Ethel and the Archives

A Week in Lancashire Part One

PhD researcher and Radicals collaborator Jenny Harper had a very busy week on her first study visit to Lancashire.  It started with a delve into some precious public collections.

As part of a packed week of Ethel Carnie Holdsworth-related activities, I ventured deep into the library archives of Manchester and Bolton. In carrying out my six-year PhD project on Ethel, I’m always seeking to dig deeper, to find out where new connections can be made, and to thus bring Ethel into sharper focus.

My first stop was the Ethel Carnie Holdsworth box and holdings at the famous Working Class Movement Library The have a fascinating collection including hand-written notes by the Frows tracing Ethel’s life story and literary output. I read with great interest the lively communication between the Frows and H. Gustav Klaus as they drafted a contribution to his important 1987 book, The Rise of Socialist Fiction 1880-1914. Their chapter on Ethel marked the start of a period of recovery, as she began to become recognised as an important and previously neglected figure within the genre. The records are convivial, including a note from Gustav Klaus wishing the Frows an enjoyable summer holiday in their caravan. As the Frows pointed out in a 1987 Observer article, Ethel had at that point become almost entirely forgotten. Not a single obituary marked her death in Manchester in 1962.[1] And yet in 1920 the Blackburn Weekly Telegraph reported that sales of Helen of Four Gates had hit 25,000.[2] Ethel had become almost entirely erased from history within a period of less than 50 years.

What is perhaps most interesting about the Carnie Holdsworth holdings at the WCML is the way they so effectively trace the variation in her literary output. Her status as a working class writer bounds the nature of her literary production. Within an edition of The Woman Worker in December 1909 her strident voice addresses social injustice head-on as she expresses little surprise that women were having to sell themselves for bread to escape starvation.[3] In an earlier October 1909 editorial, she reflects on the disparity between her wages at the cotton mill and as a paid author. In two hours, she could write, ‘an impossible tale in a mediocre journal which could earn her three guineas,’ she notes.[4] June 1927’s The Wheatsheaf features perhaps the sort of story that she was referring to as Mr Ratchetty Considers a Vital Question in a light popular romance piece. She contributed regularly to The Wheatsheaf during this period, earning her own bread in the way she could best.[5]

Onto the John Rylands Library, and their C.F. Sixsmith Walt Whitman Collection, which holds many archival materials on the Eagle Street College, an important group of British ethical socialists. As the Frows noted in documents at the WCML, Ethel was familiar with a wide range of authors, including Edward Carpenter, a key member of the Eagle Street collective. A strand of my research traces how the British ethical socialists influenced Ethel’s own literary output and the opportunity to handle items from this important collection was a real privilege. A letter to Whitman from Robert Ingersoll was of particular interest: Ingersoll was a renowned American free thinker and agnostic, who gave a famed eulogy at Whitman’s funeral in 1892, and whom Whitman described as the embodiment of Leaves of Grass.[6] Ingersoll is named within a pivotal passage in Ethel’s Barbara Dennison, and this intriguingly evidences a direct American influence on her writing.[7] The question of how she came across Ingersollian philosophy remains enticingly to be discovered, but it does strengthen the theory that the Whitmanite worldview coloured her own.

A final archival visit to the Bolton History Centre next, and an opportunity to investigate their excellent Bolton Whitman Fellowship collection, after an informative chat over lunch with Whitman expert Paul Salveson and Julie Lamara (Collections Access Officer). This wide-ranging collection includes a stirring letter from 1894 to the Bolton group from Katharine Bruce Glasier, who once referred to Leaves of Grass as her ‘bible.’ ‘From comrade to comrades,’ she writes, ‘Look up, cry aloud! Your long travail is over: a new life is born in the land of the sun; a life of fruition, of lore and of colour- full, free and sufficing- for all or for none.’[8] Such anthemic words resonate with Ethel’s own. In April 1909’s The Woman Worker, Ethel joined the cry, calling out for the rights of the working classes to have some ‘colour’ in their lives.[9]

Without doubt the archives in Lancashire are holding on to many more Ethel Carnie Holdsworth secrets, and I very much look forward to sharing further insights as her story unfolds.

I am always eager to collaborate on anything Ethel Carnie Holdsworth-related and can be contacted at j.harper@pgr.reading.ac.uk.

Jenny Harper’s PhD research is supported by the South West & Wales consortium of universities, through their Doctoral Training Programme.  It is a collaboration between Reading University, Exeter University and Mid Pennine Arts through the Pendle Radicals project.

[1] Working Class Movement Library, Typescripts of article/lecture(s?) by Ruth and Eddie including list of references, notes and correspondence connected to above item, Ethel Carnie Collection, PP/CARNIE.

[2] Working Class Movement Library, Photocopies reviews from Blackburn newspapers, Ethel Carnie Collection, PP/CARNIE.

[3] Working Class Movement Library, Typescripts of article/lecture(s?) by Ruth and Eddie including list of references, notes and correspondence connected to above item, Ethel Carnie Collection, PP/CARNIE.

[4] Working Class Movement Library, Typescripts of article/lecture(s?) by Ruth and Eddie including list of references, notes and correspondence connected to above item, Ethel Carnie Collection, PP/CARNIE.

[5] Working Class Movement Library, Photocopies of articles and stories from The Wheatsheaf 1910-1936, Ethel Carnie Collection, PP/CARNIE.

[6] University of Manchester Special Collections, C.F. Sixsmith Walt Whitman Collection, 25th March 1880, GB 133 Eng 1170/1/1/5

[7] Ethel Carnie Holdsworth, Barbara Dennison (Stanley Paul, 1928), p. 271.

