An Afternoon at Strutt House
19th May 2019
As part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Great Places Scheme I wrote three new songs in response to the Strutt’s North Mill Museum for the Belper Arts Festival afternoon showcase at Strutt House.
The song ‘1873’ is about the decline of the nail industry in Belper and how the Nailers were affected by the Industrial revolution. I wrote this after looking at the ‘Laws and Regulations passed at a general meeting of the Horse Nail Makers, held at Belper, May 17th 1873’
A Bold Young Nailer
‘A Bold Young Nailer’ is an unaccompanied folk song based on the traditional song ‘Died for Love’. I wrote this in response to seeing few stories about women’s experiences and I wanted a woman’s voice in my set. The lyrics are a story based on how I imagined a woman may have been impacted by the decline of the home-based ‘nailing trade. Some of the ideas were based on newspaper stories found in the North Mill Museum.
‘Jedediah Strutt’ is a song about Jedediah Strutt. He has a reputation locally of being a kind a philanthropic man who contributed to many of the local public buildings. I went to see his portrait, by Arkwright, in the Derby museum and he looked much more troubled and thoughtful than the other wealthy men of the time. I wanted to write a song which looked at both his kindness and the darker side of making money out of child labour. My original inspiration for the song was a list of ‘forfeits’ given to workers at Strutt’s Mill Belper between 1805 and 1813. The ‘bad behaviour’ struck me as things which children would do who were being asked to undertake monotonous jobs for long hours. I wrote the second half of the song based on skipping songs. The first half of the song is more solemn and formal and based on music by Matteo Carcassi, and contrasts with the street tune of the skipping song. I also added a spoken part in the middle which is part of the speech which Jedediah Strutt wrote for his own funeral. I used the repetition of ‘Jedediah Strutt’ at the start of the song to relate to the repetition of the mill machinery and also to sound slightly sinister.
Other artists who performed on the day were Umbilica and Grawl!x, Seiko Kinoshita, Toni Buckby, Spindrift, Debjani Chatterjee and Charu Asthana.
This event was funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund & Arts Council England.
An article about the event can be found here: https://nailed.community/2019/05/20/review-afternoon-delight-at-strutt-house/