Increasing numbers of ‘interventions’, as the arts world calls them these days, are appearing on the north of England’s beautiful landscape and here’s the latest: a vast commemoration of the Lancashire Witches on that most obvious of all bumps, Pendle Hill.
It is the work of local artist Philippe Handford and was sponsored by the Burnley brewery Moorhouse’s whose cask ales such as Blond Witch and Black Cat are themed on the story of the eight women and two men who were hanged at Lancaster castle in the year so vastly shown above, 1612.
The many commemorations of the tragedy, which is now of great importance to the tourist trade of Pennine Lancashire, include verses by the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy engraved on waymarkers of the new Lancashire Witches Trail. Elsewhere in the spine of hills which divides the north of England, the Guardian Northerner has reported Simon Armitage’s verses engraved on stones around Ilkley Moor.
Opinion has been divided in the cogent threads which are characteristic of Northerner readers, with strong but well-argued views in favour of these developments and against them. The Pendle Hill example may unite the parties; it is the first of the genre to have a definite time limit, and a short one.
Like pavement art or sand sculpture, the beauty of Handford’s work is that is has been carried out using frost protection material and will only last a few days. Placed on the Barley village side of 557m Pendle Hill – whose name literally means ‘hill, hill, hill’ in three languages – the remains of the 300ft-long numbers will be removed tomorrow, Wednesday 22 August, if they haven’t already vanished by then (sorry, I am writing this in Leeds).
David Grant, managing director of Moorhouse’s says:
The legend of the witches who once roamed Pendle is always a major attraction to the area, but particularly so this year. We have promoted our business on the story, so we stepped in to support the 1612 image when the council pulled out following local objections. We believed it would enhance the anniversary.
I think many people were taken by surprise. But in the end it seems to have been very well received by most people and certainly delighted those taking part in the Pendle Witch Walk for charity. Philippe ensured that the image had maximum impact but used materials which are easily removed and will leave no lasting effect whatsoever.
More than 450 walkers dressed as witches made a successful bid for a place in the Guinness Book of Records at the weekend launch of both the trail and the artwork, which Handford and five helpers started laying out at 5am. Through sponsorship, Pendleside hospital is now better off by thousands of pounds. But the debate over more lasting interventions is not over, as Grant observes:
It has been said that there should be a more permanent tribute placed on Pendle and I would support that. Most locals were originally against the artwork, but it appears they now see the benefit of distinguishing the hill from others in the area. I would like to see a permanent witch image placed on the hillside.
Watch that – and other – northern spaces.
On which score, the white horse painted on to rocks at Marsden Craggs near South Shields in 1887 has just been vandalised by black spray-painting of the word ‘flame’. Local people were a bit iffy when the horse first appeared all those years ago, just as many of their counterparts have been at Pendle. But local councillor Tracey Dixon, whose South Tyneside authority is considering a full restoration, says now:
This is something that’s been there for many, many years, and it’s become quite important to people.If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!