[8] Bolton Whitman Fellowship Archive, Bolton Whitman Fellowship Papers, 23rd February 1894, ZWN, 45.

[9] Ethel Carnie Holdsworth, ‘How Colour is Introduced’, The Woman Worker, 7th April 1909, p. 323.

Selina at the Unity

In autumn 2021, many of our Radicals contributors joined the celebration events for the delayed and much-anticipated launch of the Selina Cooper project at Nelson’s Unity Hall.  Selina at the Unity has now been featured in the North West History Journal.  Kevin Webb, one of the prime movers behind this lovely project, gave us this recap on how it all came about.

In the spring of 2018 the Unity Hall in Nelson, Lancashire was reopened as a resource for the local community after Nelson Town Council purchased the building and secured funding for its renovation. The hall was for many years the headquarters of the local Independent Labour Party (ILP) and local suffragist , Selina Cooper, was one of the two women who laid the foundation stones in July 1907.

At around the same time as the hall was reopening a set of display boards celebrating the life of Selina Cooper, who had lived most of her life locally, were discovered in the archive at Nelson Library.

The two brothers who discovered the Selina Cooper material, Kevin and Gary Webb, had visited the newly reopened hall and had seen that it had plenty of empty wall space and decided that the material was wasted languishing in the archive and an ideal location for it would be the walls of the Unity Hall.

Fast forward eighteen months to the autumn of 2019 and the news came through that, at the third attempt the National Lottery Heritage application that the brothers had submitted through Nelson Council had been successful and that £50,000 of funding had been awarded.

Kevin Webb who wrote the funding application said :

The history of the rich and powerful is usually well documented, whilst the history and achievements of working people is forgotten and uncelebrated. One of the things we wanted to achieve was to make sure that this particular piece of working class history was not forgotten and that the achievements of Selina Cooper, and the history of the Unity Hall and what it meant to local people, were commemorated in an appropriate way.

Since then the project, aided by the project facilitator, Charlotte Bill, who was appointed in the summer of 2020, has worked to achieve the projects objectives.

They have installed, in the Selina Cooper room, four replica stained glass ILP windows, these replace the original windows which were removed when the hall suffered a period of deterioration.

Photo: N Hunt

One full wall of the Revive café, which is located on the ground floor of the hall, is now home to a mural depicting the key events in the history of the Unity Hall from its inception to the present day.

Just outside the Revive café on either side of the main ground floor corridor you can find eight display boards. Four of these illustrate the story of Conscientious Objection in North East Lancashire during the first world war, with more CO’s coming from Nelson than nearly any other town in the country, a fact not unrelated to the ILP’s opposition to the war. The other four panels are devoted to the Women’s Peace Crusade of 1916 to 1918 , which although a national movement was particularly active in Nelson.

Photo: N Hunt

Just off this corridor is the Reading Room which is a reconstruction of the Library that the founders of the building created over one hundred years ago. This room is open to the public and contains some of the original furniture and a large collection of socialist books.

The project has also publicised the history and heritage connected to Selina and the Unity Hall by creating a webpage devoted to the project which can be found on the Nelson Town Council website.

Five thousand copies of a brochure advertising the Unity Hall and the project were also produced and were distributed before the delayed project launch event which took place on Saturday 26 June 2021.

A booklet which tells, in detail, the history of the hall has been created. Sections of the booklet have been written by a local historian whose grandfather was a founding member of the Nelson ILP and another section by a group of students from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) as part of their degree studies.

Four mobile displays have been created relating to the Clarion movement. The first of the four banners concentrates on the Clarion newspaper and the cultural influence it had on its readers. Another banner relates to the Clarion vans and Julia Dawson, a third to Clarion clubhouses (the last remaining clubhouse being our own local Clarion House at Newchurch-in-Pendle, near Nelson), and a fourth banner to the history of the Clarion cycling clubs.  These could be seen recently at our co-commission for the British Textile Biennial at Helmshore Textile Mills Museum in October 2021. They complemented the artist James Fox’s work beautifully and we were very grateful for the loan.

Photo: N Hunt

Charlotte Bill, the project facilitator, has conducted sessions with students from both Nelson & Colne and Burnley further education colleges which have proved very successful with great feedback from students. Charlotte said:

I have really enjoyed learning about the people who created this amazing building, visionaries, internationalists, feminists, socialists, they believed the people who created the wealth of the nation should have a say in how that wealth is spent and that everyone should be represented in Parliament. This building is a wonderful legacy for Nelson’s community, with its Reading room, Archive and Revive café, ready to welcome everyone in, just as the founders intended in 1907.

Photo: N Hunt

The Unity Hall was closed for much of 2020 due to the Covid lockdowns, but gradually reopened as the restrictions eased. It was fully accessible from June 2021 (please check latest guidelines before planning a visit).

The project group and Nelson Town Council hope that people from far and wide will visit the hall, enjoy the displays, utilise the Reading Room and visit the Revive café. The Clarion clubhouse at Newchurch, which is run by a group of volunteers, is only a couple of miles away, and is open on Sundays throughout most of the year and is also well worth a visit.

None of this would have been possible without the support of the National Lottery Heritage fund. The project team and Nelson Town Council are extremely grateful to NLHF for allowing them to bring these stories to the attention of a new generation in Nelson and beyond.

