April events at a revolutionary mill town

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Industrial heritage and social history isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – and might seem an unusual candidate for the idea of a fun day out.

But New Lanark is no ordinary visitor attraction, and the start of the spring season (even if we all know about “April showers”) is a great time to see one of Scotland’s greatest achievements – even if you’ve seen it before.

Back in the days of “dark Satanic mills” when disease, poverty, starvation and high infant mortality were rife a pioneering Scotsman embarked on a grand social experiment.

The mill complex at New Lanark was remarkable and in fact unique, providing decent living conditions, free education and – for its day – proper working conditions.

By modern standards the mill community founded by Robert Owen might seem just too well organised, regulating many aspects of every family’s everyday lives.

But by comparison with the living and working conditions in any British city of the Industrial Revolution it was, quite simply, paradise - even if it was what we would see as a somewhat “Soviet” way of organising society.

In its stunning location close to the Falls of Clyde today’s premier league visitor attraction offers state of the art sound and visual effects in the course of a dramatic tour of the place where generations of ordinary people lived and worked.

At a time when call centres are being slammed by unions as 21st century “Satanic mills” it’s perhaps tragic to think that all the arguments about decent working and living conditions have been with us since the late 18th century.

There’s a particularly good reason for visiting New Lanark soon, because World Heritage Day will see free activities for all ages taking place from April 16 to 18.

Free ‘Archaeology Taster Tours’ will be staged at 11am and 2pm daily, although places are very limited and must be booked in advance via the Eventbrite link at www.newlanark.org.

They aim to give visitors a unique opportunity to see volunteers at work excavating the basement of former living accommodation at the site’s Double Row.

There will also be an archaeologist on hand to explain the process and discuss any interesting “finds”.

As well as visiting the Double Row tenement block, the tour will also visit the site of Mantilla Row, where visitors will have a chance to find out more about this “lost building” in New Lanark’s history.

Then there’s ‘Scotland in Six’, a nationwide celebration of Scotland’s World Heritage Sites being co-ordinated by DigIt 2017.

As part of New Lanark’s Easter Weekend History, Heritage & Archaeology celebrations, the DigIt team will be “yarnbombing” the traditional social hub of the village – the Institute for the Formation of Character.

In the run up to the event on April 18, DigIt are looking for knitted contributions to add to the display.

Then on the day itself, from 10am to 4pm, there will be free talks about the history and archaeology of New Lanark, free skills taster workshops for heritage stitching activity, and of course lots of stitching, knitting and crochet.

Throughout the course of the day, more and more will be added to the yarnbomb site, creating a very different view of this iconic venue.

Anyone who’d like to contribute to the should email sara@digit2017.com.

Further information on New Lanark’s World Heritage Day Activities is available at www.newlanark.org