The Clarion Sunday That Wasn’t

Last Sunday, 13 June, should have been a big day in the calendar for Clarion House.  For 125 years, on Clarion Sunday, riders from Clarion cycling clubs across the north have converged on this historic location, but this year the virus intervened.  Artist Alan Ward will be celebrating Clarion Sunday 2021 with a multimedia project for Pendle Radicals.  In the meanwhile, he marked the Clarion Sunday that wasn’t with this introductory missive to the cycling clubs, and the gift of a virtual ride to the one and only Clarion House.

Image courtesy of London Clarion Cycling Club

Clarion Sunday 2021
Sunday 13 June
The Fellowship of the Wheel (working title)
An artist’s project by Alan Ward to celebrate this unique and historic event.

We are looking forward to seeing you next year, it is disappointing that Clarion Sunday hasn’t been able to happen this year, as I’d been looking forward to working alongside MPA, to create an artist engagement with your cycling community. By way of a small homage to the rides you would have made, I have created a little lock down virtual ride to Clarion House from my home in South Manchester.

Clarion Sunday Virtual Ride 14.06.20 from Alan J Ward on Vimeo.

Just prior to the shutdown, I’d purchased a gravel bike to begin to explore a little more off tarmac. My ride encompasses some of those surfaces, as I make my way through Greater Manchester. The film was made using a mapmyride plotted route, which was imported into the wonders of the Google Earth app. It’s a little bit of fun and references the fly-throughs of TDF stage previews and dreaded spin classes.

For Clarion Sunday 2021, we want to make your day a bit more special, and offer you something to remember it by.

I am an artist, photographer and designer, but also a devotee of cycling culture. I would like to document your club rides to Clarion House next year, using the data provided by tools like Strava and Garmin, and include photographs and notes from the journey to Jinny Lane. Between now and then I will be seeking your help with planning this. On Clarion Sunday 2021, I will be present to take a formal portrait of each rider with their mount, using a pop-up studio, and MPA will thank participants with a small one-off memento of Clarion Sunday to take away. Afterwards, I will assemble and interpret all the material gathered into a limited edition publication, and each participant will be sent a copy, with MPA’s compliments.

If you are interested in taking part you can contact me by email

Clarion Sunday is already a very special event. Through this project, we want to capture some of that, and give your members something unique to remember it by. We hope you will be willing to help, because we can’t do it without your participation. Thank you, and we look forward to seeing you next year!

National CCC 1895 motif

Alan Ward is our designer for Pendle Radicals and the Radicals Trail, but also a practising artist and a devotee of cycling culture. Read more about his projects on his website , including the extraordinary Photographs from Another Place.

Reclaiming A History of Pendle Punk – We’re Going To Need A Louder Record Player!

Writer/composer/musician/fell runner Boff Whalley is one third of the creative powerhouse behind Sick of Being Normal. Back in the punk moment, he was a stalwart of Chimp Eats Banana. Boff considers how that unruly creative flowering has stayed with so many contributors through their later lives, and how punk in Pennine Lancashire has contributed to a longer story of nonconformism, independence and dissent.


History is a slippery, shape-shifting thing. I found out long after I’d left school that all the history I’d learnt had been filtered through someone’s opinion and that it could be changed to suit whoever was doing the telling. In my case, at school it came via a few dog-eared standard textbooks that, judging by the roll-call of pupils’ names listed inside the front cover, had been around for decades. It also usually came via a boring teacher who was clearly bored stiff of teaching bored kids about the boring stuff in the boring books.

Years later I realised that history could be relevant, exciting and crucial to the way we understand the world. Which didn’t make it any less of a shape-shifting thing – the same event could still be re-told in completely different ways, and time itself could shape our opinions: over a period of many years, the things that initially seemed outrageous and anti-social could be accepted as innovative, crusading and essential to the way we lived.

Reading old newspapers from the time of the suffragettes you’d never believe that these pioneering women would one day be championed and celebrated. (The Guardian at the time declared that the actions of the suffragettes were  “such as one was accustomed to attribute to women from the slums” while a Daily Mirror editorial was simply titled ‘Let The Hunger Strikers Die!’).

Fortunately the chosen Pendle Radicals that are being celebrated in the ongoing MPA series are old enough (and, frankly, dead enough) to have come through being pilloried and criticised and we can now collectively agree on how the suffragettes and suffragists, along with the trades union organisers, nonconformists, pacifists, Chartists, Clarion clubbers and more, are remembered as inspiring trail-blazers.

