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Friday, 28 February 2020

Dreaming Valleys

A day of engagement with history, topography and folklore

Saturday 14 March,
Birchcliffe Centre, Hebden Bridge

A day of engagement with topography, history and folklore, in words, music and song, featuring Alison Cooper (Magpahi), Mark Williamson (Spaceship), Kelly Starling, John Billingsley, Jennie Bailey, Andy Roberts and Mark Valentine.

The event is sponsored by Northern Earth, an international small-press journal based in Hebden Bridge since 1992. It takes a broad-based alt-antiquarian approach, looking at historical and contemporary cultural and geographical environments and beliefs.

Northern Earth's topic area includes megalithic sites, alignments, sacred landscapes, psychogeography and deep topography, folklore & tradition, esoteric traditions, strange phenomena and other aspects at the interface of human consciousness and the land from prehistory to the present.


Jennie Bailey
Mapping the Rochdale Canal. 

This is a paper that explores the cultural geographies of the Rochdale Canal. Following the Rochdale canal and other nearby bodies of water from Sowerby Bridge to Manchester, there will be an exploration of the canal's histories, its flora and fauna, and how it is intertwined in many different lives past, present, and possible futures. Dr Jen is a specialist in Lancashire folklore with a particular focus on the folklore, literary geographies, and weird histories of Rochdale.

John Billingsley
The underlying narrative

John Billingsley has been editor of the long-standing neo-antiquarian journal, Northern Earth, for over 25 years. He is a local historian and folklorist, with nine books to his name, and is also a walk leader for Calderdale Heritage Walks. As a Calder Valley resident whose home looks out towards Stoodley Pike, the history and traditions of the monument and the land it stands on are never far from mind, and in his talk he suggests that the implication of local folklore is that there's more to the headland that meets the eye.

Alison Cooper
Pilgrimage through the Pennines

The ritual of travelling the carved-out roads through the Lancashire hills, Calder Valley and over Pennine moors to her grandparents' house was intensely engrained; travelling by car on this route countless times over a 34-year period, the yearning to embrace and fully absorb the route without the speed and confinement of metal and glass grew stronger.

After the death of her Grandma, Patricia McKenzie, the time to experience this ritual for one last time became urgent. Alison will share her experience of a four-day walking pilgrimage undertaken using photography, song, flora and fauna to mark the journey from a new perspective – travelling from her family home in Lancashire to her grandparents' house for one last time.

Alison Cooper was first inspired to compose music inspired by cultural heritage and folklore when she discovered the vast and often invisible archives behind the outward-facing facades of museums. The resonant emotion embodied in collections of material culture had a huge impact on her work. This inspiration has since expanded to the landscape, and its shaping by humans, nature and history, unlocking new unexplored narratives.

Commemorating Hardcastle Crags' survival

This short film by the National Trust and 509 Arts (shown here with their kind permission) records excerpts from the event held in 2019 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the defeat of the third and final attempt in 1969 to drown the Hardcastle Crags valley for a reservoir. It features musical performance, fire ritual, poetry reading and personal testimonies. A brief introduction by John Billingsley with the assistance of Alan will set the scene of the three attempts in 1934, 1948 and 1969, the popular and successful resistance movement in 1969, and suggest that the character of the valley in the 20th century as an entertainment area for a predominantly working-class day-trip destination was the key element in galvanising public identification with this location.

Steve Goldman
The Society for the Preservation of Boring Grid Squares

First launched at the 4th World Congress of Psychogeography (4WCOP) in Huddersfield in 2019, the Society speaks up for the disregarded squares of the Ordnance Survey – those bereft of features that cry for attention. Increasing levels of mapping detail threaten the existence of these extraordinarily humble landscapes – can we stand by idly while this occurs around us?

Steve has previously worked on the Colne Valley Sculpture Trail for the 2018 4WCOP and a number of other challenging projects.

Andy Roberts
Alan Garner, Thursbitch & the fiction of fact

The valley of Thursbitch in the Cheshire Pennines has, over the centuries, become the focus of a wide range of folklore connected to its social history, topography and ancient monuments. Latterly, author Alan Garner has drawn these elements together with his own experiences and spun them into an astonishing work of fiction – Thursbitch – which has added to and developed the folklore and psychogeography of the valley.
Andy's writings from the 1980s cover a wide area including folklore, the UFO myth, Earth Mysteries, music and a trilogy of books excavating Britain's psychedelic history.

