The Avon Works has teamed up with Wiltshire College to produce a Virtual Reality reconstruction of The Avon Rubber Factory. The project is led by Bob Willcox, Senior I.T. Lecturer in Wiltshire College's campus in Trowbridge. Andrew and Margaret Shipley, ex-workers in the factory, have provided invaluable archive material via the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. When up and running, the online platform will also provide a multi-faceted space for virtual art and heritage exhibitions. This project has just begun. Please sign up to our online newsletter for regular updates on this and other exciting developments.
Film maker Will Sansom has spent the past 18 months following the Iron Duke's restoration process. By interviewing retired workers and speaking to local historians he began to understand the vast significance of the rubber works and their role in global industrialization. He says he has really enjoyed following the Iron Duke on its journey back to Bradford on Avon and has met many interesting people involved in the restoration. The grand unveiling will be the culmination of a truly fascinating project and he hopes the Iron Duke monument will provoke the interest of residents and visitors about the town's illustrious heritage.
The Iron Duke's Progress is available to watch here on Vimeo.com:
The Avon Works Archive Project began when former Avon Rubber workers donated memorabilia and photos connected with the factory, and began to write about their workplace memories, following a meeting organised by Jim Lynch in April 2015.
After reading an article in the Wiltshire Times in March 2016, Margaret and Andrew Shipley, former-workers of Avon Rubber, Bradford on Avon, were appointed to not only look after the donated material, but also to take forward and control an Avon Works archive, which included research into material from the factory now stored at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham. They have since spent many hours cataloguing their findings from the rows and rows of storage boxes on an Excel spreadsheet, and Andrew’s colleague has photographed many items for use both on this website and in the newspaper project about the factory by students at St Laurence School. They have also identified factory plans and photographs of use to Trowbridge College IT students tasked with developing a digital, 3D Avon Rubber factory.
There is much more cataloguing work to be done, and Margaret and Andrew would welcome anyone who has an interest and would like to help.
'Remembering the Avon’ records the reminiscences of some of the men and women who worked at the Avon Rubber Factory. It’s a mixture of interviews and conversations between family members. In one example, three generations of men from the same family discuss the influence of the factory on Bradford on Avon and the subsequent impact of the factory’s closure. Others describe how the development of technology affected the lives of the workers. Others explain how handling noxious chemicals involved in the rubber process damaged their health. Their working lives were sometimes repetitive, sometimes dangerous, and often incongruously humorous, and their memories of those days are detailed, painfully honest and at times playful and funny.
Remembering the Avon is available to watch here on vimeo.com.
The first of the Iron Duke-related community engagement projects to begin in 2016 involved the Bath-based performance poet Hannah Teasdale, who worked with young people, in particular those at Bradford on Avon Youth Group, to explore the health issues involved with working at the former Avon Rubber factory (especially those associated with the notorious ‘Black Hole’ mixing department), and any contemporary issues faced by young people living in a post-Avon town. The starting point for this project was the poem The Grim Reaper’s Snuff by Bradford on Avon’s Merv Grist.
Hannah comments that three of the girls who produced their own pieces of writing about their experience of life in Bradford on Avon had never written voluntarily before, and the workshops became very person-centred and therapeutic for them.
The resulting work was showcased at a Bradford on Avon Arts Festival event on Saturday September 10th 2016 – some written and performed by the young people, and some written by Hannah and performed by the young people. Some of the performances from that evening, plus other work by the young people, were filmed and edited by James McQuade, the resulting film, Our Black Hole, being showcased at the official unveiling of the Iron Duke on 24th September.
Click here to watch the film: Our Black Hole
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