Local students from Sturminster Newton High School and the Sturminster Newton Heritage Trust (SNHT) welcomed visitors to the Mill on Sunday evening to celebrate the results of the Swanskin Seafarers of Sturminster project.
The project, funded by the Association of Independent Museums, seeks to explore the links between Sturminster Newton and Newfoundland, Canada, focused on the young people from Dorset who travelled across the Atlantic over 200 years. Over 30 Students from Sturminster Newton High School have contributed to the project, undertaking independent research, swapping stories of shared heritage with schoolchildren in Newfoundland, and working with artists to create their Shadow Puppet Film.
Three groups of students worked on the Swanskin Seafarers of Sturminster project, with some overlapping across different tasks. One group of students worked with local artists Emerald Ant to produce a shadow film telling the story of the Seafarers of Sturminster. The film explores the connections between Sturminster and Newfoundland, depicting how swanskin cloth was manufactured at the Mill and travelled to Canada with the seafarers, and following the stories of two historic residents who made the journey.
Another group of students from Sturminster Newton High School worked with local folk musicians New Scorpion to produce music for the film, and a final group worked on a new set of text panels sharing their research findings. Visitors can see these text panels for themselves at the Mill, and at Sturminster Newton Museum in the town centre.
All students were able to practice their independent research skills, nurturing an interest in local history and building connections with other young people in Newfoundland, Canada.
Throughout the evening visitors were invited to undertake an evening tour of the Mill, where students had the opportunity to showcase their contributions to the display boards. Local folk band New Scorpion created a lively atmosphere with live music on the riverbank. The Sturminster Newton Heritage Trust provided refreshments, including two huge fish-shaped loaves baked by local artisan baker Steve Oxford to tie in with the seafaring theme of the project. These were made with flour freshly bagged at Sturminster Newton Mill that week.
Speeches were given by Vicky De Witt, Museums Advisor for Bournemouth, Dorset & Poole, Sarah Butterworth, Tom Hughes and Ellen Velazquez from Emerald Ant, local historian and journalist Rodger Gutteridge, and Year 9 student Elliot Wagner-Hale. Elliot, aged 14, has worked hard alongside his classmates to produce some brilliant original research, and was invited to unveil a new display board outside the Mill.
Once it grew dark, the shadow film was given its first public screening, where students who had worked on the project, family and friends, and other local residents, were able to enjoy the display. The film was projected onto the side of Sturminster Newton Mill and shown twice, once at dusk, and again in full darkness.
There was a great turnout for this occasion, with local councillors, trustees, and family and friends in attendance to celebrate the wonderful work done by students at the local High School. The Swanskin Seafarers of Sturminster project will now continue into its next phase, where volunteers will help to collect oral histories from recent migrants to the area, to explore the connection with local residents who migrated from Dorset to Canada hundreds of years ago.
The Sturminster Newton Heritage Trust is grateful to all contributing partners on this project, the Association of Independent Museums for their funding, and most importantly the incredible students at Sturminster Newton High School, who have shown amazing focus, resilience and creativity throughout.
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