Clogs, steam, art and pace-eggers: Part 2. Steam and pace-egging

City of Wells
City of Wells at Ramsbottom
On Good Friday I made my way to the East Lancs Railway and got a free round-trip members' ticket. I intended to go straight to Ramsbottom, but it was a diesel, so I got the train to Heywood, hauled by City of Wells. At Rammy, I was taking some photos when I bumped into my Facebook friend Stephen Porter and we retired to The Railway for a pint. We were then joined by the Bury Pace-Eggers, who performed their play. All mummers plays follow a similar pattern: St George fights the Turk, gets killed, then the Doctor appears and cures him. There is then a rematch and St George triumphs! It's all about resurrection.

Bury Pace-eggers at Ramsbottom
Bury Pace-Eggers at Ramsbottom
We followed the pace-eggers to the Irwell Works Brewery which was rammed, and after they finished, enjoyed another pint. I caught the Union of South Africa train back to Bury, and the bus back to my sister's.

Union of South Africa
60009 Union of South Africa
On Easter Saturday, it was a bus to Bury, then to Bacup. The last time I visited this mill town was when a DMU from Bury started running there. As I arrived, I saw a small crowd in the town square - I'd just missed them. So, I had a wander round, found the shortest street in England, and to my delight discovered a vegan pie shop in the market! Then it was a leisurely walk out of town where the Coconutters performed in several locations, accompanied by the Stacksteads Brass Band playing some very catchy tunes.

Britannia Coco-nut dancers, Bacup
Britannia Coconut Dancers at Bacup
They start with a bit of listening and pointing, then off they skip tapping their 'coconuts' in time with their clogs. At the Irwell Inn (closed) they headed back into town where after a dance in the town square they split into two sides, and I bumped into my niece's friend Adele and family. They gave me a lift back, via a micro-pub Hop in Rawtenstall, where I had a pint of coconut chocolate porter. A great day out.

Middleton pace-eggers
Middleton Pace-Eggers
After doing nowt much on Easter Sunday, I popped in to Bury Art Gallery for a quick look on Easter Monday and was pleased to find the little cafe was in business again. I then travelled to Middleton  to see their Pace-Eggers. They were meant to start at 12 at the Dusty Miller, but there was no sight, I bought myself a half (pints £2.10!) and in they came, loads of them. I saw the play four times, ending up at the Wetherspoons, where I had another pint (of Swordfish). They were being filmed by BBC4 for a series on Utopias. So, it was back to Bury, and on Tuesday caught the tram to Manchester and home. I was disappointed to find the Ian Allan shop had closed, but all in all it was a fantastic week in the North.

Blacking up
Now then, the blacking up of morris dancers and mummers has become a contentious issue, with the Coconutters being barrred from The Shrewsbury Folk Festival. If I ruled the world I'd do what some morris sides have done and choose another colour of face paint, blue say. It's no good hiding behind 'tradition' when blackface does offend some people today, however unintentionally. The idea is that it was originally a disguise to protect workers from bosses, using coal or cinders. However the Moorish connection does rather undermine that excuse.

More photos on Flickr

Some videos on Youtube

Clogs, steam, art and pace-eggers: Part 1. Art

Clogs, steam, art and pace-eggers: Part 1. Art

I've wanted to see the Britannia Coconut Dancers for a long time, and this year made an effort to fulfil this ambition. The only guaranteed gig is Easter Saturday on their home turf of Bacup, a bus ride away from Bury. I also discovered from a Facebook group called Bury Olden Days that the Bury Pace-Eggers would be performing in Ramsbottom on Good Friday. And that the Middleton Pace-Eggers would be doing their longer mummers play with more characters on Easter Monday. And that it was Pacific weekend on the East Lancs Railway featuring A4 Union of South Africa and West Country Class City of Wells. But first, some Northern art...

Tiffany glass vase
I've been ticking off Northern art galleries - last time it was Blackburn, this time it was the turn of Accrington and Burnley... two in one day! I travelled up to Bury on Tuesday 11 April via the Doric Arch bar at Euston station. Had a rest day on Wednesday and on Thursday set off to the Haworth Art Gallery as you go into Accrington. I arrived at 11am, but it didn't open until 12. Luckily the cafe was open and there were Pokemons to catch in the grounds. The Haworth has the finest collection of Tiffany glass this side of New York, taking up the whole upstairs of the hall, thanks to Joseph Briggs who in 1891, aged only 17, left Accrington to seek his fortune in America. He worked with Tiffany all his working life and sent his collection back to his home town in 1933. They do have a small collection of Victorian art too, but most of the downstairs was taken up by local artists.

Towneley Art Gallery, Burnley
So, it was on to the central bus station and the M3 bus to Burnley. I knew getting to the Towneley Art Gallery would be tough, as it was in the middle of a park, but underestimated the amount of walking I had to do. Their website said bus no. 1 went near, but it was not that close - a dog walker said it'd take me half an hour to get there! So, plodding along the side of a stream, I finally made it to the stately home and got in free with my Art Fund card (a fiver to anyone else). After a few wrong turns (turn right at the mummy, the front desk woman said) I found the art gallery floor, and a splendid collection it was: with Burne-Jones, Alma-Tadema, Leighton, Poynter, Waterhouse and many other minor pre-Raphaelites represented. They also had a fine collection of Pilkington pots, and the postcards were only 25p each! Photography was forbidden, but the attendant allowed me to take some general views.

Pilkington Royal Lancastrian pottery
On my way out, I asked the ticket woman the best way to the nearest bus stop and she told me people generally call for a taxi. Oh, if only I'd taken her advice... I got totally disoriented and even the GPS on my phone was no use. At least it wasn't raining. But eventually I skirted a golf course and caught a bus back to Burnley bus station - and stayed on it as it travelled back to Bury.

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