Artist defends ‘witch’ project

Pendle Hill
Pendle Hill

artist Philippe Handford, who had been set to create the numerals “1612” on the side of Pendle Hill, has spoken out about the controversy which led to the project being shelved.

It had been proposed that Philippe would paint the infamous 1612 date on the Pendle side of Pendle Hill in 500ft numerals, as a way of marking the 400th anniversary of the best-known aspect of local history, the Pendle witch trials.

But objections from some Barley residents and the Bishop of Burnley meant Pendle Council decided not to go ahead with plans to fund the £1,500 project.

Philippe said: “I still don’t know what the objections to the installation were from Barley Parish Council – nobody has given me a specific reason. I do know that a number of them were actually supportive of the plan. I’ve had dozens of people telling me that they think the installation would be a great idea.

“The installation also had the support of the landowner who was satisfied with the fact that I’ve tested the paint for Natural England – it is temporary and leaves no environmental damage to flora or fauna.”

Philippe added: “I was also very disappointed with the comments made by the Bishop of Burnley, Rt Revd John Goddard. He says we shouldn’t be ‘celebrating’ the trials, but we’re not. We’re marking the anniversary, hoping it raises wider questions about intolerance and injustice, and we’re hoping to see the Pendle area positively promoted.”

Nick Hunt, Creative Director of Mid Pennine Arts, agreed: “There’s no doubt that the installation would have been a defining image for the Pendle Witch Festival and would have created a much bigger opportunity to communicate to a wider audience about the beauty of Pendle as a destination, thus supporting the visitor economy.

“There is nothing contentious about Philippe’s proposal. It echoes a long-established tradition of inscribing key dates in landscape – a tradition you would find picked out in flowers in many Britain in Bloom communities.”