There’s so much to see and do in anniversary year

Playwright Graham Kemp (left) and director and producer of the rehearsed reading of 'The Trial of Pendle Witches', Stephen Tomlin, in Lancaster Castle.
Playwright Graham Kemp (left) and director and producer of the rehearsed reading of 'The Trial of Pendle Witches', Stephen Tomlin, in Lancaster Castle.

A special programme of events has been pulled together by a range of organisations, from museums to artists, authors to the Priory church, to give people the opportunity to explore the extraordinary lives, journey and ultimate fate of the Lancashire Witches. For more information about the events taking place visit www.citycoastcountryside.co.uk/witches

LANCASHIRE WITCHES 400

A NEW poem by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy will be carved into the landscape of a new 51-mile footpath created to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Lancashire Witch Trials.

The poem was commissioned by Melling-based arts organisation Green Close, as part of their Lancashire Witches 400 (LW400) programme of events and workshops this summer, funded by the Arts Council and Heritage Lottery Fund.

The new Lancashire Witches Walk traverses the beautiful Bowland fells and follows the route likely to have been taken by the eight women and two men found guilty of witchcraft and hanged in Lancaster on August 20 1612.

The first chance to experience the long-distance footpath from Barrowford to Lancaster – funded by Lancashire Environmental Fund –is offered this month when there are four guided walks organised as part of Ribble Valley Walking Week.

The walks take place today, August 16, and Saturday August 18 and there is a small fee for transport.

To book ring 01200 444829 or contact tourism@ribblevalley.gov.uk.

Green Close are organising more guided walks on September 6-9; their walks are free but transport costs £15 per day or £50 for all four days. The walk was the idea of Sue Flowers, artistic director at Green Close.

She said: “It’s an incredible landscape and this walk is about connecting communities across Lancashire and connecting ourselves to history and a sense of place.”

Green Close has also commissioned other nationally renowned performers to add their own magic to the commemorations.

Almost 400 years to the day of the biggest witch trial in UK history, Exeter-based company Wrights & Sites will be taking to the streets of Lancaster.

Dressed as pedlars, to reflect the story of the pedlar who was allegedly cursed by a witch in Pendle, they will present Signs & Wonders from August 16-19, starting off at Lancaster’s Ashton Memorial, close to where the witches are said to have been hanged.

The finale will be a performance walk in Newchurch, at the heart of Pendle Witch country.

Places for the walks (about 1.5 miles) are free but must be booked in advance by ringing 015242 21233 or emailing info@greenclose.org.

In Lancaster city centre there’s an exhibition at Lancaster City Museum including work by LW400 artists – paintings and photographs by Sue and Pete Flowers, a photographic montage by Helen Saunders and pictures by youngsters from Quernmore school.

The show runs until the end of October.

More work created by LW400 artists and schools is also on display at the Platform Gallery in Clitheroe until October 6.

As part of the anniversary, Lancaster artist Hilli McManus has worked with local people to create a quilt from cotton and silk batik squares, each containing an image of a superstition.

It is currently on show in Clitheroe and will be auctioned in Lancaster in November in aid of Lancaster-based Stepping Stones Nigeria.

The charity, which highlights the abuse of children accused of witchcraft in the Niger Delta was an inspiration for the project.

For more details about any of these events and to put in an online bid for the quilt go to www.lancashirewitches400.org

LANCASTER CASTLE

The Duchy of Lancaster will be opening the infamous Witches’ dungeon to the public for the first time in decades.

Built in around 1325, the dungeon is located in the Witches’ Tower on the former prison side of Lancaster Castle.

The tower contains a well and the vaulted stone-flagged underground dungeon where it is believed that up to 20 of the accused witches were imprisoned and given no legal advice prior to their trial in 1612.

Paul Clarke, CEO of the Duchy of Lancaster, said: “The story of the Lancashire witches is renowned with people coming from all over the world to hear more about the trial at Lancaster Castle.