I was wondering about all this history stuff a couple of years ago, realising that a lot of the firebrands and rebels who I’d looked up to were still dotted around the world, working away and still passionate and driven in their radical ideas. Pacifists, theatre-makers, poets and anarchists, demonstrators, feminists, writers and activists. And it dawned on me that it would be good to try to weave into our local and regional histories of radical subversives and free-thinkers those people who I’d grown up with, ordinary kids who made their own little history in the Pendle area, fired up by punk and by opposition to Thatcher’s ‘no such thing as society’ ideology to create their own social community.

SOBN Exhib - newspaper clippingThis is how Sage, Casey and me first came together to talk about the Pendle Punk exhibition – not as a nostalgic look back, not as a sort of school reunion with hair dye, but as a way of incorporating those strange and inspiring times into ‘proper’ history, a history that’s survived the ridiculous headlines and cliches (as the Burnley Express headline said at the time, ‘MP Slams Obscene Punk Magazine’) and become a small part of the story of the Pendle Radicals. Maybe it was also a way of rescuing that little slice of history from being shape-shifted by London-centric cultural commentators, a way of saying that we can tell our own history in the way we want it to be told.

And the way we wanted it to be told was with large-scale portraits of those punks as they are now, with a newspaper to give them space to talk about the way their lives were altered by those times. By holding an opening event that partly reflected the music of those days but could be mixed up with what’s happening now, how that punk aesthetic still resonates with a young grime artist. By filming interviews with people and giving them the chance to think and talk about what that punk culture meant historically and what it can mean personally, now. And by holding this exhibition the hope was that we could situate the East Lancashire punk explosion within the history of the infamous Pendle Radicals – even if only as a nagging, sleeve-tugging footnote.

image00011When the opening of the exhibition was held at Burnley Library I was worried about it turning into simply an excuse for nostalgia; and though I love the idea of meeting up with a lot of those folks who I haven’t seen for decades, this had to feel like more than that. Even digging through my old badge collection for them to be photographed for the exhibition reminded me how loudly political the punk movement in the area was – and at the Library, talking to people who’d travelled from all over the place to be there, I was told constantly how those few years had changed and shaped people’s lives, made them socially aware, responsible, questioning, radical.

History will always be ‘up for grabs’, available to be twisted and distorted by people. Which is why it’s essential and inspiring that local people can re-tell the stories of the folk from their area – whether it’s ancient or recent history – so that they aren’t forgotten, dismissed or just written out.

Boff Whalley

Sick of Being Normal will continue after the lockdown, with further showings of the exhibition by Casey Orr, and additional special events. Watch out too for a short film captured at the February event, and further blog posts.

SOBN publication - front page - cropped

We’re Going To Need A Bigger Songbook

Fresh air and green space are precious commodities at present.  Our Radicals researchers want to honour the pioneers who gave working class people a chance of sharing those bounties.  Walking guide author and Pendle Radicals volunteer Nick Burton writes about T A Leonard and the collective joys of rambling and singing. 

I’m a rambler, I’m a rambler, from Manchester way,

I get all my pleasure the hard moorland way,

I may be a wage slave on Monday,

But I am a free man on Sunday.

These words are the familiar chorus from Ewan McColl’s celebrated hiking song, The Manchester Rambler. It was a song written soon after and inspired by the Kinder Trespass of 1932 which has become synonymous with rambling. But what ramblers’ songs came before it? After all, rambling and singing were popular with the working classes of the industrial north in the 19th century and the two free communal pursuits went together so naturally. The story of our own Pendle Radical, Thomas Arthur Leonard, provides an interesting insight into how rambling and singing became dovetailed in perfect harmony.

T_A_LeonardT.A. Leonard (1864-1948) was a London born Congregational Minister who accepted the post as pastor at the Dockray Square Congregational Church in 1890. This church stood on the current Colne Library site and Leonard and his family took up lodgings in Keighley Road. Leonard himself described Colne as a, ‘bleak upland township’ but it was here that he quickly put into practice his own philosophy of holiday-making: cheap, educational holidays in the countryside for the working class, a departure from the typical boozy and frivolous Wakes Week holidays most mill workers spent in crowded seaside resorts.

Like many other non-conformist churches, the activities at Dockray Square church were organised through a social guild. The guild organised pastimes to improve the lives of their church members with educational evening classes, musical recitals, choir singing and, of course, a rambling club set up by T.A. Leonard himself. The rambling club enjoyed the local delights and fresh air of the Pennines and Ribblesdale until in June 1891, T.A. Leonard organised the first club holiday to Ambleside.

Leonard took a group of 32 Colne mill workers to stay at Smallwood House in Ambleside – this is still a guest house today. The cost of the holiday was 21 shillings including the rail fare. Days were spent on rigorous fell walks. Evenings were spent in communal fellowship with scientific lectures. The singing of songs was an integral part of both the walks in the day and the social gatherings in the evening.