Visit the Unity Hall – Selina Cooper project website

Visit the Clarion House website

Thank you to Kevin Webb for allowing us to base this blog on his article published in the North West History Journal (The journal of the NW Labour History Society) – No. 46 2021-2022

A Life in Common

Ever daydreamed about swapping your day job for a life of utopian idealism on a commune? Meet Chris Coates, who ran away to join a commune.

Pendle Radicals is delighted to welcome former MPA Trustee Chris back to Burnley to talk about his experiences with the People in Common experiment in communal living. This FREE event, to launch his book, will take place at Finsley Gate Wharf on Sunday 26 September 2021. Links below.

Furloughed from his job at Halton Mill and locked down for the best part of the last twelve months former Green Party County Councillor Chris Coates spent the time writing an  ‘autoblogography’ of the time he spent living and working in an alternative community in Burnley called People in Common.

Chris said “Each week I posted a story about some aspect of life at the commune. I started by posting photos and scans of the odd old document I came across while rummaging through my filing cabinet. As Covid lockdown kicked in I started to conceive of using the enforced downtime to see if I could complete some sort of record of the years I spent at People In Common.”

The collection of blog posts has now been published in book form. Telling a sort of alternative poacher turned gamekeeper’s tale of Chris’s journey from leaving school in 1975 and being part of the London squatting scene. Through spending twenty years trying to work out how to ‘live the dream’ in East Lancashire to the building of Lantern House as a Centre for Celebration as part of Welfare State International in Ulverston at the turn of the millennium.

Chris went on to say “ People in Common grew out of the counterculture of the 1970’s. We didn’t call ourselves a commune because of all the assumptions that are made about the hippy lifestyle and Burnley isn’t the obvious place that you’d think of for an experiment in communal living.”

Chris moved to Lancaster in 1999 and was elected to the Lancashire County Council for the Green Party in 2005. He was part of the group that set up the Forgebank Cohousing project in Halton in 2012 where he now lives.

For more information about the event and to book your FREE place please visit our Eventbrite page. Places must be booked in advance.

A Life in Common is published by Diggers & Dreamers.
200 pages Colour & B&W pictures.

It is available priced £12 + p&p from the Diggers & Dreamers Website. Copies will be on sale for the special price of £10 at the book launch.

If you can’t make the in person event, but would still like to hear Chris talk about his experiences, there is an online event organised by Diggers & Dreamers on the 30th September. Full details and booking HERE.

Altham Corn Mill

#I_AM_CLARION

Sunday 19 September

Clarion Sunday 2021

An artist’s project to celebrate this unique and historic event

Clarion Sunday is the annual pilgrimage to the last Clarion House by Clarion Cycling Clubs across the north of England.  It is always a special occasion.  This year, after repeat postponements, it really means a lot.  So we have commissioned Alan Ward for an artist project to make the experience of taking part just a bit more special.  If you are a club member, an individual cyclist, or just a Clarion enthusiast, Alan wants to hear from you.

With the rearranged date now fast approaching, and the promise of outdoor events going ahead, we are looking forward to seeing cyclists at Clarion House on the 19th September.

Alan J Ward artist, photographer and devotee of cycling culture, will be present to take a formal portrait of each rider with their mount, using a pop-up studio. He is also inviting cyclists to participate from different Clarion clubs to document their rides to Jinny Lane on the day, using the data provided by tools like Strava and Garmin. Alternatively why not take photographs en-route, make notes about the journey, reflect on the importance of Clarion’s roots, or share personal Clarion artefacts – creative contributions are very welcome!

As the Pendle Radicals commission by Mid Pennine Arts has now launched, Ward is particularly keen to reflect the communal cultural heritage of Clarion Cycling and its Socialist roots at this last Clarion House.

All of this material will be assembled and interpreted in a limited edition artist publication, which each participant will receive after the event with MPA’s compliments. All participants on the day will also receive a special memento to celebrate the day.

Alan Ward invites interested clubs or individuals to register involvement and participation by emailing him at alan@alanjward.co.uk. Also follow him on Instagram: alanjward_axisdesign & Strava: Alan Ward (#i_am_clarion)

Something Borrowed, Something BLUE – Rosie’s Plaques x Pendle Radicals

We are delighted to be welcoming this award-winning women’s project from Norwich, coming to Clarion House in July as first stop of their Covid-delayed national tour.  Shonagh Ingram explains the inspiration for this fantastic project, and the challenge that it gives us…  Which extraordinary but unsung, radical women to celebrate?  There are so, so many to choose from!

In 1867 the very first blue plaque was unveiled to mark the London birthplace of Lord Byron. These iconic heritage plaques can now be found on buildings across the UK, celebrating ‘great figures of the past from all walks of life who have contributed to society’ [1]. But do they tell the whole story?

In 2018, while researching their show All Mouth No Trousers, The Common Lot theatre discovered that of 300 heritage plaques in Norwich, only 25 celebrated women. Outraged by this shocking imbalance, they instigated a guerrilla art project, creating their own plaques to commemorate the women of Norwich that history has forgotten or erased.

Under cover of darkness, and dressed as Rosie the Riveter, we carefully erected alternative blue plaques on significant buildings in the city. Then we waited to see what would happen. [2]

The project was such a runaway success that the team of Rosies decided to take it on a national tour, seeking out stories that deserve to be heard, of extraordinary women who changed the world. And as anyone who has been following the progress of the Pendle Radicals programme will know, there is a long and proud history of extraordinary women in the communities around Pendle Hill.  We just had to invite them to Lancashire!

Of course, this presents the Radicals Research Team with a challenge – with the Plaque Shack only in town for one weekend, whose story should we tell?

