The Shades of Colour Within the Landscape





Zoya writes about growing up in-between places and cultural identities in Pendle, and her later recognition that the familiar landmark of Pendle Hill is one that separates and connects...





My grandparents were the pillars of faith in my home, memories of my grandad entailed a grey trilby hat and a lime green set of beads on, which he would spend regular intervals of his day to pray with. I wasn’t raised in a highly practising family, however spirituality, prayer and a strong connection to horticulture and outdoors was embedded in my day-to-day life, because I lived in a large Tudor house, with six bedrooms and a very large garden. I remember helping him take all the peels off onions and vegetables into the garden and composting them into the soil, we had a patch growing coriander, mint and rhubarbs. He was a very active man, he would make two sometimes three trips a day to Nelson town centre to check in on his businesses, but more so to meet his pals in the town centre. He would often encourage me to come with him, and sometimes I would but a couple of times I went with him on this 3 mile round trip and remember this particular time, I was very tired and asked him if we could take the bus back to which he agreed, he then lured me into walking towards home and getting the bus from the first bus stop we see, to which he told me we missed this one, best keep walking till we get to next one, and we will definitely get on. He did this for the next four bus stops we passed and before I knew it we were home…





He used to encourage me to walk as I have always been on the plump side of height and weight for my age, although I blame him for this as he would regularly bring me a sugary snack or beverage from his outings and tell me to go and hide and have it somewhere around the house where no one else could see me…. Otherwise, he would have had to buy 8 for all my other siblings and cousins I resided with.


Around 9 years old I began attending Sanderson’s dance school, where I first encountered indirect racial comments, “oh that’s lovely name, but..you look English” unsure as to why but at the age of 9 I responded with a smile… as though it was compliment… Even at that tender age, I felt that’s something that shouldn’t have been said, however due to the way it was said, there’s a question around does it need to be addressed or challenged.



"I remember questioning my mum what are we? Which she didn’t even dignify with an answer, she laughed and said you are a British Pakistani Muslim Zoya nothing more nothing less…"



Intercultural relationships were visible and prominent in my life and upbringing by this time, my mum and grandad, individually had a variety of friendship groups, white Christian families, Pakistani Christian families, Pakistani Muslim families, and all with whom we would hold, large banqueting meals with lots of laughter... mixing beyond commonalities was the norm. I also had a mixed race step mum by this time too.


Growing up in Colne, then moving to Nelson at around 11 years old I had a major culture shock… I remember someone once saying to me “You talk like a gori” at that time I had no idea what a gori was…I was bought up in a upper-middle class white community then moved to the heart of Nelson. I first began experiencing interactions with people of my background, faith and heritage… I was curious and shocked by a lot of the thinking, limitations and restrictions of day to day life for a young women of south Asian heritage. There was a certain way to dress, Punjabi slang and dialect I knew nothing of, various layers to being south Asian Pakistani too, this is where I was introduced to the Caste system… Raja, Gujar, Kashmiri, and the list goes on… I remember questioning my mum what are we? Which she didn’t even dignify with an answer, she laughed and said you are a British Pakistani Muslim Zoya nothing more nothing less… I didn’t give up there, I approached my dad to which he gave me a more detailed response “it’s all a bag of bullshit, its something that exists in Pakistan, the trade or employment or lineage you come from, it means nothing here”


I also had to adjust to not having such a heavy social life after school, in Colne I was used to having friends over for tea and a play I the garden after school, in Nelson most of my Pakistani friends would have to attend mosque 5pm – 7pm, which made it difficult to hang out after school. Mosque was the only extra curricular activity locally at Unity hall in Nelson, where I only attended once. The vivid memory I have of a teacher holding a stick in her hand, ready to strike anyone that wasn’t reading properly.. With my anxiety at its peak, I told the teacher I needed the toilet and made a quick exit out the door and never returned…



"Growing up in Colne, then moving to Nelson at around 11 years old I had a major culture shock… I remember someone once saying to me “You talk like a gori” at that time I had no idea what a gori was"




I found most of my south Asian friends had many limitations, curfews and barriers to being outdoors, which inevitably impacted my friendship groups. My three daughters attend and enjoy mosque, I think the difference between our experiences is that they have attended since the age of 5, and it’s the norm amongst our community, whereas in Colne there just wasn’t the facility.


