The Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings celebrate reaching international audiences

The Friends' online talks



Online talks delivered by the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings’ volunteers have reached over 1,000 people both nationally and internationally in recent months.

Like many other organisations, the operations of the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings had to be adapted last year when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. The Friends - the voluntary organisation which runs the visitor centre at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings - turned to online video conferencing platform, Zoom, to keep in touch with their volunteers and later began to use it to offer talks to groups who had had to cancel their pre-booked visits Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings.

Appetite for the online talks has been growing ever since, even from international audiences.

Talks are mostly given by the Friends’ volunteers and range from general history about the Flaxmill Maltings over its 224-year existence, to more specialised ones about social history, architecture and design, and the restoration process. They have now reached over 1,000 people.

Richard Benjamin, Co-ordinator for the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings, said:In the last months, our volunteers have engaged live online audiences far above any numbers they would have reached in normal face to face talks around Shropshire. It has been a great way for our volunteers to keep connected and to keep sharing their passion about the site. Feedback has been great, with one organiser mailing I thought your talk was a really good mix of social and industrial history which appealed to both genders”.

Groups that have benefited from these free talks include Arts Societies, Civic societies, Women’s Institutes, University of the Third Age groups, Rotary, Tangent and Inner Wheel. The Friends have also reached out to specialised audiences such as the staff and volunteers of other museums and industrial sites, such as the Science Museum in London, Risca Industrial Heritage Group in Wales, the Association for Industrial Archaeology, and others.

Richard Bonella, Board member and volunteer speaker for the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings, said:Some of these groups have not heard about Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings before, but they recognise the importance of the site in the story of industrial heritage and design, and they welcome the opportunity to learn more from the comfort of their homes or offices. We were particularly delighted to be able to connect with the Museum of Industrial History in Pennsylvania, USA. We should never have thought of that possibility before.”

The talks show no sign of slowing down yet with groups from Staffordshire, Yorkshire and Scotland booked in and enquiries received from international groups.

Alastair Godfrey, Project Lead for Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings for site owners Historic England, added:Attracting a wide and diverse audience to engage with the historic environment is hugely important, and it is great that the Friends have successfully been able to harness the power of technology to reach new people beyond our borders and share the story of the world’s first iron-framed building.

The restoration of the Grade I listed Main Mill and the Grade II Kiln at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings is currently taking place thanks to a £20.7m grant from National Lottery players through The National Lottery Heritage Fund, combined with additional funding from the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership via its Growth Deal with Government, and from project partners Historic England, Shropshire Council and the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings.

The revitalised site will become a new learning and enterprise quarter for Shrewsbury, with high quality offices for the region’s growing creative industries that will help drive the town’s renaissance as a regional economic hub, as it was when Shropshire led the way in the Industrial Revolution.

The Main Mill and Kiln at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings will open in spring 2022, with the new visitor experience and café opening on the ground floor and the top four floors available for commercial tenants.

Talks are currently free with groups being asked to make a donation to the Friends online giving page.

If you know of a group who may be interested in one of the talks the Friends are offering do get in touch with us via [email protected]