Ethel Carnie Holdsworth, the first working class woman to have a novel published and a tireless campaigner for the mill workers of Lancashire?  This powerhouse, prolific, radical writer lived in three Pendle towns during her adult life, but how would anyone know?

Mary Winter, the Burnley bus driver sacked for wearing a Lesbian Liberation badge to work in 1978, who went on to lead a local campaign for LGBT rights?

The Nelson Women’s Peace Crusade, who led passionate demonstrations against the continued slaughter of World War I?

How about Bessie Dickinson, fined for ‘watching and besetting’ knobsticks (ie scabs) in the More Looms disputes of the 1930’s?

Or Maud Davies, champion swimmer, who beat all her male competitors to swim across Morecambe bay in a record time that might still stand today?  

With such a wealth of stories of suffragettes and socialists, wise women and female firebrands, we are expecting a heated debate to narrow down the list, but it is such a privilege to find out more about the women who have shaped Lancashire and the world, each and every one of them deserving of their own blue plaque.


To see Rosie’s Plaques x Pendle Radicals in action, find us and the Plaque Shack at Clarion House, Newchurch, in July 2021.  On Saturday 3rd, join the workshop session fabricating our series of new plaques.  Or on Sunday 4th July, when Clarion should be open to the public, come for a brew and a first look at the end results! 

For more information on the project, email Shonagh at MPA.


[1] Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage 

[2] https://rosiesplaques.com/

UPDATE: The women chosen can be viewed on the list below.

You can view our film of the weekend’s activities below.

In the Footsteps of Extraordinary People

March 2021… The pandemic still ruling our lives, and stopping us getting together with the Radicals’ team. Except on Zoom! During March we presented two packed events for the Pendle Hill online programme. And it was lovely to see so many Radicals’ contributors.

The first, on International Women’s Day, celebrated the magnificent Ethel Carnie Holdsworth with an in-conversation event focused on the making of our podcast which is about her and her novel, This Slavery, a radical feminist and socialist tale of love, loss, poverty and politics.

Jules Gibb and Liz Robertson, creators of the podcast series, offered a unique insight into why and how the podcast came about, the importance of the text and the impact that the extraordinary Ethel herself had on the world. They were joined by Dr Nicola Wilson, whose academic study of Ethel has brought about the republication of some of her novels.

It was a well attended and lively event much enjoyed by those that took part…

Great talk, really engaging and making Ethel very current at this time.

Brilliant evening thank you!

If you’d like to listen to the event you can find a recording on SOUNDCLOUD. You can find the podcast links HERE.

Later in the month we had a full house for an event to Meet the Radicals… On this evening we introduced some of the nonconformists, reformers and change makers researched by the volunteers of the Pendle Radicals project, and introduced The Radicals Trail, a new way of exploring our rural communities around Pendle Hill.

There must have been something in the air, because radical history is all around us. You just need to know where to look… The event looked at some Pendle Hill people who changed the world! Including the first Quaker, a Higham boy who became a beacon of the Enlightenment, the pioneers of the Independent Labour Party, and campaigners for women’s suffrage and for the right to roam. We shared information about themed Radicals walks and about future plans to grow and extend The Radicals Trail. As well as our own team we were joined by a current member of the Quaker community, a film maker working with Clarion House on a project to celebrate Selina Cooper, and two of our Radicals volunteers talking about the series of walks being created, including the Two Toms and the Wonder Women!

It was a packed event, with so much to say that we overran by 20 minutes! Nobody seemed to mind though…

Pendle Radicals, what a great way to bring the past to the present. Thank you. Tonight’s presentation has been excellent.

I’ve been enthralled with this presentation. Thank you for all the information. Going to get my walking boots back on real soon!

If you’d like to listen to the event you can find a recording on SOUNDCLOUD. Two film clips were shown as part of the event. You can hear the sound on the recording but if you would like to see the films you can find the links in the document below. This PDF document also has details of all websites and other resources mentioned on the night.

Radicals Trail panel for George Fox on Pendle Hill

Rhythm of the Looms

In this blog we hear from the team commissioned to create our first podcast series for Pendle Radicals. Over the past two years they, plus the Pendle Radicals volunteers and the Clarion Choir, have worked with us on a series of sharing events based around Ethel Carnie Holdsworth’s life and works. All the research was intended for a final performance piece, which may still happen in the future, but wasn’t possible in 2020. However, that gave us the opportunity to concentrate on our long held ambition to create some original audio, and so the podcast idea was born! It was a new adventure for them too, so what did Jules, Liz and Scott make of the experience…


What a joy it has been for us creating the This Slavery podcast series.

From a small professional studio in the Ribble Valley, we have been honoured to bring Ethel to life through music, writing and soundscape.

Also, hearing the amazing voices of the Clarion Choir and the crowd scenes created by the Radicals volunteers – intertwined through the podcasts – we have tried to demonstrate how much Ethel means to all our creative community. 

We have had such wonderful reactions from across the spectrum of listeners – smiles, tears, laughter and an outpouring of love. What more can we possibly ask for?

Jules Gibb: 

This Slavery is such a cracking book that when we got the chance to do something in-depth about it I jumped at it. I’m a big fan of Ethel Carnie Holdworth, she seems to represent all the things I think are important and coming from Lancashire and a weaving heritage, it’s no wonder we want to shout about her from the rooftops. It’s been inspiring working with Liz and Scott. They are so skilled, and we work together really well, sparking ideas off each other. I’m really proud of the end product. It feels like we are lifting Ethel up and running around the streets with her, trying to tell everyone how fabulous she was.