Our lifestyle unfolds our culture and heritage, most of my English friends, lived close to open landscape and spaces, we would often just ‘hang out’ at: Quarry fold, Edge end fields, Marsden golf course… We enjoyed being in the outdoors, open spaces, talking and smoking, smoking and talking… like the East is East dialogue.. I remember this one time we camped outside, which I absolutely hated, weather was awful and we nearly froze to death, but what an experience, something I will never forget!


We all had dogs too, I had a rottweiler named Coby I would take him for a walk on the fields around the back of my house, I enjoyed walking and bumping in to new and familiar faces, most of whom would offer a kind and warm greeting… there’s something about the types of greetings you receive from strangers in the open landscape compared to the greetings/ awkward stares you receive walking through the heart of Nelson and Brierfield, people seem happier in the open landscape…







"Pendle Hill stands between two very different communities, Brierfield is in the top 20% most deprived wards in England, where as Clitheroe is in the 20% least deprived wards in England"



An Islamic verse I often think about “And the earth – We spread it out and cast terin firmly set mountains, and made grow therein (something) of every beautiful kind, giving insight and a reminder to every servant who turns to it”

The open landscape is a place of deep reflection, connection and spirituality for many… if only we allow to be, to be present in that very moment and openly witness the perfectly flawed beauty around us…


The outdoors is a free, healing ground, for everyone, it’s the one place, common ground we all share regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or location…


Research conducted by a Japanese doctor, reveals that trees really do have healing powers, they release antimicrobial essential oils called Phytoncides, that protect the trees from germs and have a host of other benefits for people such as boosting the immune system, reduce blood pressure, heart rate, stress, anxiety and confusion, it can also improve sleep, creativity and may even help to fight cancer and depression. Yet we struggle to find time for it… A soul who is not close to nature is far from what is called spirituality. In order to be spiritual, one must communicate, and especially must communicate with nature in order to feel nature, like a relationship waiting and wanting to be discovered.


Working with young people from both sides of Pendle hill, which stands as a pinnacle point between two very different communities, Brierfield is in the top 20% most deprived wards in England, where as Clitheroe (a traditional farming rural community) is in the 20% least deprived wards in England… The stats around health inequalities and high unemployment rates, poor and over-crowded housing contributes to the low aspiration, mindset, lifestyle and experiences of the young people we engage with, in opposition to this Clitheroe a rural, strong farming, affluent town, with better than the average for England, in all health and employment stats. Anecdotally most have climbed Pendle hill before they turned 5 years of age most of them have a strong connection to horticulture and the outdoors from a very young age…





The project is pushing me to reflect upon my upbringing between the midst of two very different areas Nelson/Colne. It’s making me think about Poulo frier’s pedagogy of the oppressed… You are essentially a product of the society and experiences you are exposed to, 8 weeks into the project I have had to deal with lack of trust and support amongst parents towards their children, a lack of knowledge and belief in the power of arts and what people can develop and gain from these opportunities, the young people taking part have begun exploring photography in their own time, accessing the landscape and repeatedly expressing their gratitude for being on the programme that has introduced them to the outdoors and art forms – I’ve never looked at a dandelion like that before one said, isn’t it amazing how you can manipulate the size of things through reflection in the water, these young people are developing a sense of gratitude for nature their locality and all the people and spaces within it.



" a teaching in the Quran which refers to trust and talks about tying your camel first, then trust in Allah, meaning people must first take their own responsibility for achieving a good outcome, and then trust in Allah that this will happen."



