River Derwent to be lit up in Derbyshire’s longest artwork

Illuminated lights on River Derwent
Illuminated lights on River Derwent
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Hundreds of lights will float down a 66-mile waterway in Derbyshire’s longest artwork.

The River Derwent will be lit up this autumn in a spectacle involving villagers and townsfolk along its route.

As the display flows southwards from Bleaklow to Derby, communities will shepherd the lights and share tales and experiences linked to this historic and inspirational river.

Ramblers and walkers will navigate the lights through the mountains, canoe clubs will accompany the lights in water and Level Centre clients will dance with the lights at Rowsley.

The digital spheres which form the Derwent Pulse artwork are controlled by circuit boards. Each light contains a miniature computer, GPS module and transmitter and receiver. This allows the lights to respond to the landscape they pass through while echoing the industrial pulse which originated in the valley.

The lights will illuminate past routes across Derbyshire, identify settlements lost under the Upper Derwent Dams, electrify Chatsworth House and parade through Matlock Bath’s Illuminations.

Artists working with parishes and schools which touch the Derwent will work with teachers, pupils and communities, exploring the river, its environment and history; identifying past sites where the river has supported the economy of the area; suggesting ways that the river can contribute to local lives.

People in the communities will be able to record their views, map the modern Derwent as well as volunteer to help manage the light flow.

The artwork has been commissioned from Charles Monkhouse by Derwent Valley Mill World Heritage Site whose director Mark Suggitt said: “It’s the biggest commission we have attempted and proves how the past can be a source for artistic inspiration.”

Derwent Pulse will run from October 8 to November 5 and is a precursor to next year’s Made in Derbyshire campaign, a celebration of culture and heritage.