The author Douglas George Hope, in his book Thomas Arthur Leonard and the Co-operative Holidays Association, reveals that ‘a simple broadsheet’ of songs had been used in Leonard’s early walking holidays from Colne. We know that Auld Lang Syne was one of the songs included as Hope notes that this was traditionally sung at the social evening on the last day of Leonard’s holidays. After Leonard’s formation of the Co-operative Holidays Association (CHA) in 1893, Hope also notes that by 1897 the ‘simple broadsheet’ with popular hymns like Jerusalem had expanded into a CHA booklet of 38 songs – made up of ‘hymns and traditional songs such as John Peel and Strawberry Fair’.

Leonard’s successful Colne experiment led to him forming the national organisation of the CHA with affordable and educational walking holidays for both men and women. The earliest accommodation centres were in locations such as Ambleside, Keswick, Edinburgh, Barmouth, Whitby, Buxton and Conwy. It is interesting to note that another of our Pendle Radicals, Selina Cooper, the suffragist campaigner from Barnoldswick, helped run a CHA centre in Keld with her husband for a year.

812iyCixnHLThe immediate success of CHA holidays is also reflected in the need for a bigger songbook. As Hope notes, the booklet of 38 songs produced in 1897 was replaced only a year later by a song book of 60 songs. This was known as Songs of Faith, Nature and Comradeship and was expanded in the early years of the 1900’s to include French and German songs as the CHA began to offer affordable international walking holidays in Europe in the years leading up to the First World War. The song book included La Marseillaise, Der Gute Kamerad (The Good Comrade) and the carol O Tannenbaum. Holidaying in France or Germany, the importance of these songs in cementing international friendships should not be underestimated.

T.A. Leonard with his pioneering spirit never rested upon his laurels. He parted company from the CHA in 1913 to form the Holiday Fellowship (HF). He felt the CHA was becoming rather middle class and conservative in its outlook and the HF was intended to return to that original philosophy of providing cheap, simple holidays for the working class. Yet he made sure he took his songbook with him and both the CHA and the HF used the Songs of Faith, Nature and Comradeship, the communal singing being as much a part of HF holidays as they were at CHA holiday centres. In 1922 the HF produced its own songbook, Songs by The Way which by 1929 had morphed into the booklet known as Songs of Faith, Nature and Fellowship. The HF singalongs cut out the traditional hymns and concentrated more on rousing folk songs. I am sure the likes of Ilkley Moor Baht ‘at was in there somewhere.    

71aSlnLJluLLeonard’s songbook, which had started as a simple broadsheet in Colne, lasted into the post-war days of the CHA and HF. Inevitably, the social and cultural changes in British holiday-making in the 1960’s led to the demise of communal singing both on walks and at the holiday centres. Increasingly, people used the CHA and HF centres to do their own individual thing, even go to the local pub in the evening (which would have been frowned upon by Leonard) or watch TV in the lounge. The CHA and HF had to survive in a world that had more choice for holidaymakers and they adapted by offering specialist activity and themed holidays.

Perhaps as a tribute to the Congregational minister who helped improve the lives of many East Lancashire mill workers, we can celebrate by singing his songs once again. The revival of interest in local choirs around Pendle Hill reflects the importance of singing – and rambling – as a free communal activity that is good for social interaction and, ultimately, for mental well being. We need to grasp the Songs of Faith, Nature and Fellowship and walk across the hill again in communal song. It will be a fitting tribute to the work of Thomas Arthur Leonard, the undoubted father of the British open-air movement which began in the shadow of Pendle Hill.

As the popular 1950’s rambling song, The Happy Wanderer, goes:

I love to go a-wandering

Along the mountain track

And as I go, I love to sing

My knapsack on my back

Nick will be back leading a series of Bowland history walks in autumn 2020.  Read more on his own website.  With other Radicals volunteers, he is also working on themed walks for the Pendle Radicals programme, including a Two Toms walk linking Leonard with Tom Criddle Stephenson.  Watch out for details!
  • Thomas Arthur Leonard and the Co-operative Holidays Association  by Douglas George Hope (2017)
  • Adventures In Holiday-Making by T.A. Leonard (1934)
Singing at Clarion House - EL Clarion Choir
East Lancs Clarion Choir at Clarion House




Talking Lancashire – and moving online

Jennifer Reid, a performer of 19thC Industrial Revolution broadside ballads and Lancashire dialect work song, tells us about the first two meetings of the Lancashire Dialect Reading Group. If you’d like to be part of this group that is dedicated to preserving, reading and writing the Lancashire dialect, see details of further sessions at the bottom of this blog…

In the future, some of us will be able to say, “we were there when it all began….”

