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

#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

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.

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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.

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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

Recruiting new explorers at Fence Cubs!

We had a great session with Fence cubs this week, helping them to gain their local knowledge badge by telling them all about Clarion House, at New church in Pendle, the last surviving Clarion Club today as well as sharing with them the amazing stories of Jonas Moore and Benjamin Ingham. We also managed to recruit a number of new Pendle Explorers who we hope are continuing to proceed with curiosity and remember you are never lost, simply exploring!

We led the session with a short presentation, sharing key facts and images which sparked lots of discussion. With 25 Cubs attending only a couple had heard of the Inghamite Church on Wheatley Lane just a few minutes from there Cubs Hut, many had even visited and stood on the Historic Prime Meridian of the World at the Royal Observatory Greenwich and were still unaware of the contribution and work of Jonas Moore. However, by the end of the session all 25 cubs were recalling facts and are keen to make a trip to the Inghamite Church when the dark nights give way!

Ingham

Following on from the presentation we played a game of Inghamite Bingo, a really fun and engaging way to get lots of interesting facts across to the cubs, this is something they were really excited about and were keen to carry on playing until everybody had shouted BINGO!

As Explorers ourselves we were on the hunt for new recruits. We devised an explorers activity book and plotted clues around the room to help them complete five tasks, which when completed meant that they could be welcomed into the Pendle Explorers club. All the questions centred around Clarion House, Jonas Moore and Benjamin Ingham and made them remember and think about what we had said in the presentation and game of Bingo! All of the cubs were really excited by this and eager to join the Pendle Explorer’s club and receive their explorers badge.  We hope that our fellow Explorers have continued to proceed with curiosity, but are keeping themselves safe at all times!

220px-SirJonasMoore (image)