A new group in Staveley is looking at the town’s amazing past to create a new future for the troubled area.
The project, a ‘social enterprise’ called Community Growth, aims to use the area’s rich industrial heritage to generate tourism, culture, and regeneration which will benefit the whole community.
It is the brainchild of two local women - Natalie Peace and Donna Booth - who have invested £20,000 into the project and hope its success will help challenge the negative stereotypes that have plagued the area for many years.
Natalie said: “Staveley is at the heart of Britain’s industrial story - there’s the canal, the only working roundhouse in the country in Barrow Hill and then there is Chesterfield’s connection with Stephenson as well.
“We want to create opportunities out of that and change the way the area is seen and the way it sees itself.”
“The plan is to create an industrial trail which draws together all the different sites in the area and have children from local schools tell the story of those sites to others.
The pair say in the long-term they want to make the area the ‘go to’ place for people to learn about the industrial revolution.
And by developing arts and culture around that history they hope to change the perception of the area from a land of deprivation into a land of opportunity.
“At first glance, a lot of people wouldn’t say this is a place you would want to visit,” says Donna.
“We have all grown up with negative perceptions and stereotypes about the area - when I was growing up I couldn’t understand why my parents decided to bring me up here.
“But when you start to learn about the area, you begin to appreciate it more - there are so many talented people here doing interesting things.”
For the last year, the pair have been working with a newly created ‘cultural education partnership’ to get their plan off the ground.
The first fruits of their labours have come in the form of a new ‘outdoor classroom’ for Barrow Hill Primary School which has been leased to them on a long term basis by local company Fitzwise.
In addition to their own money, funding from their project has come from a wide variety of sources.
They have just received their first grant of almost £10,000 from Awards for All and have recently secured a further £55,000 from the Mighty Creatives, a part of the Arts Council.
“The long-term vision is to link to other sites of interest around Chesterfield and Derbyshire.” says Donna.
“You look at what is going on at Markham Vale and you also have some of the best engineering companies in the country - we want to include those places in our project to bring the story of the area into the present day - the industrial revolution isn’t over it has just changed.”
Natalie and Donna have known each other since they were students at Springwell and Netherthorpe schools.
They first worked together on an education project at Creswell Crags in 2005.
Ten years ago they set up a conventional limited company called Growth Activities which had great success and then three years ago started a project called ‘Surviving Staveley’.
“We decided that we wanted to do something for our own community,” says Natalie.
“This was a project which sought to engage young people in the area who weren’t involved in any cultural activities - kids who are the hardest to reach.
“Out of that came the idea of setting up a community interest company on a not for profit basis.”
As a result of their hard work, all the schools in the Cavendish Learning Trust in Staveley and Brimington are now involved.
And, according to their partners in the local schools, their project is already working.
“Mr Senior at Netherthorpe School tells us that is because the kids we are working with see us as part of their extended family,” says Donna.
“We are inspired by the kids we have been working with from Barrow Hill Primary who say that they should ‘dream big’ and be ‘proud of Barrow Hill’.”
But its not just schools that they are courting, they want to get as many people from the local community doing things as possible.
“We just want to get people involved really,” explains Natalie.
“If you have any kind of passion or interest or hobby that you’d like to share then get in touch.”
If you are interested in playing your part email Natalie and Donna at email@example.com.