Well, in this case, five of us will be able to. The first official meeting of the Lancashire Dialect Reading Group took place at Booth’s Café in Barrowford last week! I prepared as best I could – in emails I asked everyone to tell me their interests around the dialect and what experience they have had with it – and it went off without a hitch! Valerie, Sue and Ann had attended an introductory talk of mine so I recognised them and another lady named Emma came to join us. We had some engaging discussions about the etymology of words and place names and a chat about Tim Bobbin’s head!

We started with some simple words from the 1895 Lancashire dictionary put together by Nodal. I decided to focus on ‘agate’ and the ‘a’ prefix in general that goes ahead of ‘awhoam’, as this is still part of our spoken language today.

Jenn Reid - workshop materialsFrom there I photocopied some of the introduction to Frank Ormerod’s Lancashire Life and Character, which mentions the Anglo Saxon links to Lancashire dialect words and concepts like ‘Bill O Bents’ for names. Lots of contemporary dialect writers like to give themselves a ‘____ O ____’ name to chime in with the tradition.

After all those hand-outs, it was time for dinner and we had a little break to chat and process what we’d read. Emma told us a fantastic story about a garden gnome her mother had that ended up being a clay sculpture of John Collier’s head – she found this out by visiting Touchstones in Rochdale and seeing a similar one behind the glass she proudly proclaimed she had one of those in her garden, to the utter shock of the curator! She has now rescued him from outside and he occupies pride of place on her mantelpiece.

Suitably recharged, we read a poem called Owdham which shows how some of the words from the dictionary are used. We also read Come Whoam to thi’ Childer an’ Me by Edwin Waugh and Settlin Th’ War by Williffe Cunliam, tackling any chewy or more awkward dialect words we encountered.

The second session on Monday 16th March was attended by Geoff, Ann, Dorothy and Emma. We discussed the same poems and words as the first session and this meeting went in a totally different direction! There was more focus on pronunciation and how we tie that to the places we have lived in and our experiences. Again, such an enriching and productive session.

In the current circumstances I will be moving the sessions online, at least for a while, which means that details of the scheduled meetings for 30th March, 6th April and 20th April will be emailed to people already on the group’s mailing list.

If you are interested in joining the group please email MPA and let them know you are happy for them to share your information with me. I can then get in touch with you and tell you how to join in.

PS – If Emma from the group is reading this, I need your email address to keep you in the loop. Please send it to MPA (see link above).



Photographing The Punks

Photographer Casey Orr, whose portraits of people involved in the Pendle punk explosion of 1979-80 will be exhibited as part of  Sick of Being Normal – Pendle Punk – 40 Years  On, gives an outsider’s perspective on how the physical and emotional landscape of East Lancashire played its part…


I’ve lived in the North of England for 25 years and in that time I’ve regularly travelled from Yorkshire over the Pennines to visit my in-laws in Burnley.  I’ve run on the hills and explored the towns of East Lancashire. As a photographer I’ve worked there and know many people from the region. I’ve lived with one of these punks for over half my life so you’d think I would have understood a bit more about how punk changed the lives of people coming of age at that time and the ways in which this creative explosion reacted with British culture and specifically Northern small town communities.

I just did not get it until sitting in on the interviews for this project and listening to these people talk about that time and how it transformed their lives forever.

The smaller worlds we all inhabited in the 1970s are so alien to us now in the 24/7 interconnected nonstop reality we live in. There was less visible choice of who we could be, of what lives were possible. When we come of age and are looking for clues to guide us these chance meetings and sightings often come from culture, from music.

Forty years ago I was 11 years old and watching Saturday Night Live in my family living room in small town USA. David Bowie was carried onto stage in a plastic tuxedo by performance artists Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias. The performance changed my life forever. My whole self woke up to the possibilities of what my life could be.


The people photographed here, I photographed 12 people for the project, spoke about these moments too, moments that changed everything. They were young adults when punk exploded, full of energy, just stepping out of school and family life and in a position to seemingly make anything and everything happen. They were from the same place, from a shared culture and often a shared lack of opportunity. All of this bonded these creative kids and made a community through the music, art, fun and freedom that punk offered. They were in it together. Everyone talked about this.

The interviews and days photographing these people also showed me how important and integral the landscape of East Lancashire is to the people from here. There are hills to be seen everywhere, hills to be climbed and hills to look down from. Towns can be climbed out of, horizons are negotiated by what can and can’t be seen. The land is undulating. There are rocky outcrops to sit on, gardens to tend, paths to walk down. There is the changing sky, the clouds, the rain.

And then there is the wind. It blows through your coat, past your ears, up your pantleg. It sneaks around every corner. It isn’t quiet!

