. In 2012 he was highly commended by Visit Britain in their first Tourism Superstar Awards for the services to Belper (specifically the promotional work within the tourism sector). He was part of the delivery team which secured Winner of Winners for Belper in the inaugural Great British High Street Award in 2014 and he supported the 2019 delivery team in this year's finalists. His seventh book 'Belper in wartime - The Great War' was printed in July 2019 and has sold just under five hundred copies. Ladies and Gentlemen, he needs five more to make the five hundred copies!

Adrian's ability to bring together people across a broad spectrum of ages and abilities in the real spirit of community has been key to his achievements. He's a devoted advocate of localism and has made a remarkable difference to people's perceptions of the Valley and most particularly of Belper. He is as proud of Belper as Belper is of him. Chancellor in recognition of his contribution to the significant rise in the profile of the Derwent Valley World Heritage Site and bringing communities together in the region, we are delighted to award Adrian Farmer the honorary degree of Master of the University. Congratulations.

ADRIAN FARMER: Chancellor, Pro Chancellor, Lord Lieutenant, Mayor of High Peak Borough Council, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen and graduands of 2019, thank you. I am deeply honoured to be here today in more ways than one and particularly when we have so many talented people here today. I feel like I'm in incredibly good company, so I'm delighted to have the opportunity to say thank you.

I also wanted to say that the University of Derby is an active and vital member of the World Heritage Site partnership which manages the Derwent Valley Mills. I'm grateful for the support they've given and continue to give in the 16 years I've been coordinator. It is the region's only World Heritage Site. I'm very proud of it. You might have guessed that from what's been said. I sound a bit more obsessive than I thought I was somehow but I'm very lucky to be in a role which has, over the years given me a great deal of satisfaction - sometimes frustration but mainly satisfaction and an opportunity to talk about and promote the Derwent Valley Mills which sit at the heart of the county. And it is no exaggeration they fundamentally shaped the world we live in today; we should be very proud in Derbyshire that we have something like that. I certainly am - again probably more obsessively than I should.

As you've heard it wasn't supposed to turn out like that for me, I trained to be a journalist, I thought I knew what lay ahead for me and then having read six months, read years, a hundred years’ worth of the Belper news in six months, probably the only person on the planet that's done that with a good reason, I suddenly realised that whilst I enjoyed working as a journalist, the history of Belper, its Mills and the wider Derwent Valley was amazing, ground-breaking, exciting, and something I wanted to be a part of.

Now not everyone gets it and I understand that. They should get it and I feel like I've made it my mission to try and help people to get it, but I love helping people see past the dusty old mills to the thousands of stories. I guess this is with my journalism head on I still see them as stories. Centuries of people from industrial pioneers to regular mill workers and so many others, making a difference bringing our heritage to life. I didn't expect it but sometimes that a subject just changes your life comes out of left field. I had no sense in my early twenties when I was the age of many of the graduates that I'd care so passionately about heritage, about mills, about people long gone and the stories they left behind.

So, you don't always know how things are going to work out, run with it and if you find a subject that you love, grab it with both hands. I thought it sounds a little like it works with people as well I guess but I don't grab them with both hands but it is wonderful to have such a strong central core that you know something is important and you want to spread the word and if you find that, it's an incredible thing to have and I'm grateful that I have that.

One of the things I didn't expect was the range of stories, large and small, that I've discovered about the Derwent Valley from the invention of skyscrapers, the apprehension of grave robbers, from the feeding of thousands with unprecedented farming techniques to the kidnapping of elephants by teenage boys - I love that story! There's amazing different tiny but large stories that make up the World Heritage Site and let's not forget there'd be no mills and no valley without the River Derwent itself. It's a carbon-neutral endless supply of power on our doorstep. It's historically important but it could also help us in the future when we're looking for alternative power sources. It is also terrifying as you will have heard in the last 24 hours the Derwent has just swept away so much. It's all there in the Derwent Valley, it's an incredible resource to have in Derbyshire and one I hope I can help the University of Derby to access and embrace in every possible way in the time to come. Thanks again and good luck to you all - thank you.

Adrian Farmer's Commendation video

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