Blog post

Exploring the cultural heritage of the Lower Derwent Valley

John Crossley, Head of Music & Performing Arts at the University of Derby, and Dr Mark Hall, Senior Lecturer in Photography and DerwentWISE heritage Lottery Funded Project Coordinator, discuss the importance of valuing the cultural heritage of the Lower Derwent Valley.

By The Corporate Communications Team - 18 January 2019

So, what is DerwentWISE?

DerwentWISE is more formally known as the Lower Derwent Valley Landscape Partnership. The partnership is made up of 15 local and national organisations who are concerned about the Lower Derwent Valley, and aim to improve and restore the landscape and inspire people about the natural and cultural heritage in the area.

The partnership is hosted by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and began to take shape in 2011/2012, with the Landscape Conservation Action Plan (LCAP) being published in 2013. This formed the basis of the successful funding bid which was awarded £2.5m of Heritage Lottery funding.

Dr Mark Hall explains the creation of DerwentWISE

I became involved early in 2012, following a phone call from the LCAP author Keith Mann to request some photographic assistance from the students on our BA (Hons) Commercial Photography course. I then spent the next 18 months working with the group to develop three of the four projects, which grew into the University becoming increasingly involved in the project and eventually developed into a full partnership with the scheme.

The funds were awarded in 2013, with the scheme beginning officially in the spring of 2014. The four projects, Lost Stories, Maps and Mapping, Lidar Link, and Film and Photography Monitoring, have since become a Research Excellence Framework 2021 (REF 2021) case study for the University.

DerwentWISE underlines the importance of the relationships forged with our local, national and international partners in the USA and Germany in the pursuit of knowledge about the influence of the Derwent Valley's internationally important ancient woodlands, pre-industrial archaeology, diverse geology or species-rich meadows. It is also the site the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site considered the birthplace of the factory system.

The partnership has been seen by the Heritage Lottery Fund as one of the most successful of its type and, under the University's guidance, the legacy will continue to maintain and build on that success.

The show must go on... John Crossley discusses Warp and Weft celebrations

As part of the celebrations for DerwentWISE, I worked tirelessly for 18 months, using my studio as a base to compose the music for the first public performance of 'Warp & Weft' on Saturday 19 January.

I started with around 90 pieces, eventually whittling it down to just 12 For most of that time it's been a gradual, iterative process. Then there have been the school workshops, working with local archivists, writer's groups and so on to get the inspiration and the texts that we're using in the music.

I've really enjoyed the whole process, but where it always gets really exciting for me is when I get to hear the other musicians playing my pieces. And what amazing players they all are - it's quite humbling to witness what happens when really great players take your work and turn out music!

I've done this sort of thing before, of course, but what takes this project to a whole other level is the inclusion of the Derwent Brass Band. The band really are top notch and together they make such a wonderful sound. Their arranger and conductor have taken my brass ideas and made them really work.

To top everything off, two brilliant and enthusiastic young actors from the Derby Youth Theatre have agreed to narrate and deliver the text over the music, making it a well-rounded event. There is nothing more moving than a brass band playing those rich orchestral timbres, accompanied by a wonderfully talented theatre group.

For further information contact the Corporate Communications team at or call 01332 593953.

About the author

The Corporate Communications Team
University Press and PR

The Corporate Communications Team manage the University's Press and PR, putting forward academics, support staff and student representatives for 'expert comment' on different topics to local and national broadcast media. The team is highly experienced in communications and journalism - locally, regionally and nationally - as well as in-house and agency public relations.