These people are a part of this landscape. The outside and inside are connected, the person, the hill, the wind. They are the 1970s punks but they are of this place – part of this landscape that predates us all.


Casey Orr is a documentary photographer, researcher and lecturer at Leeds Beckett University.  Her long running project Saturday Girl, which in 2019 won an award at Format Festival, will be the subject of a new publication in 2020 from Bluecoat Press.
Click here to find more information, and buy tickets, for the Sick of Being Normal event on Saturday 8 February 2020 on Eventbrite.

Sick of Being Normal!

Boff Whalley brought the brilliantly subversive Commoners Choir to Brierfield Mill for a very special Banner Culture Sunday.  Now this erstwhile stalwart of Chimp Eats Banana and Chumbawamba joins two collaborators in a brand new project for Pendle Radicals. Together they look back to a time of creative ferment around the Pendle Hill area.  We can’t wait…

Pendle Punk 40 Years On

Three of us – myself, Sage and Casey Orr – have spent the last few months talking to various people from all over England whose lives were changed by being part of the punk community in and around the Pendle Hill / East Lancashire area in the late 1970s. We’ve set a date for an exhibition and event in Colne in early February (more details soon) and it looks like the exhibition, publication and various discussions will carry on after the opening, over in That 0282 Place in Burnley Central Library. Here’s the background to the project.

When Sex Pistols burst onto British national TV in 1977, they set off an explosion of ideas that would, within the next three years, create a generation of thinkers, do-ers and makers. Taking the best principles of hippy – do-it-yourself, question authority, find an alternative – and aligning them with the chaotic spirit of 1968’s legacy of cultural, political and social revolution, punk reacted against the austere 1970s that ushered in Thatcher and instead created new and vibrant communities around its music, its literature and its style. Nowhere was this more evident than in the East Lancs/Pendle punk scene, which became a hotbed of invigorating cultural activism through its self-produced fanzines, its bands and its communally-run venues creating a region-wide community of people – many of them not much more than kids – who were able to seize their moment and, in doing so, change their own lives forever.

Revolt-In-Style Apr 80 P1

Much of the retrospective literature of punk, written as history by London-centric music journalists, likes to claim that by 1979 punk had burned itself out; what they miss is a nationwide blaze of energy that was ignited from that initial Clash/Pistols spark and took hold in towns and villages across the land. I grew up in Burnley, where as 14 and 15 year-olds we had secondary modern schools, growing unemployment and a second-division football team. Older kids at school played prog rock albums and the youth clubs were run by scout leaders and Methodist groups.

As kids we knew about the hippies and freaks who lived on the old council rubbish tip near Queen’s Park – we loved their huge bonfires and mad carnivals and processions. They were the inspirational Welfare State International, and when they left the town (1978) we turned back to our TV sets, where Granada’s Tony Wilson gave Sex Pistols their first airing. Johnny Rotten’s first words on that September early-evening family show were “Get off your aaaaarrrrsssse!”. In effect, this is exactly what thousands of young people from all over Granadaland did – we created our own world of noise and colour, frank and outspoken, and made things happen. Taking over Welfare State’s vacated building, bands formed and rehearsed. Mid Pennine Arts, with its photocopier and enthusiastic and encouraging staff, became a hub of fanzine-making. Local people went from pub to pub starting up venues, creating gig collectives that shared out performance dates among all the newly-rehearsed bands. As well as Mid Pennine Arts there were various local political groups and Colne’s Youth Theatre that actively supported this outburst of activity, along with the impact of national organisations like Rock Against Racism, that compounded the progressive ideas within this growing subculture.

By 1979 this ad-hoc, disorganised community had established itself not just as part of the local arts community but as a radical and dissenting voice in the region. Front page headlines in the local press were commonplace (MP Slams Obscene Punk Magazine!) and in early 1980, TV presenter Bob Greaves came over from Manchester to make a 30-minute TV documentary about this remarkable regional scene.

Now 40 years on, what is most notable about that time and place – stretching across from Accrington to Colne and from Pendle down to Rossendale – is that so many of the people who were part of that community of modern-day dissenters didn’t disappear into middle-aged anonymity but instead took the core values of punk and applied them to their everyday lives. Core values not of dyed, spiked hair and trousers full of straps and buckles but of fierce individualism, social responsibility, anger at inequality and a willingness to speak out.

Photographer Daniel Meadows, who worked extensively in the area in the mid-1970s, is famous for his work where he revisited the people he photographed decades earlier and let us see how much people had changed.  What ‘Sick Of Being Normal!’ will look at is how the characters in that East Lancs punk episode have changed and learned, how much they use that important time as a yardstick for how they live now, how their lives back then as active, creative, communal kids informs their decisions today.

