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  • ‘Cotton Town’ Kirkham’s Rich Past To Be Brought To Life With Historic Dance

Kirkham’s proud history as one of Lancashire’s most important cotton towns will be celebrated through dance this weekend.

The Fylde market town was once a crucial hub for the production of Lancashire-spun textiles – most notably producing sailcloth for the Royal Navy.

Although Kirkham’s last commercial loom operated for the final time in 2003, the town remains synonymous with the cotton industry. It can date its origins back to the days of old hand looms and the era of mass production in mills owned by such famed local families as the Birleys, Langtons, Hornbys and the Shepherds.

And this heritage will be brought to life this Saturday (October 2) thanks to a wonderful dance event celebrating Lancashire’s former cotton workers.

The About Time Dance Company – which specialise in creating heritage-based artistic pieces – has teamed up with students from Carr Hill High School to present Cotton. The production is described as “a captivating exploration through dance and sound, illuminating processes of cotton production in Lancashire”.

The 30-minute event – intertwined with traditional clog dancing, a mesmerising soundtrack, stunning costumes and intricate choreography – will be performed twice on Saturday in Market Square, Kirkham, at 12pm and 2pm.

Jenny Reeves, artistic director of the Lancashire-based About Time Dance Company, said: “We are really looking forward to performing in Kirkham this weekend. We will be joined by 10 young dancers from Carr Hill High School’s dance academy who will perform alongside the professional dancers.

“The piece explores the roles of women in the cotton mills and is a captivating exploration of life in a Lancashire town through contemporary dance, singing and clog dancing.

“The Cotton production had a 24-date regional tour in 2018 so we are thrilled to be reviving the work for Kirkham and the local people – it’s a very special production not to be missed!”

Cotton is the first event held as part of Fylde Borough Council’s new Heritage, Health and Wellbeing Programme for Kirkham – which is a vital part of part of the town’s £10m Kirkham Futures regeneration masterplan.

Funded through Kirkham’s status as one of Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zones (HS HAZ), the programme’s aim is to improve the health and wellbeing of residents through engagement with heritage-based activities.

Fylde Borough Council has engaged Helen Shearn Associates, a specialist consultancy in arts, heritage and health, to steer the programme in conjunction with Historic England’s Head of Wellbeing and Inclusion, Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Lancashire County Council and local GPs.

There is considerable evidence of the positive benefits of dance in developing physical aspects of health and fitness, which is one of the reasons why Cotton was chosen to launch the Kirkham project.

Helen Shearn said: “Saturday is a really engaging way to kick-off the Health and Wellbeing Programme which is such an important part of Kirkham’s HS HAZ project.

Cotton explores the heritage of Cotton Mills, and in particular those who worked in the industry, through dance, which has been proven to be such a benefit for people’s health and wellbeing.

“As reported in the Creative Health Report 2017, the physical activity of dancing alleviates the symptoms of mental ill health and the side effects of medication such as apathy and lack of motivation. Dance workshops also help create social connections and overcome feelings of isolation.”

“With funding from Historic England, we can develop a range of opportunities and activities that will provide a varied pathway of meaningful interventions to improve health and wellbeing of local people. We hope Saturday is a real eye-catching way to introduce the Health and Wellbeing programme to a wide audience.”

Also backed by £6.3m funding from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund (FHSF), the Kirkham Futures masterplan is designed to reinvigorate Kirkham town centre by bringing important buildings back into use, improve streets and open spaces as well as residents’ health and wellbeing.

Work is now underway to create a Social Prescribing programme which connects people – via GPs and link workers – to specific activities in the community for practical and emotional support.

Social prescription helps people get more control over their healthcare, to manage their needs and in a way that suits them. It can especially help people who:

  • have one or more long-term conditions
  • need support with their mental health
  • are lonely or isolated
  • have complex social needs which affect their wellbeing

Social prescribing links people to a range of activities that are typically provided by voluntary and community sector organisations. For example, volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, healthy eating advice, cookery, local history research groups, handling historic artefacts, learning heritage skills and so on.

Tamsin Cook, of Historic England, said: “We’re delighted that Kirkham’s Health and Wellbeing Programme is now kicking off in earnest. It will provide lots of opportunities over the next few years for people to engage with Kirkham’s distinctive historic high street and learn more about its rich history.

“Historic England recognises how beneficial social prescribing can be to people’s wellbeing, and we’re really pleased that it’s part of Kirkham’s High Street Heritage Action Zone. Cotton is set to be a great inaugural event.”

For more information, and to keep up to date with news on Kirkham’s High Streets Heritage Action Zone, please visit www.kirkhamfutures.org


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