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).



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.

Walking Day at All Saints' Church, Burnley small

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.

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…

A very Radical couple of months…

May 2019

Catch up with some of the things we have been up to as part of Pendle Radicals. As Faye Wetherall reports, it’s true to say it has been a very busy and RADICAL few months with lots more to look forward to…


Have YOU got what it takes to be a Radical Explorer?

A few weeks ago as part of Pendle Hill Landscape Partnerships Free Family Nature Sessions we hosted a Radical Explorer themed workshop!  Held at the glorious Clarion House, the last IMG_5813one of its kind in the UK, the workshop shone light on just one of our Radical Trail sites which will be kite marked later this year.  (Look out for more on this…) We recruited lots of new Radical Explorers who made their own Explorer Journals, learnt about their local history and discovered their unique Explorer Name.  It was fantastic to introduce the project to a young audience who particularly enjoyed learning about the extraordinary Ethel Carnie Holdsworth, the first working class woman to have a novel published, just one of the many remarkable, but often forgotten, people of Pendle which Pendle Radicals aims to bring into the light.



Banner, Protests and Campaigning…

Over the last few months we have made lots of progress in the organising of our banners exhibition which will feature in the first British Textiles Biennial in October. We invited banner artist Jamie Holman to come and give a talk to our growing group of volunteers and we are looking forward to visiting the Peace Museum in Bradford later this week for further research and inFKRS8005spiration.

In the build up to what we hope will be a very impressive showing of textile banners both past and present, we are working with a group of GCSE Textiles students at Marsden Heights Community College. Over the course of seven sessions, the students will be thinking about what challenges they themselves face as young women today and what issues they feel strongly about. They will be inspired by the needlework of the suffragettes and will be thinking about what these women would be fighting for today. The work will be exhibited in the lead up to the British Textiles Biennial, with the students given ownership of how their work is displayed…


People Enjoying Nature…

We had a great day with Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership, providing a Radicals themed session as part of their People Enjoying IMG_6466Nature programme. These sessions provide individuals and groups dealing with mental health issues and social isolation the opportunity to learn new skills and meet new people, and so it was amazing to share our project with them and leave them wanting to learn more about the amazing people and places associated with their area. It was a fabulous day of making and walking, we took in two of our Radicals sites, the Inghamite church and Clarion House and the group were inspired by the work of Selina Cooper and Ada Nield Chew, thinking about and expressing some the issues they would be fighting for today!



A Full House for Peterloo

It was great to see lots of familiar and new faces at the screening of Peterloo as part of In-situ’s Pendle Social Cinema programme.  Ballad singer Jennifer Reid kicked off the evening with some live singing which certainly warmed up the audience, Jennifer will be leading her own project as part of Pendle Radicals… keep scrolling for more information. Nick Hunt (MPA Creative Director) followed with an update about the project. All proceeds from the screening are going to Clarion House.  Sue Nike from the Clarion told us about some of its interesting and radical history!



Novels, Poetry and Songs…

Reader, writer, poet, pacifist, suffragist, co-operator and educator Ethel Carnie Holdsworth has gPR - Audio Premiere - ECH - 25.3.19 - 2reatly inspired our team of volunteer researchers. With their help, as well as Drama Specialist Jules Gibb and broadcaster Liz Catlow, we have recorded a selection of Ethel’s poems which will feature in the National Poetry Archive. We are therefore inviting you to a celebratory event of this happening on Friday 7 June. As well as hearing these poems being brought to life, you will also have the opportunity to learn about one of Ethel’s novels that has been recently republished. East Lancashire Clarion Choir, based in Burnley, is currently singing about Ethel Carnie in a project called the Pendle Hill Song Fellowship. Come and hear the Songs of a Factory Girl – in song. Find out more here.


Broadside Ballads and Paul Graney…

Inspired by one of our Pendle Radicals, Paul Graney, ‘the man with the tape recorder’, Jennifer Reid will be creating a dialect reading group which will develop into a dialect writing group for people who live around Pendle Hill. Is this you? Why not some along to an introductory session to find out more about Paul Graney, his work and how you can get involved in this project.


This is just some of the RADICAL things that have been keeping us busy over the last few months… learn more about the project here and how you can become involved as a volunteer!




Radicals attend The Battle of Heptonstall

Nick Burton, a member of the volunteer research team, tells us about a Radical experience for the volunteers in Heptonstall…

On Saturday 2nd March, a group of Pendle Radicals volunteers ventured out on a stormy night over the border to Pennine Yorkshire. It was as if the weather was stage managed, since the evening was to be spent watching a play where there was an actual storm brewing. This was a political and human storm in the shape of the English Civil War. Huddled in an atmospherically lit, draughty hilltop church we were treated to a dramatic retelling of The Battle of Heptonstall, an event that tore the West Riding village asunder in the autumn of 1643.