Some time late last year – 2018 – we found out about Mid Pennine Arts’ Pendle Radicals programme, looking at the history of radical ideas in the East Lancs area, from Chartists to Suffragettes to Union organisers. It seemed like the punks of the late 1970s fit into this great history of mavericks and campaigners, both by challenging the cultural norms of the day and by creating a powerful and progressive community that sprang from the people, not from above. Mid Pennine Arts agreed, and invited us to gather ideas, stories and images that celebrate that particular time and place.

Group - at MPA

To this end we’re planning a publication and exhibition based on interviews with those characters and illustrated by present-day large-scale photographic portraits set alongside sourced photographs of them from around 1979/80. The photographs will inform the text and vice versa. It won’t just be a record of a particular time, but a way of looking at how that cultural hotspot changed people’s lives forever – looking at what exactly the ex-punks are doing now that is still informed by the local and national events of 1979/80.

We will gather artefacts and memorabilia, fanzines and posters, play the music of the time, show films taken at the time in the area (there’s a lot of fascinating but little-seen footage of bands and audiences at Colne’s Union Hotel and Rossendale’s Deeply Vale Festival). There’ll be a newspaper/fanzine styled publication with an extensive essay (how that gathering of nonconformists fits in with the area’s history of radicalism, from suffragettes, socialists and Clarion Clubs to Welfare State and Theatremobile) alongside the photographic portraits. The paper will be free. We will host a talk on the impact of those years on its local players. The opening of the exhibition will be a night of varied and diverse music and film. We want to echo the unconventional creativity of those times by creating something unexpected, an East Lancs celebration of how culture can change people and in turn how people can change culture.

‘Sick of Being Normal!’ was the name of one of local band Notsensibles’ songs, a song that resonated in this region-wide community of disaffected teenagers. The answer to that cry of nonconformity wasn’t inward-looking nihilism or cynicism but a flowering of creativity and energy. For many of the people involved, that energy never went away, and that’s what this exhibition / publication will explore and celebrate.

Boff Whalley, Casey Orr, Stephen Hartley, November 2019

With thanks to Nick Hunt at MPA and Jamie Cunningham at That 0282 Place


Writing with a Mission

Our Radicals research team have been electrified by the story of the great Ethel Carnie.  Project leader Janet Swan considers Ethel’s brief time in London, and how we are now inspired to rename the Pendle Radicals blog in her honour…

Writing with a Mission – One We Can Continue?

Thanks to Pendle Radicals, I have learnt about the amazing Ethel Carnie Holdsworth.  I have also had the opportunity to become involved in groups reading her work, and work with song writers who have taken her poems and turned them into songs. When the personal stories start to flow* as a result of this further work, it makes me feel glad that we may be continuing something that was very important to Ethel.

We know that Ethel Carnie worked in London for at least six months in 1909 when she was aged just 23, writing stories, poems and articles for the newspaper The Woman Worker. But she was to return to London five years later to teach creative writing at Bebel House**, in Kensington – a Labour College for working women with the aim of promoting radical adult education.

It is here that she founded The Rebel Pen Club – for the following purpose: ‘working class women … must learn to cultivate powers of expression in writing and speaking so that they bring to light corners of life unseen by the many superior persons who have shown the necessity that the workers should speak for themselves’.

She is of course advocating that this task should fall to all workers, but for Ethel it was women who clearly knew the realities of not only working life, but also domestic life and who from henceforth refused to ‘stand on a hill, safe and afar, watching the struggle’. But what seems crucial to me about her decision to return to London (which we know she grew to hate when she lived there in 1909) was that this task was too important to ignore. It had to be the workers who described the conditions in factories, mills and forges as they really were.

Later, when Helen of Four Gates was being filmed in 1920, Ethel claims that her authentic portrayal of the mill community ‘has been bred into her, through sharing their lives, their labours, they joys and sorrows, standing at the loom in a factory, living with them in tiny houses in poky streets’. The interviewer concludes that this ‘premier novelist’ of Lancashire ‘is successful because she is certain of herself and her cast … and as a consequence, her work possesses a richness and atmosphere, a boldness and truth’ which was otherwise scarce***. After living in London in 1909, Ethel returned to her roots, to the place where she was best connected, in order to write for the workers not just about them.

Such boldness and truth seem in short supply today, and so if we are to form our own Rebel Pen Club, we would do well to be rooted in real life as Ethel asks, and as far as we are able, cultivate the power of expression or at the very least the power of persuasion, which can come in many forms. But most importantly we must be engaged if we are to share the joys and sorrows of those around us.

