Weaving a tale of Gandhi visit

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ONE of the stars of a new play about Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to Lancashire – which took place 80 years ago – has visited two of the county’s most famous mills to see how spinning and weaving was done all over the county.

Sara Ashton, who plays Marianne Farrington, an assistant to Mahatma Gandhi in the play “Hindoo Man”, has been to Burnley’s Queen Street Mill and Helmshore Mills in Helmshore – both now museums – to soak up the atmosphere of Lancashire’s textile industry and find out how cotton was actually made.

Sara, of Blackburn, has also been taking spinning lessons from Dot Waring, a former mill worker from Darwen who has shown her how to use a “chaca” hand-loom of the type Gandhi himself used, and the simpler drop spindle, both of which have a part to play in the production of “Hindoo Man”.

The play, by Chorley-born writer Tom Henry and directed by Blackburn’s Eric Nolan, of A+E Productions, is a fictionalised account of events leading up to the historic visit to Darwen in September 1931. It is being staged at Darwen’s Library Theatre in Knott Street between October 20th and 22nd.

While Gandhi himself isn’t depicted, the play looks at the visit from the perspective of mill owners and workers, along with Gandhi’s followers who travelled with him to Lancashire.

Gandhi visited at a time when his followers’ boycott of Lancashire cotton was thought to be having an adverse effect on the trade, causing hardship and poverty. It was thought that Gandhi might receive rough reception when he arrived in Darwen for a two-day visit on Friday, September 26th, 1931, but instead he was greeted with warmth and sympathy.

Tickets for “Hindoo Man” are £9 for adults and £7 for concessions and can be purchased from the Darwen Library Theatre box office on 01254 706006 or online at www.darwenlibrarytheatre.com.