This was a very entertaining afternoon, thanks to Janet Swan and members of the Clarion Community Choir and other singers who descended on us in the Barn. Janet introduced little known songs as well as ‘Old Pendle’ of course, whilst inbetween demonstrating the impact of at least two reformers who had an impact on the lives of people in Britain and more especially working class people in East Lancashire, trapped in a daily grind who were only rarely able to access fresh air and the countryside. Both Thomas A. Leonard (Founder of the Holiday Fellowhip) and Ethel Carnie Holdsworth fought for the rights of workers to have more time and be able to get away into the countryside.
We ought to know more about this indomitable woman. (North East Lancashire seems to be good at breeding this particular species see the talk on Respectable Rebels in January). Born in 1886 into a weaving family in Oswaldtwistle she was working part time at age eleven in the local mill and full time at thirteen. She was later to describe this experience as ‘slavery”.
Ethel became that very rare thing in those days, a working class female novelist and was the first working class woman to publish a novel and she achieved national recognition. At least ten novels were published during her lifetime in addition to her books of poetry and one book ‘Helen of Four Gates’ was made into a film. Other books include ‘This Slavery’ and ‘Songs of a Factory Girl’. Her work has undergone recent scrutiny and Dr Kathleen Bell, is one of the leading figures in the campaign to introduce the work of this long-forgotten writer to a new generation. She writes that
“at its best, Holdsworth’s poetry illuminates the gap between working-class people’s desire for liberty, often evident in their imaginative capacity, and the constraints and suffering of their lives”.
As part of the Pendle Hill Landscape Project – Janet is leading a series of free song workshops see below:
Songs and Singing – even if you think you can’t sing!
The free singing sessions will be taking place over three half days between July and mid August. There will be an opportunity to learn some new words for old songs, some simple new songs and some songs to raise the roof. All of these sessions will be taking place in Pendleside village halls on the dates below.
27 July (in Barley Village hall) from 10 a.m til 1.00 p.m.
10 August (in Downham Village hall) from 10 a.m til 1.00 p.m.
17 August (in Downham Village hall) from 10 a.m til 3.00 p.m.
All songs will be taught by ear – there is no need to be able to read music. What is more, you will be supported by volunteers who already sing and who will keep you in tune. This is a great opportunity to gain more confidence with your voice and experience all the benefits of singing.
What you need to bring
Refreshments will be provided (tea, coffee and biscuits) as will handouts, so all you need to bring is an open mind, a willingness to listen and if you want to stay in Barley or Downham for the afternoon, please bring some lunch with you. On the final session (17 August), the singing session will carry on after lunch time in order to end with a small informal concert. So bring some lunch that day and feel free to invite your friends and family to arrive at 2.30 for tea and cake. The concert will start at 3.00 and end at approximately 3.30.
Transport and other questions
If you have any other questions (for example relating to volunteering or bringing groups of people to join in the project), or if you need transport to the venues please contact the choir. https://www.clarion-choir.co.uk/. There will be pick up points in central locations in Burnley, Nelson / Brierfield and Clitheroe at approximately 9.15 on the dates above. We look forward to hearing from you.
The choir is grateful to Mid Pennine Arts for starting the journey of discovery relating to these local people. They are on a bigger journey – lasting four years – searching for a whole range of “Pendle Radicals”. The choir is also grateful to the Lottery Funded Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership (specifically the Pendle Hill Fund) for the funding for this project.