Scott Robertson: 

It was so important to me, to make sure the rhythm of the Lancashire Looms provided the beating heart of this podcast. Yes, there was darkness in the mills but the beat of the rhythm of the looms – when owned by the mill workers in their singing, became a thing of sheer beauty. My piece of music, Looming, took its rhythm and timing from the Lancashire Loom’s punch cards, which look so much like my 2021 Pro Tools digital production screen – bizarre!

Liz Robertson: 

I am so pleased I had the opportunity to capture much of the soundscape from Queen Street Mill and our live performances with the Radicals volunteers and the Clarion Choir, before we went into Lockdown. Who would have thought that our production would have been punctuated by temperature checks and Covid tests… but, just like the mill workers in This Slavery‘we’re not downhearted no…‘. We took a bit of Ethel’s spirit, overcame obstacles and found a way to enable those magic hours of creativity to take Ethel’s work forward to new generations, post Corona!

Working collaboratively has made this happen, not just us (Jules, Scott & Liz), but all the contributions from the Radicals volunteers, the Clarion Choir, the teams at Mid Pennine Arts and Lancashire Libraries – it’s been like the best ‘virtual’ Pie & Chips Supper Ever!

Finished!

You can now listen to the first episode of the podcast, created in partnership with Lancashire Libraries and Libraries Connected. The three part series is entitled This Slavery, and you’ll find the first episode, Pies, Chips & Politics, on Our Podcasts page.

You can also hear more about the process of making the podcast, and about Ethel, at a FREE online event for International Women’s Day on the 8th March 2021. Find all the details HERE.


MPA is very grateful for the support we have received through COVID-19 emergency funds, from sources including Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund, CAF, Burnley Borough Council and HM Government Cultural Recovery Fund.  This support continues to be vital in helping us survive the pandemic and carry on developing some very special projects.  Thank you!   

Still Sick of Being Normal

by Stephen John (Sage) Hartley

Sick of Being Normal

is a song by Notsensibles.

I wrote it.

It’s just a nondescript one chord teenage angstism.

40 years later, and catalysed by Mid Pennine Arts (no hyphen), who were there right at the start,  the idea of a celebration of the local punk scene is born. It slots neatly into Mid Pennine’s Pendle Radicals project. We’re close to Pendle (I have a splendid view from the ranch) and by jove we’re radical.

It’s Boff’s idea and Casey and I complete the working party. We’re soon meeting regularly with Nick and colleagues at Mid Pennine.

It’s not just an old farts’ revival party – it’s a multi-dimensional, cross-generational thing.

There’ll be a gig + an exhibition of then and now pics of some of the main protagonists + a fanzine-like publication with interviews with aforementioned by me and Boff. Casey (a photographer) takes the pics. There’ll also be a film of the night, then the exhibition and associated talks and giglets will tour Pendle. Neat.

It gathers interest and momentum. What shall we call it? Sick of Being Normal?  Why not? It somehow captures the then-and-now anti-establishment irreverence.

What’s important is to feature how the punk movement has moved into and influenced the current generation. We find MeLeon a rapper and the house band for the night is half oldies and half youngies.

Like any big project, it’s not without hitches. We thought we’d found the perfect venue – the old Kippax factory in Colne, now a skating rink. It falls through and we have to find somewhere else at short notice.

Coincidentally, Jamie Cunningham, another local muso mover and shaker is putting on events upstairs at the Burnley library. He uses one of the large majestic rooms. The mirror-image one across the way is empty. It was originally the children’s library. The atmosphere is amazing and the architecture is stunning. Bingo.

It’s not all plain sailing. Is it Pendle enough? Is it big enough? Can we stay late enough?

Coincidentally there’s a cool new bar in town The Gallery at Creative Arts. It all clicks into place. We can have the gig at the library and an after-party with DJs at the bar. Cool.

The last minute preps are frantic. It sells out and suddenly everyone want to come.

Can you get me a ticket?

It’s alright on the night. It’s more than alright. It’s an astonishing success. Khany comes from America and people travel from all over. The after-party is a blast.

Originally we were aiming for the end of the year (2019) but realised that was over-ambitious, so we went for early 2020. January is a non-starter. We discussed waiting until spring, but opted for early Feb. Was it insight? Was it intuition? Probably not. Any later, and it would have been another Covid victim.

Then Lock-down comes and for me, it really is lock-down. I work in a f’ing hospital innit!

Music goes out of the window, but the seeds are sewn and the project has its own quiet momentum. Now the film is finished and off we go again. We’re doing the digital online shit which isn’t my bag but it’s still punk and we’re still sick of being normal.


Stephen ‘Sage’ Hartley is the guitarist in cult East Lancs band Notsensibles, an A & E consultant, author, record label owner, printmaker and small scale organic farmer! Read more musings from Sage on his blog – Hartley’s Plot.
The Sick of Being Normal film is available HERE.
The ‘digital online shit’ happened (for the first time) at 8pm on Friday 18 September 2020. You can find out more about it HERE.

What is Normal?

On Saturday 8 February 2020 we had a wonderful evening of music, photography, words and print as the Sick of Being Normal exhibition and event looked back at the punk explosion in the Pendle Hill area in 1979-80, and its legacy. It was the launch of Casey Orr’s exhibition, which was due to be at Burnley Central Library until Easter and then travel on to other venues in Pendle. Of course, Covid-19 meant that plans changed!

At that February event was Feona Hadcroft, a Master of Fine Art student at UcLAN in Preston. As part of her MA Feona wrote a review of the exhibition, which we are excited to share with you.