Battle-Heptonstall poster

The Battle of Heptonstall is a community play written by Michael Crowley. It took six months to produce and involved local people at every stage and in every way, even forming their own theatre company with the name ‘The Brutish Multitude’. This name was apt, not just for the turbulent age of the 17th century but for the uncertain political times we are experiencing today. How very intriguing that the funding for the production came from Art50, a Sky Arts project that, in the wake of Article 50 being invoked, asked 50 artists to respond to the question of ‘who we British are as a people and a nation’.

The story unfolded over two acts and showed how a Civil War skirmish between Royalist forces from Halifax and Roundhead forces from Rochdale played out on a hillside above the small isolated weaving and farming community of Heptonstall. The story was based on real accounts, with the battle and the events leading up to it placed in the domestic situation facing the fictional Cockcroft family. John Cockcroft is a struggling weaver forced to billet a parliamentary sergeant in his own house and struggling to stop his own teenage son joining the fight. The son is largely doing this to impress his young sweetheart, herself caught up in the machinations of a Royalist spy.

The play worked as a domestic drama set against the backdrop of war. As much as John Cockcroft wanted to ignore the pending battle he could not. Here was a hardworking honest man whose chief loyalty was to his family rather than King or Parliament. There is an obvious connection with Pendle Radicals here. Many of our heroes faced the day to day struggle of working class existence but were caught up in causes linked to greater national and international struggles.


As well as being well acted and researched, it was both the music and the setting that were the key to evoking the atmosphere of the mid-17th century period in this Pennine community. A rich seam of traditional folk and pastoral tunes ran throughout the play including music by Thomas Tallis and a Christopher Marlowe poem. Songs were sung by the cast, who presumably were not professional singers, which gave an authentic feel as the same ballads would have been sung by the weavers, farmhands, soldiers and common folk of the 1640’s.

The venue for the play was St. Thomas the Apostle Church, the parish church which for centuries in its old and new forms, has been at the heart of the village community. The audience sat in the pews with the play being performed in front of the altar. Dimly lit and with a high vaulted roof, the church echoed to the beat of the war drums and spies and generals emerged from the dark shadows of stone columns.


Intriguingly the scattered graves spread wide around the church include the American poet, Sylvia Plath, and Heptonstall’s very own Pennine Radical, ‘King’ David Hartley. He was the ringleader of the ‘Cragg Vale Coiners’, who in the 18th century ran a counterfeit coin racket in the valley around Hebden Bridge to supplement meagre weaving and farming incomes. Hartley was arrested and hung at York, his grave now to be found in the old graveyard of Heptonstall parish church.



The production of The Battle of Heptonstall was also an effective piece of community theatre due to its modern-day relevance. As part of the Art50 Brexit related initiative, it held up a mirror and reflected our own divided society. Villagers like John Cockcroft were reluctantly forced to choose a side – King or Parliament. The rhetoric and battle cries of both opposing sides were cleverly voiced in the play from the side-lines. The characters of Sir Francis Mackworth and Colonel Bradshaw were both represented in the play highlighting the opposing ideologies of Cavalier and Roundhead. In a nice twist, both the military commanders were played by women.

The production certainly set the bar high. Pendle Radicals volunteers can be enthused and spurred on by this. Like the Yorkshire side of the Pennines, we also have the true stories, the historical accounts, the ballads and songs, as well as the evocative and atmospheric settings that can be used to bring our radicals to dramatic life. It shows also that in any drama production the music and location can play a major role. Perhaps the village hall or community centre is not always the most effective place to tell a story.

Pendle Radicals - vols gathering - 31.7.18 - 2.JPG

Read more about the project on the Art50 website.

A Banner Occasion!

Faye catches us up on what some of the Pendle Radicals Research Team have been up to…

One thing we’ve realised while researching some of the more politically engaged Pendle Radicals, such as women’s suffrage and workers’ rights advocate Selina Cooper, is the power of protest and the special place in that of the visual language of banners. So we’re delighted that as part of the Pendle Radicals programme, MPA is invited to produce a banner exhibition as part of Super Slow Way’s 2019 British Textiles Biennial.

We aim for this to be a big, bold, dramatic showing of protest banners – a mix of contemporary and heritage items – to not only provide a spectacular visual experience, but also to inspire and to bring to life a century-long, historical thread of protest and dissent. More on that in future blogs…

To inspire the very enthusiastic team of Pendle Radicals volunteers who are leading the way on the exhibition, we invited artist Jamie Holman to join us for one of our regular Radical Tea Parties, and we were delighted when he accepted.

Last year Jamie was co-commissioned by Super Slow Way and the Lancashire Encounter Festival to explore the politics of fabric through the collections at the Harris Museum, Preston and Blackburn Museum. Working with Durham Bannermakers, Jamie created a beautiful, trade union style, hand painted banner, which was processed during the Festival in September 2018.

Over coffee and cake, Jamie shared with the group how his work was inspired by the Harris’s collection of protest banners and was influenced by William Blake, the temperance movement and sports fashion. He spoke about how the banner design draws on the recent legacy of acid house and rave, in Lancashire towns where this youth culture explosion happened thirty years ago, and how he actively sought to engage people ‘who were there’ in the production process. The banner, he explained, is not only intended for display in gallery or museum spaces, but also for active use in protests and parades.

