In response to Laura Rands’ article about the DH Lawrence Heritage Centre, there are some facts and some impressions which I feel need correcting or emphasising.
The D.H. Lawrence Heritage Centre at Durban House has direct links to D.H. Lawrence, and the emphasis on what it does, and the role it has played in recent years, are very much linked to the Lawrence heritage.
The museum on the second floor illustrates aspects of life in D.H. Lawrence’s time, and uses displays which clearly show a classroom and a shop, and clothes and games from the period when Lawrence was alive.
This is Lawrence history, but it is Lawrence history as part of the history of ordinary people living in Lawrence’s time.
In this sense Durban House complements the role of the Lawrence ‘Birthplace’ museum, but it adds a further dimension, a window to other aspects of Eastwood life in the past.
The Rainbow Galleryprovides display space for a number of exhibitions during the year of work by local painters and photographers.
It does thus perform a community role.
The main exhibition each year has always been directly linked to the work of D.H. Lawrence.
These exhibitions have usually been opened at the time of the Lawrence festival in September and have often run until December of the same year. They have drawn many visitors into the centre. Topics have included Sons and Lovers, D.H. Lawrence and World War 1 (this was very much Lawrence but also Eastwood in 1914—1918), Forbidden Books (this was Lawrence but also Joyce).
Broxtowe Council’s own publicity in 2015 made much of the exhibition on Forbidden Books.
It was created by the staff at the Birthplace and Durban House in conjunction with Nottingham University.
Material in these exhibitions included original texts and archive photos, materials which would not be on open display in any other centre.
I gather that a decision has already been taken that there will be no exhibition in 2016, and the reason given is that reduced staff numbers and no suitable venue means no exhibition.
Durban House has been, and could continue to be, a centre for the history of the mining heritage.
The recent closure of the last deep pit in Nottingham saw a “Requiem for Coal” event which began at Brinsley Colliery headstocks and ended at Durban House.
This was just one example of where Durban House has links to D.H. Lawrence but also links to local people.
Yes, you could close the Durban House D.H. Lawrence Heritage Centre and save £100,000 a year, and Eastwood would still be the birthplace of D.H. Lawrence but, I would argue, the long term endurance of the Lawrence heritage, and perhaps the mining heritage, depends on the sum total of links to Lawrence’s life, and Lawrence was the son of a miner.
The Heritage Centre is living evidence of a life style and an industry, as well as being a tourist attraction for visitors with a Lawrence interest.
Durban House is but one part of the visible evidence of D.H. Lawrence’s life in Eastwood but it is now a key part in what should be a strongly supported drive to develop the Lawrence links in Eastwood.
D.H. Lawrence is read worldwide. There are strong D.H. Lawrence Societies in America, Australia,Japan and France—among other countries.
Nottingham is now a UNESCO City of Literature—its most famous literary sons Byron, Alan Sillitoe and, of course, D.H. Lawrence.
How ironic it would be that as Nottingham rightly bathes in the success of its UNESCO bid, Eastwood should be closing down the D.H. Lawrence Heritage Centre. the biggest building in its Lawrence heritage.
Factually Laura Rands was right to say “there are people who did not know where it was, and others who had no interest in what it offered”. The answer is not to close it, but to work to ensure that it does become well known and ‘loved locally’.
That involves a co-ordinated effort from the Council, the D.H. Lawrence Society, local schools and outside bodies like English Heritage, the Lottery Fund, Nottingham’ universities and the press and local media.
DH Lawrence Society