Feona says that through her studies she has… discovered a love of print and delving into the realms of memory! It has been such good timing for the punk exhibition as I am linked in many ways to each of the ‘old’ rockers within the Pendle punk scene. I was young at the time, but my brother used to take me along ‘occasionally’. Their attitudes affect my way of thinking and doing to this day!


If only I had realized how monumental
‘that day’ way back in the late 70’s was to be!
The day I helped my brother fashion
a necklace out of a slice of toast and string…
FH (2020)

SICK OF BEING NORMAL

Pendle Punk Forty Years On

Photography exhibition – Casey Orr

Photo-zine writings – Boff Whalley and Stephen Hartley

Part of the Pendle Radicals project, led by Mid Pennine Arts

That 0282 Place – Burnley Central Library – 8th February to 18th April 2020

Renowned documentary photographer, Casey Orr (b.1968 Pennsylvania), has lived in England for 14 years, working as a freelance photographer and senior lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University.  Orr’s work is about systems of power and breaking down barriers, so fits beautifully within this exhibition.  Sick of being Normal is an exhibition celebrating what was and what developed from the way the ‘then’ younger generation felt.  Casey’s colour photographs document twelve of the notable people, perhaps, the better-known radicals of yesteryear.  Images and interviews in the large-scale photo-zine publication fig:1, part of the exhibition, help to shed light on how lives were changed by the local and national events of 1970/80’s.  The publication also includes writings from internationally famous Chumbawamba songwriter Boff Whalley and Stephen Hartley, original member of Pendle’s well known ‘local’ punk band the Notsensibles.

TAPE THAT LEAVES A STICKY RESIDUE WHEN REMOVED

Casey’s poster sized prints are predominantly grouped on two adjacent walls, displayed as they would have been on my bedroom wall back in the late 70’s – 80’s, conjuring up a nostalgic feeling of my own youth and probably that of many who view this exhibition.  The way the photographs were fastened to the wall by short strips of brightly coloured fluorescent duct tape, signifies the strong colourful bunch who were ready to fight the world, and say how about we do it a little different!  It seems fitting that the photographs have been exhibited in such a way, simple yet very effective.  In this exhibition, we take a time travelling journey exploring the explosion of the Pendle Punk scene in 1979-80.  Through the exhibition and publication, we can gain an understanding of Pendle Punks legacy.

(fig:1) Photo-zine Deconstructed – Sick of Being Normal

One thing I note as I look at Casey Orr’s images, is each of these people have lived their lives by pushing boundaries, they have lived their lives wanting to challenge things that are not how they should be.  These people are Generation PUNK, you can see the battle scars on every one of the people photographed by Casey.  Casey’s images are displayed amongst several spunky old black and white photographs, each capturing fuzzy moments in time, snap shots of the ‘then’ and Casey’s ‘now’.  This juxtapositioning allows me to shed light on the injustice, inequality and the sidelined aspects of society, that each of the documented have probably endured over time.  Showing me the reality of the forty-year gap.

ROCK BOTTOM IS THE FIRE IN ROCK AND ROLL

Newspaper cuttings, black and white photographs and the occasional album cover, artifacts of the yester-youth in this exhibition show me there was hope.  It was the late 1970’s and the people of the United Kingdom were ready for change.  Britain had just experienced ‘the winter of discontent’, the pound had plummeted, and inflation rates soared.  Margaret Thatcher, leader of the Conservative party had now been newly elected the UK’s Prime Minister – Thatcherism was happening and change was inevitable, people had nothing, jobs were in short supply.   Many of the younger generation were now unemployed or on a government funded Youth Opportunity Programme.  The wage of a YOP was £19.50 per week, this was apparently to encourage the younger generation to find employment.  The average weekly wage in the UK (1979) – for men £101.30 and women £63 … why were women paid so much less than men?  Anyway, the younger generation felt robbed, they were being used as cheap labour, it was depressing times for all.  Punk reacted against 1970’s authoritarianism; when you hit rock bottom it ignites a yearning for change. 

A powerful sense of creativity added fuel to the new beginning, people were coming back from visiting the Big Cities, such as London and New York with tales of Anarchy and protest.  The massive Punk explosion of these big cities took a few years to fully filter through to the Northern villages and small towns.  The voice of prominent punk bands such as The Clash and Sex Pistols were being heard, it was time for change.  The punk scene had not fizzled out, and the death of Sid Vicious from a heroin overdose – New York (1979) had not been the end, the blue touch paper had been ignited.  Creative ripples had been set in motion; PUNK was indeed not dead.  It was just about to ‘go off’ big time, in a colourful display of Lancashire creativity, a fast-paced and hard-edged urgency was picking up speed UP North.

THEY COULDN’T BE NORMAL – EVEN IF THEY TRIED

Stephen Hartley, founder member of the self-acclaimed ‘first’ Pendle Punk band The Notsensibles fig:2, had helped to record the time with his camera, his black and white images are excellent artifacts.  Without the likes of Stephen Hartley, much of the Pendle Punk scene would have not happened, he was one of the privileged few.  Thankfully, amongst the punk scene there were teenagers who came from stable backgrounds, ones who had parents who believed in them, ones who had access to transport and instruments, and then there were the families like mine, the ones who couldn’t have begun to pretend to be normal even if they tried.  


(fig:2) Notsensibles (79) Image courtesy of S Hartley

I am eternally grateful to the privileged ones, for this is where the story developed.  Young creatives who were able to get there, energetic do’ers, the go getters, youths from the small towns and villages in and around Pendle, catalyst for Pendle Punk.  Ones who fought adolescent boredom and now adultness.