When we experience nature, it awakens an inner critique, we take in the beauty around us, yet we notice the flaws within it, and are perfectly accepting to its circumstances and presence, some areas are dark and unkempt and we know this is because it didn’t get enough light, other areas are blooming and blossoming clearly gaining the right nutrition. I like to think the same applies to people, it’s so important that we in-still natural remedies and resources into our children everyday lives – the outdoors is free for all to access, If only we trust it, ourselves and eachother!


A short time ago the BBC captured the devastating impact of covid on local people’s lives through a short film, Nelson showcased as one of the hardest hit towns in England, acknowledging underlying inequalities and concluded the clip with “some simply trust their faith”


Various faiths and attributes are woven and intertwined in our little borough, beyond and across backgrounds, all looping and connecting nature, outdoors, wellbeing and self-actualisation, a desire to become the best that one can be. Religious scriptures, scholars, theorists, and activists reiterate these as necessities of life, it often makes me think about a teaching in the Quran which refers to trust and talks about tying your camel first, then trust in Allah, meaning people must first take their own responsibility for achieving a good outcome, and then trust in Allah that this will happen.





I feel with time and age we have been able to develop a better sense of belonging and feel more routed to Pendle as place of home, I get really frustrated at people who always portray Pendle / Nelson as a shitty area because it’s truly not the case. You’ll only hear negative comments from people who have never or no longer live here. The nearly equal split amongst Pakistani and white people in Nelson is a result of White flight. Hearing and seeing people refer to the town as Nel-stan… implying its full of Pakistani people, when looking at stats its actually only just gone a 50 /50 split of ethnic minorities. I have witnessed it myself, moving to Highgate in Nelson, a predominantly white neighbourhood, and as soon as Pakistanis begin moving in, you will see white people moving out, and before you know it, its become a predominately Pakistani area.



"Hearing and seeing people refer to the town as Nel-stan… implying its full of Pakistani people, when looking at stats its actually only just gone a 50 /50 split of ethnic minorities."



As a practitioner working in the local community has widened my outlook on identity, interculturalism, social class and intersectionality. I sometimes feel as though were trapped in this never ending vicious cycle. I believe true education and maturity lies in mixing and interacting with people who are different, race religion, ethnicity and background from you, it gives you some of the key lessons, messages, values and a unique insight to various people’s life’s and challenges. Initiatives that provide opportunities to mix beyond boundaries, is important to me, as it provides clear opportunity to prevent stereo typical and judgemental views however, if indigenous people don’t want to mix how are we supposed to integrate. It’s a vicious cycle. There are lots of positives to Pendle and Nelson in particular, for example the rich heritage, cotton industry, economics and we do loads to bring people together but it’s a daily thing, everyone wants to claim they are not racist and like to integrate, however take away the incentives and hype of an event and were back to square one… living parallel lives…





I was bought up and still am, very proud to be British, and love and adore my Pakistani routes and heritage, I sometimes think this love and passion to learn more about it comes from it being quite absent in my upbringing, therefore I only see and value the positives of it. I’m more like an openminded spectator, with vested interest in my roots.


Being third generation, there’s a real shift in outlook, our generation has had an advantage, we feel ownership and a sense of belonging, comfortable in our space. As our elder generations have managed to push through glass ceilings and access higher paying salaries and positions, this naturally impacts lifestyles, disposable incomes and access. People have become more able and confident in accessing the landscape…we call home…



Zoya Bhatti, July 2021



This writing has been created and shared as part of Thinking Out Loud - a series of texts and conversations from a wide range of perspectives within In-Situ's practice, that explore the social role of art in everyday life.





Zoya Bhatti is Engagement Coordinator at In-SItu, Nelson resident and Mum of 3. Having studied social sciences and youth work, she has worked in community engagement with Brierfield Action in the Community and Building Bridges Pendle. Zoya was part of The Faculty North cohort in 2020/21.