As I look forward to a further creative project inspired by Ethel, I can’t help thinking that our greatest legacy would be not only to inspire others to learn more about Ethel and to read her work, but also for us all to take up the challenge of more connected lives.

*For someone involved in one of the projects, for example, it has been family memories that have been stirred – things that she had forgotten about the richness of her working class roots, and which have brought an all important sense of delight at a much needed time.

**Literacy and Numeracy were also taught. There is no evidence that Ethel lived in London at this time. She was probably just a visitor for she was soon to be found living in Great Harwood again.

***This and other quotes from the introduction by Pamela Fox to Helen of Four Gates (The republication of Ethel’s novel in 2016, by Kennedy and Boyd Publishers, Nottingham).


In 2020, the Radicals group will continue the Ethel enquiry with a new phase of audio-based work, leading to some exciting new creative results.  Watch for news, or better still, join the team!
Image courtesy of Helen Brown.

Banner Culture – All Saints’ Church Walking Day Banner

The oldest banner in the recent Banner Culture exhibition came from All Saints’ Church in Habergham, Burnley.  It was a very popular banner with visitors and we thought you would like to know more about it.  Clive Spencer, who organised its loan for the exhibition and Rachel Pollitt, from Gawthorpe Hall, tell us more about this beautiful banner…


The All Saints Church banner in the Banner Culture exhibition represented one of Lancashire’s dying traditions – ‘Walking Day’.  On a certain day of the year the church congregation would put on their Sunday best and parade from the church around the parish, holding aloft at least one banner from the church whilst huge crowds lined the streets to watch.  In the Manchester area walks were held on Whit Friday, in Padiham on Whit Monday and in Habergham on Whit Sunday, plus there were occasions when all of the churches in the locality held joint processions.  Today declining congregations and increasing traffic on the roads have meant that this has almost vanished from our streets, and the banners, often huge in size, now lie unused in many local churches.

Dating back to the late Victorian period, the banner from All Saints Church Habergham was probably made by Manchester based banner makers Thomas Brown & Son, who also made Mrs Pankhurst’s famous suffragette banners among many others.  It has an image of Christ as the Good Shepherd in the centre, flowers on the outside with the church name above and below. At over two metres tall it must have been an impressive site as it led the parade.

Habergham’s Walking Day, also known as the Whit Walk or by its official title The Procession of Witness, was one of the highlights of the church year.  There was a festival atmosphere in the town with the main road closed to traffic as huge crowds lined the streets to watch. Each church congregation followed their own banner, two of the strongest men of the parish would carry the wooden poles supporting the banner which was of course, held as high as possible. Ropes were also attached, four usually being held again by men of the parish as a sudden gust of wind could cause mayhem. For added visual effect a number of young children would hold guide ropes, whilst being ‘marshalled’ by their Sunday School teachers.

All Saints Banner 1908The All Saints Church banner being carried in procession on Padiham Road near the church, circa 1908. Image courtesy of Clive Spencer.

Local photographers produced postcards of the church processions and the day’s events were always covered in the newspapers. The Burnley Express from 30 May 1885 describes:

 …a procession of over 300 left the church after a short service, and headed by the Padiham Brass Band and a banner…they proceeded down Padiham Road to Lowerhouse and thence to Ivy Bank, the residence of Col. Dugdale, J.P.  In the afternoon buns and coffee were served in a field near Habergham Pit, where several pleasant hours were spent in play. The Park Hill Wesleyans, who preceded the Church procession, were equally numerous.

In the 1950s all the Anglican churches of Burnley including All Saints held joint processions through the town centre.  In 1951 it was reported that crowds were up to six deep on the pavement whilst in 1953 nearly 4,000 men, women and children took part in the actual procession alone.

No longer used for Walking Day the Banner Culture exhibition was a welcome opportunity to get the All Saints’ Church banner out for the first time in many years. However after being used in all weathers and serving the parish and church so well for over 100 years it is now in great need of conservation to preserve it for the future, although it is unlikely that it would ever be paraded in the same way again.

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All Saints congregation members on the Whit Walk with the banner, passing the old Lane Ends pub circa 1923. Image courtesy of  Lancashire County Council Red Rose Collections.All Saints Habergham banner (3)
All Saints Banner as part of Banner Culture exhibition. Image courtesy of Clive Spencer.

Banner Culture was created, as part of Mid Pennine Arts’ Pendle Radicals project, for the British Textile Biennial in partnership with Super Slow Way. Pendle Radicals is part of the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership, supported by National Lottery players through the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The Two Toms Trail

Bob Sproule tells us about a walk he, and other Radicals volunteers, went on in May, retracing the steps of the Two Toms…

Whalley to Colne – A Radical Route

Today, Nick Burton, Barbara Sanders and I left Whalley via the railway station, passing the old corn mill; Whalley Abbey and then walked on Princess Street, where Tom Stephenson lived as a 13 year old worker when he walked on to Pendle and dreamt of long distance footpaths and access to the countryside.

