Upcoming Fylde dance event pays tribute to Kirkham’s rich cotton history

Posted on - 1st October, 2021 - 1:31pm | Author - | Posted in - Arts, Business, Fylde News, Health, History, Kirkham, People, Redevelopment, Things to Do in and around Preston, What's On in Preston
The About Time Dance Company performing Cotton

A Kirkham dance event will this weekend celebrate the town’s history as a hub for Lancashire-spun textiles.


Kirkham’s history as one of the county’s most important cotton towns will be honoured, as the Fylde market town was once a crucial hub for the production of textiles – most notably Royal Navy sailcloth.

Although Kirkham’s last commercial loom operated for the final time in 2003, the town remains synonymous with the cotton industry.

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The About Time Dance Company performing Cotton

It can date its origins back to the days of old handlooms 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 on Saturday 2 October thanks to a dance event celebrating Lancashire’s former cotton workers.

The About Time Dance Company specialises in creating heritage-based artistic pieces. It has joined students from Carr Hill High School to present Cotton.

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The About Time Dance Company performing Cotton

The organisers said it is a captivating exploration through dance and sound, illuminating processes of cotton production in Lancashire.

The 30-minute event – including traditional clog dancing, a soundtrack, 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 ten young dancers from Carr Hill High School’s dance academy, who will perform alongside the professional dancers. The piece explores the role 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!”

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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 the town’s £10m Kirkham Futures regeneration master plan.

Funded through Kirkham’s status as one of Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zones (HS HAZ), the programme aims to improve the health and wellbeing of residents through 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.

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The organisers said there is evidence that dance has positive effects in developing physical 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 through dance, which is such a benefit for health and wellbeing.

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 the health and wellbeing of local people. We hope Saturday is a real eye-catching way to introduce the programme to a wide audience.”

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Also backed by £6.3m in funding from the Future High Streets Fund (FHSF), the Kirkham Futures master plan will reinvigorate the Kirkham town centre. It will bring buildings back into use, improve streets, open spaces and 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.

The social prescription helps people exercise control over their healthcare.

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It can help people who:

  • Have one or more long-term conditions
  • Need support with their mental health
  • Are lonely or isolated
  • Have complex social needs that affect their wellbeing.

Social prescribing links people to activities provided by voluntary and community sector organisations. For example, volunteering, art activities, group learning, gardening, healthy eating advice, cooking, local history research groups, handling artefacts and learning heritage skills.

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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.”

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