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Heart of Pendle

Hafsah Aneela Bashir

Around this time last year I was approached by Sophie Mahon of In-Situ with an open brief for an artist residency. It was a chance for me to respond to people, place and environment exploring the stories of local people. At the time, I was busy with my producer work for the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE and Education Trust and wasn’t sure if I had capacity. I didn’t realise then, how much my soul needed this commission until I found myself a few months in surrounded by some incredible women eating jam sandwiches on the top of Pendle Hill and feeling such peace in my heart. Prior to this, I had never visited Pendle Hill before and driving over the M66 with each visit gave me time to reflect over how I wanted to continually evolve my approach with this commission and also how grateful I was to have the chance to forest bathe (the ancient Japanese process of relaxation observing nature around you and deep breathing) while doing so. Nature had never felt so close.

Film still, Heart of Pendle 2022

Connecting with the local people of Pendle Hill meant indulging in foraging walks with PEN (People Enjoying Nature), learning about dry stone walling and the science behind hedgerows, marvelling at the function of owl pellets and even a fascinating visit of some Roman archaeological digs. All of this fed into the image in my mind when staring at a map of Pendle Hill in the In-Situ offices and noticing how much it looked like a heart. And this is where my creative process started. I’ve always felt the heart of a place is its spirit and the spirit of community; its people. Through its streets, buildings, hills, rivers and all the stories flowing through its bloodlines – all of this shapes and gives meaning to the place itself. And so there is a mapping.

Meeting the fabulous women at The Deen Centre in Brierfield, the idea for the Heart of Pendle project was born – a mapping that takes a deeper look into the lives of the people that made this place special. The generations who sacrificed their lives to create a better living for the children that came after them. The ‘mothers’ who had left their home countries and settled here in the UK trying to make a life for themselves in what was a challenging climate for first generation immigrants at the time. A new place, a new environment, a new language and numerous barriers that came with that experience.

I listened to what was important to the women, hiking with them and conceptualising ideas through collaborative processes along the way. Captured by Kirstie Henderson of Brave Day Create you can see a snippet of what that process looked like here:

Heart of Pendle, 2022 Hafsah Aneela Bashir and The Deen Centre

We created art together rooted in their Islamic faith, exploring topics the women of The Deen Centre were passionate about. How they were connected to nature and the land around us and why this was important to them. How spirituality, the love of God and being custodians of this beautiful earth was something they wholeheartedly practiced and encouraged within the community. A women-led organisation providing a community of care in the areas of Nelson and Brierfield, I was inspired by their mental health support, upskilling of women, encouragement of education, physical fitness, art and craft and the various way they were raising aspirations making significant differences in the community and beyond.

Nazia Sultana, a local mother and artist was commissioned to create an artistic response inspired by the exploratory workshops that delved into the Heart of Pendle stories. Her artwork was powerful and moving, weaving a narrative through colour, texture and poetry. Stamps from Pakistan to Pendle marked the journeys the mother figure had made. Specially crafted Airmail envelopes made their appearance within the piece – a nod to the long-anticipated wait that came with communication across continents. Dhikr floated through chimneys as animals decorated the piece reminiscent of miniature Persian paintings.

Nazia Sultana, Heart of Pendle artwork, Film still, Heart of Pendle 2022

Nazia Sultana, Heart of Pendle artwork, Film still, Heart of Pendle 2022

We created poems, letters, haikus and reflections covering a broad range of themes through creative workshops. If you look carefully, some of those haikus are now up on the billboard just on the border of Brierfield and Nelson off junction 12 of the M65. The most exciting part of this project has been the process of having these haikus mounted on taxis, cars and poster sites to make their way like bloodlines through Pendle Hill, carrying the words of the women far and wide.

Images: Diane Muldowney

‘The project inspired deep thought. It was a spiritual journey - it took me to another world. It made me stop and think and opened up conversations which we’ve never spoken about. The experience was emotional, mind blowing and very moving.’

‘These sessions bought out the poetic part of me. I realised that art can be therapeutic and healing. The sculpture trail and the Haiku poems atmosphere was priceless.’

‘Heart of Pendle project allowed our group at The Deen Centre connect with women from Pendle Hill who have so many unresolved emotions. The project helped celebrate the women who sacrificed so much so we could prosper, be happy and simply have a life different to theirs. A lovely engaging project that helped us connect with our heritage and roots.’

Image: Diane Muldowney

Part of The Gatherings strand of work, this collaboration between Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership, In-Situ, myself and The Deen Centre women has been a nourishing experience both for myself as an artist but also for the women who generously gave so much of themselves. Produced by Sophie Mahon from In-Situ with artwork by Dani Molyneux of Dotto Studio, you can see this captured beautifully by Diane Muldowney.

Hafsah Aneela Bashir is an award winning Manchester-based poet, playwright & producer originally from East London. Founder and co-director of Outside The Frame Arts, she is passionate about championing voices outside the mainstream, challenging the gatekeepers of knowledge and increasing diverse representation within the arts.

Winner of the Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship 2019, she is an Associate Artist with The Poetry Exchange & Associate Artist with Oldham Coliseum Theatre. Creating socially engaged work with community at its heart, her play Cuts Of The Cloth was commissioned for PUSH Festival 2019. Her debut poetry collection The Celox And The Clot is published by Burning Eye Books.

She has worked creatively with Manchester International Festival, Ballet Black Ldn, HOME Theatre Mcr, Manchester Literature Festival, ANU Productions Irl, the Imperial War Museum and the National Festival Of Making in collaboration with Luke Jerram. Recent works include writing the libretto for The Bridge Between Breaths, a FormidAbility & Tete a Tete festival commission exploring Britain’s involvement in the Transatlantic slave trade.

She is founder and Creative Director of the innovative Poetry Health Service – a free digital service providing poetry panaceas as a tool for connection and healing with over 80 contributing poets. A Board Trustee for Manchester City Of Literature, she is currently the Community Producer for the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre and Education Trust in Manchester Central Library.


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