Kelly Starling
Journeys to Robinwood Mill

Robinwood Mill sits at a narrow bottleneck on the A646 between Todmorden and Burnley. It's located at a point where the road curves sharply into a narrow, steep pass. There's a sense of compression as you enter this passageway and encounter the scale of C19th industrial architecture set against the looming sides of a ravine. The feeling of compression is palpable. It's there in your chest and audible in the way sound moves.

This is a thin place where things get snagged, caught-up, accumulate and sometimes pass through. Bottleneck is a C19th term for slowing down or congestion in the flow of systems and processes. It gives a negative spin to such places, and reflects the parsing of time and movement central to the industrial system. Time seems to be the thing that gets snagged, accumulating at this point on the A646, an archeology of time.
This presentation draws on family history, the history of industrial music and the practice of walking to explore notions of time and place. It documents family journeys from Burnley to Robinwood across three generations, incorporating music, video and writing to celebrate the slow down and the value of pausing. A bottleneck is a pause – a waiting for something to happen, something to be released.

Mark Valentine
Lost Weird Writers of the North

If you think about classic fantastic literature in England, you might name Tolkien and his Oxford contemporaries, or ghost story writer M R James and his Cambridge colleagues. There's also a strong tradition of weird writing from the Celtic nations, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall. But what about the North of England? It may not be so well known, but there is a rich source of strange literature from writers with strong Northern links, and it's often been ignored.

This talk offers brief introductions to around half a dozen 20th century Yorkshire writers who worked in the field of the weird but are often forgotten today.

They range from the author of a vast fantasy epic to the creator of bizarre nonsense poetry, from a collector of fairy stories to the writer of one of the most haunting ghost stories, from the mind behind a classic Forties horror film to the quiet man who wrote about hunting human prey.

They evoke the marshes of Holderness in the East Riding, the mill chimneys of Bradford, the moors and the dales, suburban Leeds and parkland Sheffield, but even in their dreams and visions they are often not far from their roots in the Ridings.

Away from the clichés of Northern grit and taciturnity, the talk uncovers a richly fantastical realm of high imagination and wonderful, strange beauty, the lost hauntology of the North.

Mark Williamson, aka Spaceship

Focussing on a series of sandstone outcrops above the West Yorkshire town of Todmorden, Outcrops is an audio exploration of the geological history of the Upper Calder Valley and Cliviger Gorge. Revitalising an enthusiasm for geology behind Mark's degree in Earth Science in the 1990s, each track was created to invoke a particular phase of that history, namely the interbedded sandstones and siltstones of the Millstone Grit, the formation of the Yorkshire coal measures and finally the glaciation of the valley during the last ice age.

The album was recorded in the field, in a series of small caves where Williamson created the pieces that make up the album whilst almost encased within the landscape he was describing. These recordings were then treated to minimal editing and post-production in Williamson's home studio at the base of the hills where the recordings were made. In this way the album becomes analogous to many of the local stone buildings, the materials from which they were built often having travelled just a few hundred yards to the site of the building's final construction.

The film seeks to connect the geological history with some of the more modern landscape features and the general experience of becoming immersed in deep time.

Davina Ware
Based in Bath, Davina won't be with us in person at the event, much as she would like to be; but she is more than worthy of inclusion here as the illustrator and designer responsible for our posters and publicity images, as well as many illustrations in Northern Earth and related publications.

Tickets £20 from www.northernearth.co.uk and now available (cash only) from The Bookcase, Hebden Bridge, or by cheque to Northern Earth, 5 Foot Kiln, Old Town HX7 8TW.

Reasonably priced vegan and vegetarian refreshments available at the event. The Birchcliffe Centre is 350 yds from the centre of Hebden Bridge, up a steep hill. Bus 595 runs half-hourly (:20 & :50) from the station and Commercial St.

There is limited parking at (signposted) and on-street around the Centre.
Local information is available from the Hebden Bridge Visitor Centre, 01422 843831 and the HebWeb Tourist info pages.