‘Unexamined Lives’ an exhibition of a Heritage Lottery-funded project opens at Erewash Museum on 6th October and will conclude with a Gala Evening of celebration on 29th November. Directed by the former MP for Peterborough, Helen Clark, (herself currently a resident of Borrowash) the project is the work of The Ockbrook and Borrowash Historical and Archaeological Society in patrenrship with Erewash-based Wash Arts. It is a study of the 20th century from the perspective of people who lived, worked or had a connection with the Derbyshire village of Borrowash in the 20th century and provided a unique insight into how the big events of the last 100 years impacted upon people who lived their lives at a far remove from Westminster and Buckingham Palace. Yet the project does not pull its punches; war, peace, the swinging sixties, family break up, alcoholism and drug addiction – even child sexual abuse are all featured as freely mentioned by the people who have been affected by them.

Each Life has been published in full by ‘The Derby Telegraph’ and Mrs Clark is hoping that they will form a book after the exhibition closes. The exhibition however, is a full creative experience, featuring an original film by Julian Hanby, dramatic monologues by local writer, Chrisse Hall, original paintings of village life by lecturer of Fine Art, Directorate of Academic, Digital & Creative Industries, Chesterfield College, Mik Godley and a unique World Ward 1 exhibition by genealogist and historical researcher, Keith Oseman.

Wash Arts CIC based in Ilkeston have been a key partner in the project in working with regional/national artists in bringing another creative aspect to the Unexamined Lives. Directors of Wash Arts CIC Susan Smith and Stella Couloutbanis say “It has been an extraordinary and fascinating journey – seeing these amazing lives unfold, this exhibition demonstrates real life “reality” showing all its hidden secrets and drama of 20 century living in Borrowash. The artists contribution have given a different dynamic to the project taking the written words and bringing it a live with drawings, drama, film and audio.”

Over the course of the exhibition’s run, weekend live workshops will be on offer and during the course of the project, an original play about the entire inhabitants of 17 Princess Drive, written by Chrissie Hall and directed by Julian Hanby, was performed by children at Ashbrook Primary School ‘Unexamined Lives’ has also partnered with The Derbyshire Records Office and the University of Derby. Original recordings of the interviews conducted by Paul Hart and Anthony Heron are preserved and it is hoped that they will be a valuable local and national historical resource.

Helen Clark said:
‘This is anything but a twee tale of ‘the olden days’ – it is truly reflective of 20th century life as it was experienced by ordinary people who responded as best they could to the enormous political and societal earthquakes of the 20th century. Everyone has told us exactly what they wanted to say – we used no set interview questions and the Lives are not ‘vanity publishing’ because nobody had script approval before the stories went to press. I do hope that the exhibition will attract a wide and enthusiastic audience – especially on Gala Evening when we hope that a number of the individual subjects of the Lives will join us and meet each other – probably for the first time.

I would like to give special thanks to our partners; all the creative artists who have brought the exhibition well and truly to life and the staff of Erewash Museum for hosting us. Above all, we are indebted to The Heritage Lottery for funding us. This is history away from the text books! Come and see the exhibition and find out what was really going on behind the net curtains and closed doors of the people who just might have been your neighbours! One of whom includes Amanda Solloway; Conservative MP for Derby North!!’

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