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The poem of The Lancashire Witches

A new poem by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy will be carved into the landscape of a new 51-mile walk created to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Lancashire Witches. 

The 10 tercets will appear on cast iron mileposts installed along the Lancashire Witches Walk which follows the route taken by the ten women and men who were executed as witches in August 1612.

The poem, The Lancashire Witches, begins:

One voice for ten dragged this way once
by superstition, ignorance.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
Witch: female, cunning, manless, old,
daughter of such, of evil faith;
in the murk of Pendle Hill, a crone.
Heavy storm-clouds here, ill-will brewed,
over fields, fells, farms, blighted woods.
On the wind’s breath, curse of crow and rook.

‘I was struck by the echoes of under-privilege and hostility to the poor, the outsider, the desperate, which are audible still,’ said Ms Duffy. Manchester-based textural artist Stephen Raw is creating the ten mileposts; each will feature the full poem, the name of one of the ‘witches’ and a verse in specially designed letters so a rubbing can be taken.

The poem was commissioned by North Lancashire-based arts organisation Green Close as part of their programme of artistic events to mark the witches’ anniversary this summer. The poem mileposts, 30 carved brick waymarkers, signposts and a booklet about the footpath will be ready in the autumn when there are  guided walks planned.

 The footpath from Pendle to Lancaster traverses the beautiful Bowland Fells, valleys, fields and moorland with stunning views over the remote Lancashire landscape, skirting around the famous Pendle Hill where the ‘witches’ lived. The footpath was the brainchild of Sue Flowers, artistic director of Green Close in the Lune Valley. Working with the Ramblers’ Association, Long Distance Walkers’ Association and council and countryside services, the sustainable footpath has been created within 12 months and is funded by Arts Council England, Lancashire Environmental Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund. “There’s been a real momentum with this project. It’s an incredible landscape; this walk is about connecting communities across Lancashire and connecting ourselves to history and a sense of place, people have really related to that,” said Sue. In addition Green Close has commissioned nationally renowned site-specific performers, who will also add their own magic to the commemorations

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