The Avon Works News

Edition No. 1 June 2017

The Avon Works, remembered, cherished and progressing to a new future

Saturday 22nd April witnessed an extraordinary event at St Margaret’s Hall. What made it so unique was the way in which it straddled the past, present and future, not only through the events it chronicled and the ideas it expressed, but also the generations that took part.

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The first half was a celebration of the return of the Iron Duke and much more of the pivotal role that the Avon Rubber factory played in the history of the town for so many decades. Twenty five years after the factory closed it was brought back to life through the words of its workers captured on film and contemporary cine footage of the party that marked its end.   

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The bridge to the present was provided by a soundtrack especially composed for the evening by Patrick Henchman and Taran Stormes-Martino that blended the sound of the works with modern hip-hop style. The present was shown through the eyes of a group of young people whose film showed how they experience Bradford on Avon today plus music from hip hop duo 'Stay Hungry'. A glimpse of the future was provided by Bob Wilcox of Wiltshire College’s IT department. His students have created a 3D virtual reconstruction of the factory.

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The event was attended by around 150 people; former workers, young people, residents of the town and members of the Museum and Preservation Trust. Reactions were overwhelmingly positive. Jon Durrant, a former Avon Rubber worker, of Banter in Somerset described it as "fantastic". Margaret Shipley, also a former worker, commented "everyone on our table was saying how wonderful it was". 

Dan Farrell, a local historian, unveiled a new book that he has just published telling the story of the rubber industry in the town.

Dan is shown on the left signing a copy of his book. Maggie Dobson was also present and spoke about the work she plans to do to build upon her excellent oral history.

The Future

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Some people might think that now the Iron Duke has returned the project is at an end. Not a bit of it. 'The Avon Works' believes that preserving the town’s industrial heritage is an ongoing task. The group plan to continue to develop its website which already has archive and video material on it about the factory and its place in the social history of Bradford on Avon. Work will continue on the 3D virtual reconstruction of the works seen here on the right. There may be the possibility to create a virtual tour of the town in the 1950s, plus there are plans to work with the Museum and the Preservation Trust to develop a rubber trail, possibly with an app.

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Councillor Jim Lynch, pictured on the left, is the driving force behind the project. He explained its long term goals commenting “It is important to engage young people in understanding the heritage of Bradford on Avon and by doing so create opportunities for them to develop and use skills which would enable them to stay and work in our community. To make all this happen we need the support of local volunteers and of local businesses.”