Jamie has been developing this work over the last few months, continuing to take inspiration from the time when working class youth reclaimed the deserted mill buildings of the north that cotton had abandoned, and filled them with a new community of music and dance. His completed work will be exhibited as part of the Biennial in October 2019.

It is clear that Jamie’s banner is made up of many threads… excuse the pun… inspired further by the idea of looking at nostalgia differently. Jamie’s passion for bringing radical history to life was a great inspiration and got us all thinking…



Jamie Holman photo 5 (credit - Lee Smillie)

Jamie Holman photo 4 (credit - Lee Smillie)

Jamie Holman photo 6 (credit - Lee Smillie)


Emma Blackburn photo - banner tea party -19.2.19 - EB copyright - 3



Thanks to Emma Blackburn and Lee Smillie for the great images.

Interested? Find out more about our Pendle Radicals project via our website. Perhaps you would like to join the Radicals Research Team? Contact Faye for more details.



Ethel the Poet

Faye Wetherall brings you the latest on our mission to tell the world about Ethel Carnie Holdsworth…

Last week we had yet another successful Ethel Carnie inspired tea party, thanks to great company and, of course, great cake!  Ethel Carnie Holdsworth is just one of an extraordinary cast of characters that Pendle Radicals aims to explore. She was the first working class woman in Britain to publish a novel and, despite juggling being a wife and mother, she was a remarkable poet and social activist.

Ethel started writing poetry at a very young age – as she stood at her loom in the mill – she says in the introduction to her first collection. She subsequently published three collections between 1907 and 1914 but wrote many more that were published in a wide range of newspapers and magazines.


The poem above demonstrates her talent.  It is taken from her last poetry collection called Voices of Womanhood.  It also shows her frustration over women’s subordinate position in society.  Ethel wasn’t afraid to speak out about such issues, whereas many other women of the time accepted that this was how society ran and didn’t challenge the status quo. The poem for me sums Ethel up in a nut shell, her determination, fieriness and her strong views. She used poetry as a platform to speak out and connect with other women and mothers who were too afraid to do so.  However, she had no wish or desire for this to bring her fame or reputation.

By the age of 46, Carnie had written 10 novels, two films, numerous short stories and poems, fifteen serials, plus essays.  She also edited and produced The Clear Light – an anti-fascist newspaper, however, many people are unaware of the remarkable efforts and work of this mill worker turned best-selling author.

ethel1_from-hbrown-1In light of sharing Ethel’s incredible talent as a writer, feminist and activist and allowing her work to be enjoyed by others, Pendle Radicals has put forward a number of Ethel’s poems to be included in the national Poetry Archive. Choosing the right poems from the endless amount of exceptional poems that she wrote has been extremely tricky however – especially as we only have a relatively small amount of audio space available to us.

With the help of our project volunteers or ‘Radicals Research Team’ as we refer to them, plus contributions from Dr. Roger Smalley (who wrote his PhD and a further book about Ethel Carnie*) and Dr. Patricia Johnson (from her excellent paper on Ethel’s poetry **) we were slowly able to move towards a decision. We wanted a wide audience to be able to connect and relate to these poems whilst representing Ethel’s early, mid and late career. We intend for the poems to grab people’s attention and highlight Ethel’s rare and distinctive talent, and we now believe that after all our cogitations, the poems below achieve and encapsulate this.


The Bookworm Rhymes from the Factory Blackburn: R Denham and Co 1907
Who are the Great? Rhymes from the Factory Blackburn: R Denham and Co 1907
Faith Songs of a Factory Girl London: Headley Brothers 1911
The Universal Life Songs of a Factory Girl London: Headley Brothers 1911
Reveille Daily Herald newspaper; 11 July  1913 1913
Why? Voices of Womanhood London: Headley Brothers 1914
Power Freedom newspaper; June 1925 1925
The Meadow Clock Wheatsheaf 1932 1932


Our next step
For the Poetry Archive, we will record the poems read aloud by two women who hail from East Lancashire – Jules Gibb and Elizabeth Catlow. These will then be sent to the Poetry Archive which, with the addition of some biographical information about Ethel written by Janet Swan, will form the full entry for one of the first working class women poets in this country.  A great job well done – and thanks to our amazing team of volunteers for reading the poems and bringing them back to life for all to hear.

*Smalley Roger, (2014) Breaking the Bonds of Capitalism: the political vision of a Lancashire mill girl. Regional Heritage Centre, Lancaster.

** Johnson, Patricia E. (2005) Finding her voice(s): the development of a working-class feminist vision in Ethel Carnie’s poetry. Victorian Poetry Vol 43, no 3.

Interested by this? Read more about the project here.

Would you like to become a member of the Radicals Research Team? If so, contact Faye for more information.