Ilkeston - A Celebration
w/e 27 August 2017
All of this week's pictures were taken with a Kodak DX6490

There was another event on Victoria Park on Sunday 20th August that ran all afternoon from mid-day until seven o'clock. It was called "A Celebration" and was held to mark the completion of the restoration work in the park. In addition to restructuring the central flower beds to their original layout along with resurfacing of some of the paths, the work has seen the installation of new gates, the complete refurbishment of both the bandstand and the pergola and the redesign and upgrading of the Bowls Pavilion.

Notices on the new gates invited everyone to join in the celebration and promised a Victorian day of "Free family fun with live music, local bands, singers and brass bands in the bandstand, and a historical parade and children's entertainment." We didn't stay for the duration of the event but did spend a couple of enjoyable hours there. We arrived just as a loud - very loud - group were bringing their set to a close. We could hear them on the Market Place!

Lottery Fund

The restoration work came about following the award from the Heritage Lottery Fund, acknowledgement of this being recorded in this display in the park.
Swing Boats

Near the existing play area, swing boats had been erected for the duration of the event.
Circus Skills

An area below the Duke Oak had been set aside for a circus skills workshop to add to the entertainment.

Various displays were put on around the bandstand and before we left there was one by the Kerry Ledger School of Dancing that we enjoyed.
Theatre Company.

There were various stalls and gazebos including this one for the Ilkeston Theatre Company.
The Duke

And it was the Theatre Company members that we followed on a winding route through the park as they re-enacted various time periods with a series of dramatic presentations. It began with an introduction at the bowling green and then moved back in time to the park gates in 1902 and the official opening by the Duke of Rutland. In his speech he recalled how he had decided to loan the land to the people of Ilkeston to create a green space for all in 1896 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. It had taken a number of years for the project to come to fruition during which time the monarch had died but the park was still named after her.
Arthur & Nellie

The story now moved to beneath the Duke Oak, so named because it was planted at the official opening by the Duke of Rutland. Here we met Arthur, the first Park Superintendent and his wife, who reminisced about the early days of the park.
Borough Surveyor

By 1912 there was still no bowling green in the park although Arthur and the Council had made improvements but by then, two marble pillars had been acquired from recently demolished Nottingham Gaol via Rutland House on Heanor Road in Ilkeston. Two years later plans had been drawn up for a bowling green at a cost of about £273, a pavilion at £170 and a cast-iron bandstand to replace the existing wooden structure for about £310 - that's about £18,000 in today's money. The outbreak of the First World War put paid to all of that though.
Dig For Victory

Arthur was still working in the park in 1915 and was now "digging for victory" but one of his sons was captured and held prisoner for two years. On his return from the war he followed in his father's footsteps and became the first Superintendent at the Rutland Recreation Ground. After the war a German Howitzer was delivered to the park as one of the spoils of war and placed near the pergola. Arthur was kept busy keeping children off the gun but it mysteriously disappeared a few years later. It was in 1923 that those pre-war plans finally saw fruition when the Mayor of Ilkeston opened the bowling green and the replacement bandstand on August 2nd. The bowling green took £13 during the first week which today would be about £676 so proved to be a good investment as it is still in use today.

Over the years since then the park has continued to be a green lung in the town with varying degrees of popularity. By the 1980s it was not unusual to see families enjoying a picnic around the bandstand listening to brass bands, most popular among them of course being Ilkeston Brass. The final dramatic performance depicted one such picnic with articles and toys from the decade including a Rubik's Cube. This was in the days before mobile phones, wi-fi and the internet of course and while these are essential for many people today, the refurbishment of the park which was being commemorated will surely give Victoria Park a new lease of life. Events like this will keep in at the forefront of Ilkeston life in the 21st century.

I am indebted to the lady from the Ilkeston Theatre Company who acted as the narrator for the presentation and who provided me with a copy of her notes that included much of the detail for this page.

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