This is Normanton

This is Normanton is an exciting Fifth Word community project run in partnership with Derby Museums and with support from Derby Local Studies and Family History Library. It tracks the changing landscape of Normanton Road and Pear Tree Road from the 1960’s to present day.

We want to explore how the population, landscape and culture of Normanton Road and Pear Tree Road has changed and developed over the years as new communities have migrated and settled here.

The project culminates in an original theatre performance and the creation brand new exhibition that will launch at Derby Museums as well as visiting venues across the city throughout 2018.

We are currently working with volunteers and community members to undertake archival research and to record personal stories from a range of residents about living and settling in the area. If you are interested in sharing any of your memories about living in Normanton or have any photographs of the area from the 1960’s onwards that you would like to share with us then please contact

Derby Local Studies and Family History Library has supported the project from an early stage, making its wealth of archival sources available and providing training and ongoing support to ensure the project volunteers make best use of their research time. Many images and newspaper articles from the collection were identified during the research and have proved invaluable in building an understanding of the area’s history. By return, the additional information and stories gathered during the project will be added to the library’s existing resources, helping to ensure the ever-changing nature of this vibrant community is acknowledged, recorded and remains publically accessible for the future.

This is Normanton has been made possible thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Do you live or work in Normanton now?

Have you lived or worked in Normanton over the past fifty years?

We'd love to hear from you.

We'd like to invite you to share your memories, stories, photographs and objects of Normanton Road and Pear Tree Road, from the 1960s to present day.

This Is Normanton will explore personal stories from people in Normanton to celebrate its rich and changing culture through an exhibition and theatre performance.

If you feel you might have something to share or have any questions, please get in touch with the team:
01332 641901


Fifthword logo

About Fifth Word

Fifth Word is an award winning theatre company that produce bold and provocative new plays made in the East Midlands that tour across the country. Formed in 2007 by joint artistic directors Laura Ford and Angharad Jones, Fifth Word specialise in producing new plays that explore contemporary issues by upcoming and established playwrights through new commissions and full productions with partner venues. The work tells bold and timely stories that speaks to traditional theatre goers and next generation audience.

Beyond the stage

Fifth Word work with schools, youth groups and other organisations to provide projects that make a real difference to young people and their communities. we believe that creative learning actively engages young people in an exploratory and inspirational way - building confidence, independence and aspirations for both individuals and groups.

Founded in 2012, Derby Museums Trust is an independent charitable trust which is responsible for the rich cultural and creative history of Derby. It manages three sites across the city, the Museum and Art Gallery, Pickford’s House and The Silk Mill, and holds and curates all the art and collections within them, including the world’s largest collection of paintings by Joseph Wright of Derby.

The Trust's aim is to bring as many of the objects and treasures in the collections into the public domain as is practically possible and present them in ways that delight and inspire, via education and learning programmes, events and exhibitions, in order to share knowledge and inspire creativity and making amongst the people of Derby. As a charitable trust, Derby Museums relies on funding and grants from organisations and donations from businesses and the general public, all of which is gratefully received in order to ensure that admission to the museums remains free for all.

Derby Local Studies and Family History Library is your place to research local and family history. Run by Derby City Council, the library has one of the UK's largest and oldest collections of printed and manuscript material relating to Derby and Derbyshire, originally formed from two outstanding private libraries.

If you would like to find out more about your house, street, suburb, village or community the library will have a wide range of resources that you may find useful. The local studies collection is reference only, but all are welcome to come and view materials, and in most cases digital or paper copies can be made for personal use.

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology undeour feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.

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This is Normanton Project

by Theresa Sampson – This is Normanton volunteer

Fifth Word have collaborated with Derby Museums and a group of eager volunteers to embark on the This is Normanton Project. March 2018 will see the launch of an exhibition dedicated to the area and a theatre production, telling the stories of those who live and work in Normanton. An inner city suburb of Derby known for its rich blend of ethnic backgrounds, with worldwide migration links ranging from Asia, the Caribbean, Africa and more recently Eastern Europe. Sadly today poverty and deprivation has ravished the area, casting a grey cloud over arguably the most vibrant and culturally diverse part of the city. Much is known about the area pre 1960s however archives dwindle at this time, the project aims to extend knowledge of the area up-to-the present day.

Normanton is characterized by its high density of burnt red Victorian terraces, built to house the increasing population of Derby in the 1900s, a time of growth for a city with a deeply routed industrial history. Stretching two miles south to Old Normanton, a settlement since the medieval period, with the original village of Normanton-by-Derby mentioned in the Doomsday Book. Normanton and Peartree Road has become a thriving community hub of businesses, religious houses and places of education. Museum and theatre staff plus volunteers are delving into the heart of Normanton, reaching out to those who live and work in the area past and present, to record the stories and collect memorabilia from those who make up Normanton and once again celebrate all that is special about this unique part of Derby.

Dusty Books, Dark Libraries and Discovering stories

by Theresa Sampson – This is Normanton volunteer

It was a grim morning at the start of August when I arrived at the Silk Mill Derby, with flushed cheeks and damp clothes. Greeted with an endless supply of tea and biscuits, excited anticipation drifted between staff and volunteers. Photographs and a Romany gypsy doll offered a tiny insight into bygone Normanton life. From that introductory session I learned the area once housed three theatres, Portland Street was home to the legendry footballer Steve Bloomer, celebrity chef Sat Bains is a Normanton lad and have a listen to ‘Ey Up Me Duck by Kevin Coyne’. The projects potential was clear, enthusiasm oozing from everybody, overflowing buckets of ideas to seek and tell a story without rose tinted glasses of the unique way of life that is Normanton.

Volunteer training sessions have now taken place: objects on the move, oral history interviews and archival research. They were informative, fun and a chance for everybody involved to get to know each other better. Unfortunately work commitments prevented me attending the ‘objects on the move training’ where accompanied by more downpours, the project took to Normanton and Peartree Road seeping up the atmosphere. Next was ‘oral history interview training’ It was fascinating to hear an early recording of Florence Nightingale giving a speech in support of the Light Brigade Relief Fund dated 30th July 1890. Watching a mock up visual oral history interview highlighted suitable environments and demonstrated the role of the person behind the camera as well as in front of it; volunteer Kal Singh Dhindsa was a model interviewee. Open ended questions and somewhere quiet for the interview to take place was the simple advice.

And finally ‘archival research training’ an image of heads bent in dusty books and dark libraries furnished with floor to ceiling bookcases, the smoked aroma of ancient wood filling the air (heaven to a freelance writer albeit a little cliché). In reality Derby Local Studies Library is light and spacious, the public study room home to surprisingly only a sparse scattering of books, of course bound gold is safely tucked away, pulled out only when required. The role of the archival researcher is to retrace steps refining and expanding, exhausting every avenue, note taking is helpful and stringent record keeping is essential. The modern researcher now has a vast range of tools to chip into the past often at the tap of a button. And when us eager volunteers sat down in front of the computers we quickly began to find news stories and photographs of Normanton. Beware of using filters as they can close the door on a mine of precious material. I discovered photographs of Prince Charles visiting various religious groups in Normanton back in 1981. Mark Young – library manager sourced four folders of photographs dating back to the 60s, filled with images of transport, businesses, pedestrians, workers and residents.

These snapshots of life now past are the backbone of this project, a developing story of Normanton past. Over the coming months we will dig deep, speak to many come rain or shine (this is England after all) and discover a local study called This is Normanton.