THE MORNING AFTER THE NIGHT BEFORE – FAST FORWARD 40 YEARS

The dust has settled, it seems fitting that the gallery space of Burnley Central Library’s old children’s library, is once again a place for quiet contemplation.  I spoke to Jamie Cunningham at That 0282 Place he was there on the opening night; he told me about the buzz he had felt, people dipping in and out all night. The gallery was filled with many who were just teenagers at the time, familiar faces, who had been part of the Pendle punk scene.  Joined in unity once again, sharing memories together. The reunion was an equitable part of the exhibition, in equal measure to the music, writings and photography.  Creatives had travelled great distances to get there for the opening night, some from as far afield as Australia.  One of the musicians had even traveled all the way over from America, just to perform on the opening night.  But for some the distance needed to travel was a far greater challenge, it was a journey they ‘maybe’ had to conquer in their own minds.  Rock-n-roll people came to the opening ‘whom’ only had a few road miles to travel yet, they had to overcome the barriers of self, the greatest distance of all to trek.  Thankfully these creatives were able to push forward and leave the confides of their homes and join the unity, the powerful draw of creativity.  Unfortunately, for some of the important Pendle punk participants it was impossible to arrive at all, these were there simply in the memories shared.

A SLICE OF NECKLACE

One of the notorious punks Pepe Bona lead singer out of Walter Mitty’s Head, a better-known energetic band of the time, was unfortunately unable to make the opening night.  Boff Whalley in his writings, mentions a moment shared with Pepe and others at a gig some forty years ago.

Unforgettably, Pepe turned up at a punk gig at the Lowerhouse cricket club wearing a piece of toast around his neck.  As the night wore on, people took bites out of it.

Boff Whalley (SOBN photo-zine 2020)

I was thrilled to read this in Boff’s writings, as Pepe is my older brother.  I had stood with Pepe in our kitchen, when he was making this necklace.  Boff’s memory transported me back in time so vividly, I can even smell the aroma of bread, toasting.  We had laughed so much, and I can knowledgeably inform you that the bread was not just any old bread, it was a ‘Warburtons’ thick sliced, toasty white.  What a fantastic point in time to have been swept back to.  Such a shame I don’t have an actual photograph of this moment, although in my memory I do!

I found Pepe ‘captured in time’, on one of the grainy enlarged photographs fig:3 taken by Stephen Hartley or Sage as Stephen likes to be called.  Pepe looks so very young in the black and white photograph, they all do.  Standing on the right of the picture, leaning backwards into the group of creatives, wearing a sharp white edged blazer, the piping sewn on to the jacket by his own design.  The carrier bag slung over his wrist is pre–brand advertising, a simple white carrier bag, I am confident the bag contains records, records bought in London.  He was celebrated there too!

(fig:3) Photograph courtesy of Stephen Hartley

HE UNDERSTANDS THE PASSING OF TIME

As I walk around the exhibition, I am instantly drawn to Ticker Le Punk fig:4, one of the largest posters in the set – does this scale in size define his importance within the Pendle Punk scene.  Ticker looks cocky, he seems to exude a deeply rooted attitude, In the loveliest of ways!  You can tell he has ‘seen stuff’.  It’s not about how Casey executed the photograph i.e. which shutter speed she uses, but instead the true representation of the human and their inner most experiences.  You can feel Tickers unease at having a camera pointed in his direction, a little awkward, yet exuding a certain air of Rock and roll, you can see he meant to do it … all of it.  ‘It’s life you see, and I want to do it my way’, I imagine him say from the confides of the photograph.  He looks shy and yet exudes confidence in himself.

(fig:4) Ticker Le Punk 60”x 48” – Casey Orr (2020) – Sick of Being Normal

Ticker Le Punk – he’s stood there in a Stetson hat, like the one Bono won back in a legal battle (2005) worn on his Joshua Tree tour… YET, Tickers looks cool, much cooler than Bono.  Ticker wears his leopard print Stetson with a pure rock and roll attitude a deep-seated air of pride – Like he knows stuff. 

THE OLDER YOU – LIKELY YOU

Casey enables us to see into his world and better understand it, the world of the punk lives through photographic portraiture.  It is easy to see from the emotions she managed to capture that Ticker is indeed rock-n-roll and everything that the punk rock movement stands for.  I am intrigued by the flash of red neatly tucked under Tickers lapel fig:5, what are these slightly obscured writings upon a bright red patch.  Is this simple language of the handwritten message, peeking out from behind the pinstriped suit jacket, partially hidden on purpose like his emotions?  The uppercase sentence boldly fashioned with tippex, each word yelling.  Capital letters emphasizing his message, is he expressing profound truths!  Just enough showing to create interest, enticing you in, to work it out yourself if you want to spend the time.

(fig:5) Detail; Ticker’s message – Red patch, profound words

I do want to spend the time, but so we are all on the same page, I decided to give Ticker Le Punk a call and ask him to discuss the rest of the concealed wordage.  He was happy to reveal the hidden message and highlight the shirt’s origin too …  

THE OLDER YOU ARE THE MORE LIKELY YOU ARE TO BE WRONG… THE YOUNGER YOU ARE… BE REASONABLE AND DEMAND THE IMPOSSIBLE

The fusion of these two sayings and the striped design were all hand painted in a totally punk DIY fashion, it reminds me of Dame Vivienne Westwood’s creations.  Prominent British fashion designer Westwood was largely responsible for bringing modern punk fashions into the mainstream.

