12 images

4 locations

7 new artist commissions

Illustrating over 300 years of inventive activity in Derby.

Derby: City of Invention is a series of 12 images which form a striking visual narrative.  They tell a story about the history of Derby: a history formed by a series of strong characters with big ideas that changed the world.

Invention is part of Derby’s DNA – past, present and future.  These images portray inventive activity across arts, design, engineering, construction, physics, philosophy, astronomy, gastronomy, fashion and technology.  They tell stories of personal, local, national and globally significant innovations which shaped our past and continue to inform our present and our future.

The ripples of Derby’s global influence has not abated over the last 300 years, and can still be felt across artistic, academic and commercial spheres.  Several ideas pictured in this series had potent, social and moral consequences.  Thanks to Joseph Strutt, we are able to enjoy walking in public parks, and ships no longer set sail dangerously overloaded, thanks to Samuel Plimsoll.

Through these images, we are able to see behind the scenes and beyond the public exterior.  St Pancras station – now the gateway to Europe with the Eurostar high-speed trains, can be seen as a slice of Derbyshire in central London.  The station was built using Derbyshire steel, stone and brick, the trains were engineered and built in Derby.  The engraved image shows the construction of the station around 1867.

Two of the images were created by students and these recognise our next generation of artists and entrepreneurs.  They embody the spirit of the future potential – all that is yet to be thought and yet to be created.

These 12 images raise our awareness of our shared cultural and geographically specific history.  They celebrate the diverse inventions and achievements, from the life-saving to the crowd-pleasing.

Creativity and ingenuity is part of the social fabric and structure of Derby.  When you pass through the city and encounter these images, we hope they will inspire you – to recognise your history and to proactively play a part in shaping the future.

Project venues:   

  • 30 Market Place, DE1 3AS
  • The Joseph Wright Centre, Derby College, Willow Row, DE1 3PA
  • Shot Tower Corner, The Morledge, DE1 2AW
  • The Prince’s site hoardings, Bold Lane, DE1 3NT

Derby: City of Invention was curated by Antoinette Burchill and Andrea Hadley-Johnson.

The project would not have been possible without the support and collaboration of:

Derby City Council’s Arts Team and Economic Regeneration Team
Derby Museum & Art Gallery
Smith of Derby
Royal Crown Derby
Derby College
The participating artists.

The project was funded by Derby City Council and Section 106.

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