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We passed his house and proceeded towards Spring Wood past the Police Station he had to attend for failing to answer his call up papers in the First World War, he was sent to Clitheroe magistrates’ court and sentenced to prison.

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From Spring Wood we climbed steadily past interesting buildings until we eventually arrived at the Nick O’Pendle. We headed off towards Apronful Hill planning to get to Deerstones via Badger Wells Hill, however a minor detour to the hustings place of the Sabden Chartists and on to the Chartists Well prove both irresistible and worthwhile.

Back on track we went via Deerstones, on to the back of Fell Woods and dropped down into the lovely village of Newchurch. After visiting St. Mary’s Church we exited through the back gate and heading down to Spen Brook, we turned left here to walk past the second Clarion House run by Nelson ILP, (Independent Labour Party) at Nabs Farm before heading past Dimperly Farm to the current ILP Clarion for a lunch break.

The afternoon consisted of the ascent to Nogarth End and a delightful ridge walk to pick up the Pendle Way above Barrowford, where we dropped down into the village and walked through the park to the Pendle Heritage Centre, up Barrowford Road to take a canal towpath under the M65 and pick up a cycle route into Colne.

We walked to Dockray Street, but couldn’t work out where Dockray Square and the chapel Thomas Leonard preached in, and took his parishioners from, on trips to the Lake District, was. Fortunately, Brendan in the town library explained that the library (rear portion) covered the site of the congregational church and there was a plaque to the church in the library entrance, he also checked the 1891 census and told us that Leonard was living at 128 Keighley Road, Colne at the time of the census.

Like Stephenson, Leonard was a pacifist and in later life became a Quaker, both did practical things to make access to the countryside available to working people, they campaigned together as well as separately for the rights of ramblers and I feel they are owed a huge debt of gratitude by modern day walkers and are undervalued radicals who deserve recognition for their achievements.   

Nick Burton will lead a circular 5 mile walk to this area as part of the 2019 Pendle Walking Festival, on Saturday 17 August – walk number 47 Chartist Walk.

 Would you like to be a Radical researcher yourself? Contact Faye for more information…

A Triumphant Research Trip!

Radicals volunteer Irene Vince tells us about a recent trip to the Peace Museum, Bradford…

Recently I took a trip to the Peace Museum in Bradford with Faye and Nick from MPA as well as Steph Heaps and Jackie Jones from Super Slow Way.  We were going to look at their banner collection for suitable contributions for our upcoming banner exhibition which will feature as part of the British Textiles Biennial in October this year.  The museum is on Piece Hall Yard in a fine old Victorian building near the Town Hall. We were enthusiastically greeted by the curator Charlotte Hall.  After a quick tour of the museum, somewhere I fully intend to revisit as I barely had chance to take much in, she took us into the office and let us browse their digital catalogue of banners.


They have a really interesting and comprehensive collection of banners: elaborate community produced patchwork ones; sumptuous satin appliqued pictorial affairs; a beautiful intricate batik one; an enormous stark graphic one and very simple text based only ones. They ranged from something the Quilters’ and Embroiderers’ Guilds would be proud of, to those that had been boldly scrawled on a piece of fabric in the passion of the moment.  All equally powerful in their own way.

While we were looking through the catalogue Charlotte had brought out a selection to show us in the flesh and we spent the next forty minutes unfurling and admiring them. I was reminded of a visit to a carpet shop in a Moroccan souk when one magical piece after another was rolled out before us, and like in the souk we wanted them all!  The museum has very generously offered to loan any in their collection for the exhibition.  I think it’s a suitably rich seam to mine.





Thalia Campbell was well represented among their collection. A prolific banner maker especially in the 80s when our society was undergoing radical change from the more egalitarian post war period. I do hope she agrees to us using some of her banners and indeed attends the exhibition.


I was tickled pink to see a corner of the museum was devoted to the anti-Trump demo I went on with other “Feminist Zealots” (a phrase coined by the local MP with distinctive Trumpian overtones) in Saltaire a couple of years ago. I use the phrase tickled pink as they had in their display a couple of examples of the home made pink pussy hats that many of the demonstrators were sporting, a distinctive and subtle example of protest apparel. They also reference Trump’s colourful language and an article I much lusted after but which no-one was prepared to part with.


We came away from our visit enthused and inspired and full of admiration at the skill and energy that goes into banner production.

Continue reading more about the project here!

Would you like to be a Radical researcher yourself? Contact Faye for more information…