Events lined up for 400th anniversary of Pendle Witch trials

Launch of the Pendle Witch Trail (from left) John Belbin, Jonathan Eyre, Adrian Paling, Maureen Stopforth and Mike Williams.'Photo Ben Parsons

Launch of the Pendle Witch Trail (from left) John Belbin, Jonathan Eyre, Adrian Paling, Maureen Stopforth and Mike Williams.'Photo Ben Parsons

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WITH the Pendle Witches on trial 400 years ago, Pendle Council has launched a series of exciting events to mark the fourth centenary.

The official start took place within a spectacular view of Pendle Hill, above Newchurch.

“2012 is a special year for us,” said council tourism leader Coun. Jonathan Eyre.

“That’s because it’s the 400th anniversary of the most famous witchcraft trial in British history – that of the Pendle Witches. We expect people to come from far and wide to visit Pendle.”

And Mr Mike Williams, Pendle’s tourism officer, said: “We’ve got around 40 fantastic and illuminating events to educate and entertain people, as this is one of the most fascinating true stories in British history.”

The programme of events started last Sunday with a guided walk in Pendle Witch country. “That was a significant date,” explained Mike.

“Four hundred years ago it was the day when one of the so-called Pendle Witches, Alizon Device, is thought to have bewitched a pedlar, with the help of a familiar.

“Our walk follows the events of that fateful day,” he said. “The meeting of Alizon and the pedlar near Colne started a chain of reactions. It led to nine people from Pendle villages being executed as witches from Lancaster Castle in the summer of 1612.”

The true story of the witches and their turbulent times will be presented in a dramatic way with plays, exhibitions, talks and guided walks.

Events run from April to Hallowe’en and include:

l A Festival of Folklore at the Pendle Witch Camp with story-telling from Ursula Holden-Gill of ITV’s “Emmerdale”. The festival includes music and family activities.

l The launch of a new Pendle Witches Sculpture Trail near Barley.

l The chance for people to break the official Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of witches at one time with a climb up Pendle Hill in costume – in aid of Pendleside Hospice. The event culminates in a great Concert Under the Hill.

l The acclaimed play “Sabbat” at Colne Muni and also “Devilish Practices”, a play written by Pendle playwright Richard MacSween.

l A “Still Taboo” exhibition at the ACE Centre, Nelson, looking at modern day issues of intolerance.

Bus tours and talks are also being run with expert guides such as Roger Frost and TV historian and ghost walker Simon Entwistle.

Art and culture will play a big part with exhibitions of art inspired by the witches from local artists, including Jo Hesketh and internationally-renowned artist Paula Rego.

There will also be the launch of a new children’s book on the witches, written and illustrated by Pendle artist Karen Redmayne.

The Pendle Witches Festival programme is available free in Tourist Information Centres throughout Lancashire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.

Copies can also be seen and downloaded from www.visitpendle.com

Coun. Eyre said: “Apart from the iconic and mysterious Pendle Hill, Pendle is known around the world for the Pendle Witches who lived in the shadow of the hill.

“Hundreds of thousands of visitors a year are drawn to Pendle because of this most dramatic episode in our country’s history.

“These visitors help boost the local economy and bring in £78m. a year, helping to support local jobs and services”, he added.