DIFFERENCE IS NORMALITY

The opening night saw a live performance from the long-standing post punk group Screech Rock, singing songs with titles such as Baby You’re a Scab. One of the singers Lindsey Walsh, a beautiful creature, looks and acts so differently when not onstage.  Lindsey Walsh artist, DJ and singer (top left fig:6) has been a close friend for many years.  She is one of the people who helped me to understand, at a young age, normality is in your own head.  It seems fitting seeing her stuck to the gallery wall in such a DIY fashion, on a slight slant encapsulating the era.   

Top left (fig:6): Lindsey Walsh 24”x 36” – Casey Orr (2020)

In the photograph, Lindsey stands in front of her trailer, her home based at Prospect Farm, Colne.  She is slight and so wears two coats, a leather bomber jacket under a blue mac, the clothing and lighting suggest a brisk winter’s day.  Her eyes shielded yet, at the same time magnified by her oversize Clark Kent style spectacles, appearing most humble.  Lindsey is well recognized by her trademark dreadlocks, and the shortest of rebellious fringes I have ever known.  Casey has caught Lindsey outside her everyday groove, she is captured in a moment of contemplation, pausing in her thinking.  Her expression at odds with the atmosphere of what is going on around her, out of shot, creating a certain sense of warmth in her eyes.  She says that she has kept all her values from punk… “friends, feelings and the vibe, everything. Simple.”

CREATIVITY – ANYONE CAN DO IT

Documentary photography is often used to aid the bettering of society, this wasn’t necessary, many of the people in the photographs had already done that.  These people are punk rockers, key protagonists in their ‘normal’ daily lives.  Importantly, Casey and Stephen’s photographs and the broad sheet photo-zine facilitate a better understanding, a reflection of the world of punk through the exhibition of photographic portraiture, recollections and time.  It’s clear to see the people who experienced the Pendle Punk wave convey a very simple message, beautifully.  These people have carried the punk ethos forward into their lives, acceptance of others; the fortunate ones that survived are the ‘punk’ pensioners of today, ‘almost’.  So much has happened in the last forty years, I wonder what the story will be of these radical thinking non-conformist revolutionaries,eighty years’ on? Hopefully, I will witness the next celebration, proud to have experienced the initial outer ripples of the punk revolution, in Pendle.  

ARE WE HUMAN OR ARE WE DANCER?

In the light of COVID-19: are we ready for a relapse of the happenings of 40 years ago?  Can the ‘world’ accommodate the explosion that should ensue, when people ‘en masse’ are given time to find their ‘self’?

If ‘collectively’ there are more protagonists, holding PUNK values … ‘non-conformity, anti-authoritarianism, anti-corporatism, a DIY ethic, anti-consumerist, anti-corporate greed, direct action and not ‘selling out’, … anarchy could catch-on on a scale that is incomprehensible, worldwide!  Given time to stop and think, will ‘the 20/20 visionaries’ see that ‘together we go further’ and fight for an anti-establishment world and individual freedom, cutting free from the strings of automata – OR – just simply sit ‘bored’ on the naughty step and await ‘Normality’!?

If only I could teleport back
to the time when it all seemed less complicated
and shake the ones who went out and forgot to go home
FH (2020)

REFERENCES

Orr, C. (no date) i Portraits of Anarchists. Available at: http://www.caseyorr.com/i-portraits-of-anarchists.php (Accessed: 23/03/2020).

Mid Pennine Arts (no date) Sick of Being Normal. Available at: https://midpenninearts.org.uk/news/sick-of-being-normal/ (Accessed: 22/02/2020).

Wilson, T. Granada TV (1978) B’dum B’dum Buzzcocks Magazing Documentary. 25/08/2007. Available at: https://youtube.com/view_play_list?p=C400825399EC9574 (Accessed: 01/04/2020).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Art21 (2016) Idea Generator Liz Magor. Available at: https://art21.org/read/liz-magor-idea-generator/ (Accessed: 04/04/2020).

Collis, D. (09/01/2020) Burnley and Pendle punk event for those ‘Sick of Being Normal’. Available at: URL (Accessed: 30/01/2020).

McKittrick, D. (08/10/2006) Such old hat: After 19 years, Bono goes to court to get his Stetson back. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/such-old-hat-after-19-years-bono-goes-to-court-to-get-his-stetson-back-6230645.html (Accessed: 26/03/2020).

Pendle Radicals (06/12/2019) Sick of Being Normal! Available at: https://pendleradicals.wordpress.com/2019/12/06/sick-of-being-normal/ (Accessed: 28/03/2020).

White, V. (05/07/2015) It’s 40 years since the punk revolution. Available at: https://mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/going-out/music/its-40-years-punk-revolution-6001729 (Accessed: 28/03/2020).

PHOTOGRAPHIC AND PUBLICATION ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Hartley, S. (1979) [fig:2 fig:3]. Place of Publication: https://facebook.com/pendleradicals/ (Accessed: 10/02/2020).

Orr, C. (2020) Ticker Le Punk [fig:4]. That 0282 Place / Sick of Being Normal Photo-Zine. (2020)

Orr, C. (2020) Lindsey Walsh [fig:6].  That 0282 Place / Sick of Being Normal Photo-Zine. (2020)

Whalley, B. Hartley, S (2020)[fig:1] Sick of Being Normal [Pendle Punk Fourty Years On]. Photo-zine Publication Available: ‘That 0282 Place’, Burnley Library. (08/02/2020 – 18/04/2020).


You can find out more about Sick of Being Normal HERE
You can find out more about Feona HERE

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.

06-clarion-club-run-1950_orig
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.