“The 400th anniversary presents a fantastic opportunity for us to help boost local tourism and reveal the inside of the Witches’ Tower, which hasn’t been opened to the public for decades.

“It will provide a further insight into an historic event that forms an important part of Lancashire’s history. Seeing the conditions that the accused had to endure is an experience that people won’t forget.”

Doors are open between 10:30am-6:30pm on August 18-20 as well as on August 25-27.

Tickets are £2 per person, available on a first come, first served basis in the cafe, which will be open in the prison.

Monday, August 20, 7.30pm: The Story of the Lancashire Witches.

During her time as manager of the castle, Chris Goodier was fascinated by the case and the reality of the outcome for everyone involved.

After leaving the post last year she set about writing their story.

The resulting book ‘1612:The Lancashire

Witch Trials’ will form the basis of this

special talk.

Price: £2.50 (adults); £1.50 (concessions).

Friday, September 28, 7.30pm.

The Trial of the Pendle Witches: A Rehearsed Reading of New Play by Graham Kemp.

Demi-Paradise Productions, whose past successes at Lancaster Castle have included Much Ado About Nothing, The Merchant of Venice and Hamlet, will present this play as a one-off rehearsed reading in the Shire Hall.

Price: £5 (adults); £4 (concessions and children).

LANCASTER UNIVERSITY

The children’s author Joseph Delaney is among guests at a Lancaster University conference to mark the 400th anniversary.

Delaney is the author of The Wardstone Chronicles, a series of fantasy novels set in a fictionalised version of Lancashire.

The first book of the series, The Spook’s Apprentice, is currently being made into a major Hollywood film entitled The Seventh Son, in which Julianne Moore will play the terrifying witch Mother Malkin.

Delaney will join the other plenary speakers – distinguished scholars of early modern witchcraft Diane Purkiss and Robert Poole – and guests from all over the world attending the conference Capturing Witches: Histories, Stories, Images from August 
17-19, organised by the Departments of English and Creative Writing and European Languages and Cultures.

THE DUKES THEATRE

Saturday August 18: The Dukes cinema will screen The Pendle Witch Child, a documentary presented by Simon Armitage telling the story of the trial and the key role played in it by nine-year-old Jennet Device.

The documentary, which features much footage of Lancaster, will be followed by a free expert discussion organised by Green Close Studios of Melling as part of the Lancashire Witches 400 project.

The panel includes author Livi Michael, historian and former Lancaster Castle manager, Christine Goodier; director of Lancaster-based charity

Stepping Stones Nigeria, Gary Foxcroft; and

Phil Smith of Wrights & Sites who are presenting walking performances during Lancashire Witches 400.

Tickets for The Pendle Witch Child are priced £5.50 (£4.50 concessions).

To book, call The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or visit www.dukes-lancaster.org.

Walking With Witches runs from August 13-20 in The Dukes gallery which is open from 10am-11pm, Monday to Saturday.

Call the box office on 01524 598500 to check opening times if you’re making a special journey as occasionally the space is closed to the public.

LANCASTER LIBRARY

Saturday August 18, 2-3pm: Lancashire County Council’s Library Service have commissioned a new book Malkin Child by award-winning author Livi Michael.

The novel tells the story from the view point of Jennet Device, the girl who testified against her family during the trials.

The book has been published by local arts organising Litfest and Lancashire County Council’s Library Service will be running a promotion, Lancashire Reads, from this date to encourage people of all ages (10+) and backgrounds to read the book.

Livi will be there on Saturday 28 alongside Julie Bell, county library manager.

The books will not be for sale on Saturday. H owever, there will be lending copies available on the day.

OTHER EVENTS

There are exhibitions at both the Ashton Memorial and the Judges Lodgings (once the home of Thomas Covell, the Keeper of Lancaster Castle during the trial of the Pendle Witches) looking at witchcraft in all its many forms (until October 31).

Lancaster City Museum is also holding a free exhibition until September 29.

For updates on the latest events and to read further stories about the Lancashire Witches see lancasterguardian.co. uk throughout the year